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SPS student voices and experiences
Garret in Paris: our writer’s year abroad experience

Garret in Paris: our writer’s year abroad experience

One of the biggest benefits of studying at the University of Edinburgh is the opportunity to go on a year abroad in your third year – because the vast majority of our programmes are four years, studying abroad doesn’t disrupt your course. Our student blog writer, Garret, had the time of his life in Paris last year: he tells all about his experience here!

My name is Garret and around the same time last year, I wrote my first article for the Students at SPS blog addressing my upcoming Erasmus study abroad programme at Sciences Po Paris. After an incredible year filled with new adventures, I am happy to be writing again for the blog, recounting my experiences as an Edinburgh student living in the French capital for a year!

Where to start with my Parisian adventure? I must say that before moving to Paris in August last year, I felt extremely nervous regarding my decision to study in France. Everything was going to be new; I would be living in a majority francophone hall of residence, taking half of my courses in French, and studying at an institution renowned for its high standards and subsequent expectations.

But all my apprehensions were swept away the day of my arrival when I met my fantastic flatmates who, similarly, had been nervously anticipating their new lives in Paris. With these wonderful people, I was able to appreciate all that this magnificent city had to offer – from walks along the Seine, to visits to the Sacré Cœur and soirées at le Caveau de la Huchette (a world-famous famous jazz bar). Moreover, in their company, I was given the fantastic opportunity to improve my conversational French, without having the fear of making mistakes, whilst also helping them practise their English skills in return.

Likewise, my first week at Sciences Po confirmed to me that I had made the best decision by attending this remarkable institution. During the ‘Welcome Week’, I was put into a group with other exchange students and given a tour around Paris, taster lecture courses, and tickets for organised soirées, all designed to facilitate our smooth integration into the school community. By the end of the week, I felt at home both in my hall of residence and at university, and was prepared to begin my year-long Erasmus programme studying International Relations & International Law.

All 12 of the courses that I studied at Sciences Po, ranging from EU-US-China relations to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, turned out to be extremely engaging and enriching. My subject teachers were experts in their respective domains, with many of them having worked as advisors or ambassadors for governments and international organisations. Students were encouraged to actively engage with and enjoy subject content through class debates and presentations; even our exams involved hosting mock panel shows and writing policy papers for the UN General Secretary! Classes also gave us the opportunity to meet and partake in discussions with special guests. I was thus lucky enough to meet EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, the former French President, François Hollande, and current Colombian President, Gustavo Petro in the famous Émile Boutmy lecture theatre at the heart of Sciences Po’s campus.

Through these academic experiences, I felt a significant improvement in my understanding of various political and legal issues around the world, helping me succeed in my coursework and in-person exams. Similarly, my constant exposure to the French language in class gave me a strong grasp of academic French writing and speaking skills, building confidence in my communicative abilities beyond the anglophone world.

So now that I’m back from a magical year in Paris, what’s next? Well, I have one year left in Edinburgh to finish my studies and obtain my degree. I have decided to focus my dissertation on EU Foreign & Security Policy, a topic which I developed a strong interest for whilst at Sciences Po. I am also scheduled to sit my French C1 exam this month which, if passed, demonstrates fluency and the ability to formally work in the language. This would enable me to pursue my plan for after my time in Edinburgh: to return to Sciences Po to pursue a Masters degree in International Security Studies.

In any case, whatever comes of next year, I will always be extremely grateful for my opportunity to live and study in Paris during my third year at the University of Edinburgh. I would like to thank Edinburgh and Sciences Po for having given me this chance to study abroad and would recommend all students at SPS to apply for the exchange programme in the future!

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