Anna in Paris: Studying at Sciences Po

Emma Gatrell
Friday 15 December 2023

Anna studies IR, French and Spanish, and was abroad at SciencesPo during the 2022-23 academic year. Here is what she had to say about her time abroad:

From August 2022 to May 2023, I had the privilege of studying abroad at Sciences Po in Paris. As a Triple Honours student of International Relations, Spanish and French, I knew Sciences Po was the best institution for me, and it really allowed me to deepen my knowledge in all three subjects.  

Sciences Po has a prestigious international reputation and this echoes throughout the university as the teachers and students I met were from all over the world. I really benefited from the diversity of opinions and welcomed the fact that most of my professors were not only teachers, but working professionals, even if this meant I often had a class at 7pm. It took some adapting to the more practical approach to learning. This was the biggest change from the theory-based learning in my first two years at St Andrews. I also had many presentations at Sciences Po and was graded on class participation. As a rather introverted person, I found this quite challenging at first; however, by the end of the year, I was a much more confident speaker. I also benefited from attending talks by politicians such as the former Tunisian President and roundtable discussions with experts in migration studies.  

Sciences Po really does set students up for an amazing career path and prospects, and yet, at the same time, they have a much better work-life balance than the UK. It’s true that the French work to live, not live to work. It wasn’t until I learned the hard way that my local boulangerie closed at midday on a Sunday that I realised it really is illegal to work in France on a weekend! I’m glad I spent the year in the city and truly got to know Paris beyond its tourist attractions. I had time on weekends to explore and experience all that the city has to offer- its impressive architecture, cafe culture, beautiful libraries, manicured parks and plenty of free museums for those under 26. My personal favourite is Le Musée d’Orsay.  

When the city became overwhelming, I was only an hour train ride from another beautiful location in France. In November, I travelled to Strasbourg to meet my fellow study abroad friends, Rachel and Anya, and spent my birthday exploring the Christmas markets. I also had the chance to visit Montpellier, Rouen, Reims, Lille and Etretat in Normandie, experiencing the various French regional cuisines, accents and traditions. 

My love of dance led me to joining the Sciences Po dance group Art’Core. Being the only non-Francophone member was a real challenge. At first, it was hard to make real connections in a foreign language. Trying to join in on conversations and jokes was particularly difficult, and I often wondered if I perhaps came across shy or too serious. Taking classes at various studios meant I experienced new styles of dance, and I was inspired by people with different training and ideas. Teaching Highland Dancing to the group in November was a bonding moment and turning point in my French-language journey, and I noticed how quickly my French had improved.  

Dancing also granted me some amazing opportunities and a way to make friends in such a big city. In May, I had the opportunity to Highland Dance at the British Embassy in Paris in honour of the King’s Coronation with fellow Sciences Po student and French Highland dancer Anna Berkani. This was a great honour and allowed me to meet both the French ambassador to the United Kingdom, as well as the UK Ambassador to France- both powerful women in politics. As an International Relations student, this amazing opportunity inspired me to pursue my goal of working in government and my dreams of living abroad longer term. I felt proud and honoured to promote my Scottish culture at such an important diplomatic event.  

With help from the Turing funding and Margaret Fleming bursary from St Andrews, as well as the Stevenson Scholarship from Glasgow University, I was able to make the most of my year abroad. I not only improved my language skills in both French and Spanish, but I grew as a person and became a more confident, independent individual. I’m now excited to return to St Andrews for my final year and would highly recommend studying abroad at Sciences Po. 

Thank you to Anna for sharing her experience. You can read more about our student experiences in the Global Education section of the Global Office blog.

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