Round 2

Leave a comment Standard

My first week back for my second and final semester starts tomorrow. This time around I was ready for the inefficient French system and really tried my best to be organised. This meant sending emails to all the modules I wanted to do at the end of the December. However, despite my best efforts I’ve somehow ended up doing something a bit different from my original plan. The good news is that I haven’t missed the first two weeks of classes, so compared to last time, everything is looking good.

After having spent a great few weeks at home catching up with my family as well as managing to see some friends that I hadn’t seen since June it’s safe to say I wasn’t too pleased about coming back to Paris on the 7th of January to do my exams… Just to make it worse I only got back to my flat the night before my first two exams, and it really wasn’t easy dragging all that extra Christmas present weight up four flights of stairs. I couldn’t be happier that my exams are over and after a very well timed trip to London and the return of my boyfriend later, I’m now very excited to be here and to get back into the swing of things.


Now part of the Sorbonne!

Then again, now that the exams are out of the way, I’ve had more time to worry about my seriously full timetable. I feel very very sorry for the actual physics students here who basically work 8:30 – 18:00 every day. A very different experience to a Durham timetable in my opinion. One piece of exciting news is that my University has become part of the Sorbonne, which happened on the 1st of January which meant I came back to new signs and logos all around the campus. This also makes it a lot easier for me when people ask which university I got to, a ‘The Sorbonne’ is a lot simpler than ‘Université Pierre et Marie Curie’!

One thing I noticed straight away once I was back was that after three weeks of only speaking English, I was really struggling to understand any French. It really is one of those things where you need to use it or you’ll lose it! Even after a week of just enjoying Paris and relaxing I’m still not sure I feel ready to start learning in French again. Hopefully, by the end of next week I will have picked it all back up.

So since nothing new or exciting has really happened to me recently, I wanted to take a look back at my favourite moment from my first semester. For me this was realising that I was finally comfortable living in this new city. This was the moment when I realised that I can do the whole year and really enjoy it. I realised that I know the city, I can understand French, I can sort things out in a different language and live all by myself. I can’t say that it was a very memorable moment, or that I remember where I was when it happened, but there definitely was a moment and it was a really great feeling.


I can be French!




To finish off, I wanted to talk about my aims for the next semester. Hopefully by my last blog post I’ll be able to look back at this and say that I achieved what I set out to do. My reason for studying abroad was to experience living in a different country, look at physics from a different point of view but mainly to improve my French. With everything that happened in the first semester, I felt like I didn’t put my all into this, I still improved but I didn’t feel like I made the most of every situation. Because of this, my aims for the next semester are to make more French friends, speak more French in general and really make an effort to do this. Wish me luck!


Cultural Guilt

Leave a comment Standard

After almost 11 weeks in Paris, one of the things I’ve struggled with the most is the guilt of not making the most of my time here. When I’m relaxing after university, eating tinned soup and even when I’m studying I have the feeling that I could be using my time to see and experience more of Paris.

This feeling was growing towards the end of October as I’d spent a lot of the month worrying about and sorting wifi, my bank account and then even more so when I had a mid-term exam for each of my modules. Mid-terms at my host university count for about 20% of the module mark and normally take place between 18:00 and 20:00 in the evening. This is probably my peak procrastination time so really isn’t when I’d choose to take a relatively important test.  This meant staying in and studying for these, taking more time due to the language difference and resulting in more guilt. The other side of this is guilt for not studying. I was in a bit of a vicious cycle, yet to find a balance between everything.


I will admit to a quick visit to Le Musée de l’Orangerie when I should have been studying.

However, with midterms over and everything finally sorted, I’m planning to assuage my guilt by getting some more cultural activities under my belt. The next week is looking hopeful with plans to visit the Catacombs of Paris as well as an organised run through the heart of Paris and a birthday party with lots of other Erasmus students.


At the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

This past weekend also allowed me to experience some fantastic food and discover what there is to do in Paris other than visiting museums. Despite being vegetarian and most menus listing only meat and fish based meals, asking for a vegetarian alternative normally results in some delicious food. On top of the incredible food, a highlight of my weekend was seeing a classical music performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. This was a brand new experience for me and was such an exciting opportunity to get dressed up and discover something a bit different. With tickets as cheap as 5 € I think I’ll go again!

Finally, I was lucky enough to be invited for a meal in the Eiffel Tower, by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done. This was an experience of a lifetime made all the better by exceptional food, breath taking views and great company. While we were up on the second floor, the weather changed from rain to fog and then cleared to give an amazing sunset. This gave us some dreamy photos (see below) which I’ll be showing to people for a long time to come.






Studying at Sciences Po

Leave a comment Standard

Here at Sciences Po we are already in week 9 of the fall semester and there is only one more month of classes until the Christmas holidays. As this blog is also meant for inspiring students to go on a year abroad I decided to dedicate this entry to what studying at Sciences Po is like and how it differs from studying at Durham. I hope that it will help some of you to evaluate whether or not a year abroad would be something for you, especially since around now is the time to start applying for one. I cannot emphasise how much I recommend doing one and so far I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love their Erasmus experience.

So while this post might not be the most exciting, the next one will be more fun again, I promise.


Welcome to the Sciences Po

Continue reading

I’m going to the Euros!

Leave a comment Standard

Some really big news: after a series of unsuccessful attempts to get tickets to UEFA Euro 2016, held in France, I finally managed to get hold of a pair through the official marketing website. It basically took a whole day of signing in, queuing for about half an hour and hunting down tickets that would pop up. However, I got them in the end, at the point when everyone around me including the ‘External relations of the EU’ professor was cheering for me.

Continue reading

Up to my eyeballs in exams

Comment 1 Standard

Ciao a tutti!

I am writing this from the depths of week 8 of exam season. Week 8. Luckily my exam season is 9 weeks long so the end is in sight!

Having been chained to one desk or another for most of the last few weeks, my news is not up to its usual level of Exciting. However, I can now give you an insight into the study set up of La Sapienza university, in case you are planning on coming here for an Erasmus year. Continue reading

January – Exams, birthday and heartfelt goodbyes. The end of semester 1 – what a ride!

Leave a comment Standard

So with the end of January comes the end of my first semester at Heidelberg, which has been incredible – seriously though, what an absolutely mammoth semester, full of surprises and experiences that I will treasure for the rest of my life!

This post will be divided into two simple parts, both of which I hope have some practical (if a rather nostalgic) benefit: firstly, how to deal with the end of the semester academically, and secondly, how to deal with it emotionally… Continue reading

An Unofficial Guide to the Peking University Chinese Language Proficiency Exam

Leave a comment Standard

机不可失,时不再来 (jī bù kě shī, shí bú zài lái)

– Opportunity knocks at the door only once.

This is a rough guide on what the Exam entails and how I found it when I took it last September and again in March. Provided the Exam and class placement system hasn’t changed since then, I hope this can be a useful tool to calm nerves and go in more prepared than I was!

Around 50 weeks ago, I was one of the nervous and jet-lagged exchange students sitting in a very large hall about to start the Peking University Chinese Language Proficiency Exam (“Exam” from here on in). Beforehand I had scanned the Internet for any friendly tips about what it might entail and was unsuccessful in my search, so I promised myself I would write a little guide for future students in my situation. Continue reading