University: Sciences Po
Course:Europe-North American Undergraduate Programme at the Reims campus
Which year are you in? First year
1. Why did you choose to study abroad?
For me, choosing to go abroad was only part of the greater decision to study at Sciences Po as opposed to other universities; choosing between a university in the UK and one overseas was not a conscious decision I ever made. Coming from this perspective, I was able to judge wholly what the right choice was for me.
On balance, that choice was the chance to combine Sciences Po’s interdisciplinary social science course with the ability to immerse myself in a different culture and language. I felt this was a special opportunity to distinguish myself both academically and as an individual at the same time. Put simply, I felt Sciences Po could give me the most during my undergraduate studies and also that I could give the most back to Sciences Po too. For me, my decision hinged on the possibility to study at a prestigious university but also in an intimate environment, the possibility to walk in the footsteps of the many great leaders Sciences Po has produced whilst having an identity and a sense of belonging at the same time.
2. How would you rate the assistance of the university before you arrived (the application process, finding accommodation, sorting out financial matters)?
Whilst I did not receive so much of the hand-holding with my application to Sciences Po as I did from my school with UCAS, I was always able to seek help in English from the university and indeed I was able to complete the application in English. Remembering that Sciences Po recruits students from over 100 countries, the application is not as standardised as UCAS’s but perseverance and getting help is the key. For me, the few extra hours I spend sorting out my application were well worth it in the end.
Once I was accepted into Sciences Po, the university provided me with a comprehensive information package that helped with finance, housing and other particulars.
3. How would you rate the assistance of the university when you arrived (orientation etc)?
Very good. Much of the assistance available was from students in their second year who had been asking the same questions the year before. The Reims campus of Sciences Po is very close-knit and personal due to it having a small student body so help is never really far away.
The Science Po course requires all students to attend a week-long introductory week in August which allowed me to make friends, become familiar with the course and settle into living in a different country before the real work started.
4. Did you feel prepared when you arrived and/or what surprised you?
Yes. I prepared well in anticipation of moving out, ticking all the necessary boxes and I felt comfortable in the new environment. No surprises. It’s as easy as you want to make it.
5. How would you rate the learning environment (teaching style, studying with other international students, non-native English speaking lecturers)?
The learning environment at Sciences Po is quite intense: I have found myself under some considerable pressure at some points. Students are expected to complete readings, prepare presentations, take mid-term and final exams each semester, and be present for all classes. The most time I would spend in lessons at A2 level at school was 3 hours 30 minutes per day; the minimum time I spend in class per day at Sciences Po is 4 hours. The other side of this though is that after an intense two years of study like this, I can choose to go abroad to a partner university or to do an internship which is an amazing opportunity to either get ahead in the world of work or to experience another country.
Each student takes a group project. I chose to be part of Sciences Econ; an economics society with the aim of getting others to start talking about economics. We print newsletters and organise debates as well as more social events.
At Sciences Po’s Reims campus not much is lost in translation. Every student speaks good English and most professors do too. The very nature of the English speaking programme in Reims attracts those most willing and most able to speak English as well as native English speakers of course.
6. Would you recommend studying abroad to a 17-18 year old Brit who might never have thought about it before?
When I speak to anyone about this subject, I first emphasise it is not a choice between studying abroad or not - it is ultimately a choice between universities – if you’re not happy at university you might become even unhappier as a result of being abroad.
There was a point when I moved from having a general notion of liking the idea of studying abroad to focusing on and applying to a course, university and city, which I had all properly researched. Those who are motivated to go through this transition will be the ones most likely to go abroad and be happy there too. I was well aware that I was doing something different to everyone else at school (even to other overseas applicants) but I was 100% certain that I was making the right choice.
7. Is there anything you wish someone had told you at the time you applied?
Yes – that I would be lucky enough to receive a scholarship to help finance my studies from the Sciences Po UK Alumni Charity Trust. This scholarship has relieved financial pressures allowing me to focus on academic ones. I would highly recommend Sciences Po applicants to look into this scheme.
8. Would you recommend your course, university, city to British students?
I would recommend Sciences Po to anyone who doesn’t want to limit themselves to any one subject at undergraduate level and who is looking to create a truly international profile. You have to be willing to work harder than your friends in the UK but the rewarding experience will be worth it.