Studying Abroad in Sciences Po, Nancy: An Interview with Nishita

Eilidh Henderson
Wednesday 22 March 2023

Last semester our Global Office Intern, Lucia, had the wonderful opportunity to meet Nishita and chat to her about her experience living in Nancy and studying at Sciences Po. Nishita is a third-year English Literature and French Studies student who spent first semester of 2022-2023 in France. In this interview, she talks about her advice for studying abroad – from mental health to academics, from making friends to learning a language. You can read all about her experience below! 

 

Can you tell us a little more about living in Nancy? Is it very different from St Andrews? 

Nancy, the capital of Lorraine, is very beautiful. As a city, it is of course very different to St Andrews, but I live on campus, which offers a similar lovely community feel. The region is great for feeling immersed in French culture, and even German culture, too!

 

Have you travelled around a lot on your Semester abroad? 

Yes! I think it’s important to see different places. I started by getting familiar with my university and exploring my city by going to museums and things like that. Then I visited nearby villages, before going to explore German villages further out. One of my favourite places was a little German village called ‘Colmar’ – it was like something from Hansel and Gretel! I also have some plans to visit Paris soon, too.

 

 

How has the academic side of studying abroad been for you? 

It’s certainly been challenging, since my subjects are all taught in French. I’ve found it helpful to take extra time trying to understand certain concepts, and not be too hard on myself for not getting it all right away. It’s a new system of teaching, and the style of essay-writing is different too.  

 

How have you found being so immersed in the language? Is that a challenge for you? 

I admit that occasionally I do feel a bit of embarrassment whenever I have to ask someone to repeat themselves. It definitely puts my degree into perspective that way – we focus so much on ‘academic’ French, so to speak, that it’s great to have the experience to practice genuine conversational French. At first, things like ordering food or chatting to a shopkeeper may have seemed scary, but little by little, conversation by conversation, my confidence grew. 

 

 

What are the challenges to studying abroad? 

Studying abroad isn’t just an Instagram Reel! Sometimes it can be tough. Sure, fun, adventure, friends – those things are almost guaranteed. But the challenges are equally important to share with incoming students. As fun as romanticising studying abroad can be, it’s important to be realistic as well. 

At times, I felt isolated – it’s tough to leave behind what you are familiar with and build up a whole new life somewhere else. A new University, a new culture, new people, and new friendship groups.  

It’s also important not to compare your study abroad experience to anyone else’s. Take it at your own pace, set boundaries, do what you have to do to feel great! And, most importantly, make sure to take care of yourself. 

 

How have you found the experience of making friends while you were abroad? 

Luckily, I am quite extraverted, and so I loved the experience of making new friends! I threw myself into events, particularly during freshers’ week, and started talking to people. I met a nice international community and plenty of people who spoke English (which served to be a nice break, every now and then!). It’s important to push yourself when you’re trying to make friends, as it’s not going to happen all on its own. It’s certainly easy to retreat into a little bubble when studying abroad, and so it’s important to put yourself out there and speak to people. No one is as intimidating as they seem! 

 

 

What are the main skills which you hope to carry forward from your study abroad experience? 

I’ve found it important to love the ‘solo’ element of the experience. In St Andrews, I was lucky to have an almost familial bond with my friends, and it was super tough to leave that behind and go explore the new. It’s different in a big city – I can’t just pop into my mates’ flat on Market Street for a chat! It’s made me understand myself more – what I like, what I don’t, how to keep myself healthy and safe. 

It’s nice, though, that even being abroad, I still feel that I am part of the St Andrews’ community. I still feel like a member of it, no matter how far away I am! 

 

I feel like you’ve already given us lots of honest and helpful advice, but if there was one thing which you would want students to take away from your experience, what would it be? 

My main advice is to take care of yourself! Have support systems in place – family, friends, or whoever else, and remember that the University Global Office team and Student Services are available to help. Taking care of your mental health is the most important thing.  

Remember not to be too hard on yourself – you’re adapting to a different system, country, and culture, so take care of yourself! Treat yourself like you would your own friend. Despite the challenges that come along with it, I cannot recommend studying abroad enough. It’s a brilliant opportunity to grow, and it’s a lovely experience which you can hold on to for the rest of your life! 

 

 

As a final note, we would like to sincerely thank Nishita for her time and her wonderful, honest advice. We would also like to thank Lucia for conducting the interview and putting together this post. If you have any questions about studying abroad, or if you too would like to share your study abroad experience, please email [email protected]. 

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