BA History and Politics
Erasmus Exchange to Sciences Po Toulouse, France
I always knew I wanted to do Erasmus, once I was at university. So, really it all came down to choosing where I wanted to go. I chose France and I had the chance to study at the prestigious Sciences Po Toulouse for a year.
Toulouse, a city in the south of France, it has cheap transport, well located for all the travelling you’ll want to do, and is the best student city in France after Paris. It really is a dream location.
My study abroad experience
As much as you go to study in a different country, the key to any exchange programme is the cultural aspect. Prior to university, I had learned the French language for many years, so I thought I knew about the culture. I also made sure that I had an open mind, not letting myself get influenced by any clichés or stereotypes. I thought I was somewhat ready to brace it, but I was wrong.
The French turned out to be all the clichés put together at once, yet at the same time more real, contradictory, and more stylish than I ever expected. As I began to immerse myself in the culture, I also became part of these clichés.
I found myself buying a baguette every day, having at least three types of cheese in the fridge at any time, I also enjoyed the ridiculously cheap, but great coffee at corner cafés whilst people watching - I didn’t even drink coffee before I went to France! The infamous French mid-day two-hour lunch became such a norm to me that it took me a couple of months to retrain myself back to normal.
I began to go to the market to do my food shop, at parties I found myself enjoying a glass of wine, I even tried to imitate, without success, the way all French people, no matter their age, gender or class, manage to make the simplest clothes look so elegant.
I will look back at this year of my life as the one where I lived inside all those quirky French comedies, only with added exam stress and less money.
What I gained from the experience
Going to live in another country, with a completely different language and their specific way of doing things, makes you acquire a completely new set of skills. It forces you out of your comfort zone, gives you confidence and introduces you to new aspects of yourself that you weren’t even aware of.
I learned to be more social and let myself be free, due to the vast amounts of people you meet. I also learned to stop caring so much what other people think, something that is useful generally in life, but also crucial if you are trying to learn a new language, as the only way to practice it is to talk to the locals. You are going to make a lot of mistakes, but that’s the only way to learn and get better.
I also learned to leave my comfort zone, which led my friends and I to buy some really cheap tickets and go back-packing to Morocco for two weeks. It made me gain a lot of confidence as well. If I managed to navigate and chew my way through the infamous French bureaucracy, I am pretty much willing to take on anything now.
I truly cannot imagine not going to France, not meeting the friends I made or experiencing some of the amazing things I did. I wouldn’t be the person I am now without experiencing all that. If someone asked me to drop everything and do another year of study abroad somewhere, I would do it in a heartbeat.