Blog Post 1: My Second Day in Paris

My second day in Paris I had so much nervous energy and knew I had to do some exploring before classes at Sciences Po started in the next week. There were only five people from Michigan at Sciences Po this semester so I reached out to them in the groupchat we created to see if anyone wanted to explore. I ended up heading to the Arc de Triomphe with one of the girls from Michigan who was also here on exchange. We had a great time and got to chat about the experience of planning the whole study abroad trip and the huge aspect of self reliance that comes with type of program. I was happy to learn from her that not only was there a huge group chat with many of the fall 2017 exchange students at Sciences Po, but that some of them were having a get together on the Seine to meet people before classes started.

I happily joined the group chat and tagged along to join the little meetup. The sun was just started to set when we all showed up the edge of the Seine, looking across the river towards the Louvre. Huge loaves of baguettes and bricks of brie cheese in hand, about 15 of us set up camp next to the river and got chatting about where we came from, how we like Paris so far, and what we were all expecting from the coming semester. It was an incredible mix of people, like nothing I had ever been a part of before. Exchange students from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Chile, Germany, Italy, and a whole host of others came and went throughout the night as we played music and took part in in the quintessential Parisian activity of spending time with friends by the Seine.

This is just one of the many magical nights I’ve had in Paris and I’m so grateful for the incredible first week I had there where I was able to meet some of my lifelong friends and future classmates. The best decision I made was jumping in feet first on my second day in Paris in a way that would shape the best of my time here this semester.

Blog Post 2: Bridging Two Universities

One of the most exciting aspects of Sciences Po for me has been being able to take classes I’m truly interested in, which an international perspective. There are huge differences between classes at Michigan and classes at Sciences Po, for example I can take actual law classes Sciences Po, while in the United States law classes are typically reserved for students in post undergraduate law schools. However, I was committed to applying things that I have already learned at Michigan to what I was study at Sciences Po.

My elective seminar class at Sciences Po is called The Notion of Equality in Contemporary French Political Thought (I know, it’s a mouthful) and as the class suggests it focuses primarily on how equality is currently views by french theorists. My professor for this class is incredible intune to where each student in the class is from originally and the kind of topics that we each traditionally study in our home universities, so he has encouraged us to apply the things we are learning about the french conception of equality to what we know from previous studies. This encouragement allowed me to choose a topic for my final paper in the class that is directly related to a class I have taken at Michigan and it has been so exciting for me to combine two types of thought from two places across the world from each other.

Winter 2017 semester I took Political Science 489 at Michigan which was focused around the topic of Black Lives and Deaths from a political perspective. An important part of this class was research strategies in determining the presence of Sundown Towns in the United States, and this research was so interesting, heartbreaking, and important that I knew I wanted to utilize it in my Sciences Po final paper somehow. After many long discussions with my professor about the topic and how it can be used in my paper, I was able to integrate the research I had done at Michigan into this new paper topic at Sciences Po that discussed equality and its importance in the United States, from a French perspective.

This experience has brought things in full circle and has made me that much more excited for future Sciences Po exchange students from Michigan that are able to bridge the know institutions as well.  

Blog Post 3: Paris, 7e

Sciences Po does not offer university housing for students, because being in the center of Paris makes it quite impossible to have standard student housing. There are dozens of ways that people have found housing for the semester, from the housing agency Comforts of Home, to family friends, to long term Airbnb rentals. I happened to find mine through the Facebook group of Sciences Po exchange students. I had a skype interview in which I met both the landlady and the current tenant of a small studio that’s only a 5 minute walk from Sciences Po, and I was solid on the friendliness of the landlady and the incredible location of the studio.

My studio apartment is on the top floor (thank goodness for my elevator, most people aren't so lucky) of a beautiful building in the 7th Arrondissements(or district) of Paris, and my landlady and her family occupy the entire fourth floor of the building. I have been incredible lucky because it often feels like I have a host family available to me, even though I live alone. My landlady and her family have helped me with every problem that has arisen, from a lost room key to broken water heater, and they are quick to mention all kinds of recommendations in Paris. While planning for a week long trip during the Sciences Po fall break, my landlady helped me put together my entire itinerary and transportation plans which included Munich, Vienna, Budapest, London.

The family arrived in Paris in the 1980’s after fleeing Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War and have since made Paris their home. Some of my absolute favorite evenings in Paris have been sharing a dinner of traditional Lebanese food with the family while we tell stories and share all of our different perspectives. The incredible thing about Paris is that it truly draws in people from all over the world, and that if you look hard enough you can learn about not just French culture, but about all kinds of different cultures that you may never have considered.