Reinet, South Africa

"I am a third year student studying BA Humanities at the University of Stellenbosch.  Exchanging to Paris was probably one of the most enlightening, rewarding and yes, difficult, experiences of my 22 years. I remember arriving in a very cold, very dark city 10:00 after a long sleep-deprived flight.

Friday, 11 January. I walked from Montparnasse to my apartment block in the 15th arrondissement: the Eiffel Tower in front of me, dragging my luggage behind me. I had found accommodation about a month earlier. I would be looking after and teaching two little Parisian boys English in exchange for a tiny room on the 7th floor. The mom showed me around speaking very fast French. I ate a bowl of Pronutro and rushed to the welcoming day at Sciences Po.

Sciences Po is a political sciences university in the heart of Paris. I studied sociology and arts in English and French. I loved my subjects. Most of my classes were electives consisting of around 20 students. I was able to really absorb the learning material and the lecturers’ insight. One of my most bizarre experiences was working on a French project on social movements with a Chinese girl who didn’t speak much English. Somewhere between endless conversations in average French, we became friends. It was difficult getting to know many French students in the short while that I was there, but I did get to know the family I stayed with quite well.

The most valuable part of the experiences was the relationships I built while I was there. Although I won’t be seeing many of these friends and acquaintances soon, I have started to build some kind of international network. So on one level, I know I will always have a place to stay when travelling and have realised friendships go beyond cultural and language differences. One another level I can see how these connections will be of benefit professionally. I have a friend doing an internship in India and another class friend in Canada who recently sent me a link to an article he published. I also have contact with a Sciences Po classmate currently on exchange in Cape Town. Coming back to Stellenbosch, I am so much surer of what I want to do and who I want to be. The skills I acquired, specifically in improving my French, have already opened up doors for me.

I experienced a very quick immersion into Parisian society, getting to know the city beneath the glitz of its tourist attractions and beautiful boutiques. Five months later I was plucked out of my own little Paris and back in my parent’s home in Bloemfontein. I was left with the intention to visit Musée Rodin just down the street and the taste of the best croissant from the bakery La maison Pichard around the corner – and memories to sustain me for the year! I am back in Stellenbosch, and will be graduating BA Humanities in December with much more than a degree."