A Year Abroad: Studying in Paris

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Paris is on countless tourists’ bucket lists, but it also remains a popular choice for students planning a year abroad. We spoke to some people who decided to make the move and study in the City of Love – here’s what they had to say about lectures, the social scene, and France’s infamous bureaucracy.

Charlie

How did you spend your study abroad in Paris?

I studied at ESSEC university which is one of the best business schools in France in most rankings. It’s a very comparable university experience to UK universities but except its separated into French track and English Track. This means that the English track is basically all foreign students who don’t speak french, and the French track is all the people with french as a mother tongue (Canadians + French) or those who study French. English track is far superior in terms of human capital and the people that you meet. Attendance was compulsory and strictly enforced (you had to get doctors notes if you were to miss a lesson).

Highs and lows?

Their societies scene is pretty non-existent but I did give their rugby team a go…interesting experience, but a poor standard. A highlight was definitely being part of the exchange student community and exploring Paris’ restaurants and bars with energetic people who want to find fun everywhere. A couple of low points were discovering how much Paris costs and dealing with french bureaucracy!

Would you recommend studying?

Yes. Would I recommend Paris? No, nor ESSEC. The business school is pretty similar to English ones except of a lower standard. The teachers are really good but the equipment and organisation is pretty bog standard. It is also on the outskirts of Paris, so that was a downfall. I would recommend studying in the south of France if you really want the French experience – nicer people, better weather, and cheaper fun. France is an amazing country with really energetic and interesting people in it…but very few of them are in Paris as students.

Don't get too caught up in the stress of uni work. Prestigious universities such as the Sorbonne give out an enormous workload and weekly exams. It's really easy to start feeling stressed and behind, but try not to let it affect your overall experience and time exploring the city.

Maddie

How did you spend your placement in Paris?

I was there for 4 months studying at the Université Sorbonne 3. As Paris is such a touristy city, you’ll find it difficult to speak/ listen to French when outside the classroom. 

Anything you’d recommend?

I recommend doing as many translation classes as you can – they’re really good at improving your language and grammar. Make sure to only take first-year translation classes though, as I discovered the level in second year is MUCH higher in France compared to the UK! 

Don’t get too caught up in the stress of uni work. Prestigious universities such as the Sorbonne give out an enormous workload and weekly exams. It’s really easy to start feeling stressed and behind, but try not to let it affect your overall experience and time exploring the city. 

Also, don’t go too adventurous with your unit choices as this makes everything more difficult. I chose a unit which ended up being about the history of printers…

Rohan

Anything you’d recommend?

If you can find anything worthwhile in terms of work, then go for it. It does really depend on what you want out of your year abroad though. If you want a break from the intensity of university or if you want to experience the world of work for a year, then perhaps work. But if not, take advantage of your home university’s links and do a placement at a university – it is very easy as most of the difficult admin is done for you by your home university. Once again, it depends on who you are and what you are looking for from your year abroad. Paris is a breathtaking city and there is a lot to do every day.”

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