Studying in France: A Year in Strasbourg
Veronica is a fourth year French and History student who studied abroad at Sciences Po Strasbourg for the academic year 2020-2021.
I am so glad I was able to do a study abroad in Strasbourg last year, despite the general pandemonium that was 2020, what with the pandemic and Brexit! I spent the year studying at Sciences Po Strasbourg, and really benefited from the chance to improve my French, see a new city, pop over the border to Germany, and generally immerse myself in a new environment.
The experience was enriching in many ways. In terms of studying, I had been fairly nervous before going about being assessed alongside French students while taking subjects I hadn’t necessarily done before, especially in such a prestigious institution as Sciences Po. However, while the teaching style was certainly different with a more information-heavy approach, I really enjoyed being able to take so many classes and I know my French improved enormously as a result. It was great to be able to take subjects that weren’t on offer in St Andrews, and there was a notes-sharing platform provided by the institution, which was very helpful. Sciences Po were also good about organising activities for international students, such as hikes and tours of the city, although I know they would have done more if it wasn’t for the pandemic. They also provided a ‘buddy scheme’, where international students were paired up with French students, which I would recommend doing. In general, I would say that the level of work is very feasible for a St Andrews student, even though the format is different, with fewer large pieces of researched coursework and more focus on group projects and memorization of facts for exams.
In regards to social life, Strasbourg is very much a student city and people were very friendly. Thankfully we had two months before the first lockdown, during which time I explored the city with lots of other Erasmus students and was able to get settled in. I do think it’s a little harder to meet people at a university like Sciences Po, simply because they have fewer societies than a place like St Andrews, and as an international student you will probably take modules from several different year groups and are therefore unlikely to spend time with the same people. However, as I mentioned, it is definitely worth participating in the buddy scheme and there were also several courses for international students before the start of the semester. These were mainly French language courses, but we also looked a bit at French academic writing and the various essay plans that are used, which I would also very much recommend.
Of course, the aim in going to France is to speak as much French as possible, but I really enjoyed getting to know international students, both at Sciences Po and in my student residence, which I think is also one of the great things about studying abroad. There were students from Ireland, Bulgaria, Belgium, Italy, Morocco and Algeria, just to name a few, and I found that people were generally really friendly and interested in learning about each other’s cultures. Most of my French friends were from my church and various Christian groups I participated in, but I would encourage any student to find something they’re interested in and commit to the society. It is necessary to take more of an initiative to get involved in a French university, but people are very welcoming. I would also recommend staying in a student residence rather than private accommodation as it’s such a great way to meet people – I wasn’t too thrilled to be sharing a kitchen with so many people at the beginning of the year, but it turned out to be a real social hub, especially with the lockdowns. The times spent chatting in the kitchen in French and English, surrounded by many other languages and different cuisines, are some of my favourite memories from Strasbourg.
To conclude, I would unreservedly recommend studying abroad, whether in Strasbourg or elsewhere. It’s a stretching experience, but if you choose to invest in the city and in friendships, even if you’re not very confident in your language at the beginning, you will benefit so much and make some amazing memories.
If you would like to talk to Veronica about her experience in more depth, please reach out to [email protected] and we can put you in touch. She would be more than happy to help!