At some point in the second semester of my business degree, I was sitting in lecture theatre one listening to a past student talking about their study abroad experience and how it was integral to what eventually became their career. I had the idea floating around in my head about how awesome studying abroad would be, and that I had always wanted to make it part of my undergrad experience – but on that day it really hit me: I was absolutely going to miss out on a life changing opportunity if I let this pass me by. From that point on I started harassing Brenton and the USC internationals team at an alarmingly heavy rate. At this stage I knew so little about anything regarding making it happen, all I knew was that I wanted to go. Beyond that I was left with little more than question marks and a lot of blank forms to be completed, and I still didn’t know where I wanted to go. The USC internationals team helped me work my way through every stage of the process, and I began to start seeing more and more green lights, going from wondering “Could this happen? Can I do this?” to “It’s happening, it’s actually happening”.
I have been living in Paris for four months now and I can not emphasise enough how valuable the decision I made sitting in the USC lecture theatre has become. The road to getting here, and cutting out a small life for myself in Paris, has been one of the most incredibly challenging and overwhelmingly rewarding things I have ever done.
I have been studying at Novancia, a vibrant and exciting business school in the heart of Paris. I have found it to be an incredible learning experience that is hands-on, immersive, and incredibly fun. I have been studying courses under some teachers who are world renowned experts in their fields, all the while pushing myself in ways I could never have imagined. If you’re lucky like I have been, you may even have the distraction of a view of the Eiffel Tower during class! I have made amazing friendships with other internationals, as well as the local Parisian students, who love to work, and love to help us live, laugh, and party afterwards. For me, this has been one of the best things to help me embrace living in this truly ever-amazing city.
I live in the East of Paris. My day starts with coffee and a petit déjeuner from my local boulangerie. If I am not riding my bike to school, I walk coffee in hand through cobblestoned streets to Passy metro station. Crossing the River Seine, I usually don’t take my eyes off the Eiffel until its out of view. If it’s a great day, any number of amazing musicians fill the carriages with music. Novancia is a 15-minute metro ride on my line, however the school is well connected by numerous metro lines running through Montparnasse-Bienvenue, so a large majority of the city is accessible directly. Novancia is in a very modern and bright building, with fantastic amenities and even better student associations. I am regularly cutting through the social events that are constantly taking place in the school, whether it’s DJ’s spinning between classes while people hand out crepes and coffee, or bands playing music in the main auditorium. Some days I hit the school gym. Most days I hit the cafeteria.
The classes run longer than at USC, going for at least 3 hours. I came to love the longer classes however, as it meant I concentrated my energy on getting my coursework done, to free up more time to explore the city.
When I’m in no hurry to get home I usually like to pick a direction and just wander the streets, discovering new things along the way. In the warmer months, getting home normally involved a few friends from school, a few bottles of wine, a couple of fresh baguettes and some delicious fromage, and chilling in one of the parks or on the edge of the Seine. Within easy walking distance from school is the Eiffel Tower, Invalides, or Luxembourg gardens.
This is a brief snapshot of the things that make this city worth the challenge, in my personal opinion. I won’t sugar coat it. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s manageable with determination – and it teaches you to be frugal. Yes, there is the occasional communication barrier (I’m learning a bit more French every day!), but it adds to the adventure. Yes, there has been some unfortunate headlines about this wonderful city recently, but I haven’t walked any streets that have made me feel unsafe. Yes, I have felt like I was going to explode with frustration from my encounters with the various French bureaucratic and administrative entities, but between the help available from USC and Novancia, and my own persistence, these challenges have become less and less worrisome.
If you’re contemplating studying overseas as part of your undergraduate experience, I could not urge you enough to find the moment of clarity where you realise there are not very many opportunities in life to do something as profoundly rewarding as living a life in another country, another culture. Not just as a tourist, not just as a passer by, but as a living breathing part of some other part of the world. If you’re thinking about this, the same way I was thinking about it in lecture theatre one back in my second semester, I strongly insist you go talk to the USC international team and have a chat. Maybe even print out some application forms, you never know where you might just end up.