I feel very blessed to be where I am
Alumnus Charles Wade talks about life in Paris, his postgraduate experience at Sciences Po, and how his time at ULIP prepared him for further study.
“When I arrived in Paris in the September of 2016, a fresh faced 18 year old, everything felt exciting. Double-decker trains on the RER C, pains au chocolat aplenty and the Eiffel tower peering her head over the 7th arrondissement into Madame Chabot’s grammar lessons, the toughest things in life were applying to CAF and getting my ‘pass Navigo’.
Nearly five years later and I am still here, having just finished the first of two years studying for a master’s degree in European Affairs at the French political science school, ‘Sciences Po’. Although my ‘pass Navigo’ may no longer provide such a challenge; online classes, new forms of assignments and new subjects have certainly taken its place. From studying European law, economics, and statistics for the first time, to working on group projects over Zoom with six other people I have never met, it has been intense but thoroughly enjoyable!
Some highlights have to be my courses on creating and evaluating public policy, as well as having the chance to take Spanish and German lessons. The exchanges with other students in class have been very rich too.
The course includes people from all over Europe and learning to genuinely work as a team with people of different ages and nationalities has been a great experience. I must also commend the variety of the modules available as well as the quality and the care of the teachers, who have done so much to make the very best of this year.
It has not all been wonderful and easy, however. Uncertainty over the future, financial worries and feelings of inadequacy have all provided tough moments. Despite one or two classes in person, having also mainly only seen my classmates in class and on as screen has been hard. No chatting in the corridor after class or going to get lunch or a drink together have been little but important things that we have all missed. Thankfully, I have been able to meet up with some people and make a few new friends but, for me and many others, it has been very easy to feel overworked and alone.
I am grateful though to have already had three years to really enjoy Paris to the full. Bars, SU events, karaoke nights, football matches, runs and even a ski trip during my time at ULIP have provided many happy memories. The integration also between my years at ULIP, as well as the opportunity to gain confidence and responsibility from my time on the Students’ Union and learn the ability to work independently, have all been things that have helped me to adjust to my current degree.
One thing I do miss a little though is the more artistic side of ULIP. Writing abstract poetry with Professor Milne, or watching 1930s French cinema, was very special and something I loved. I have really enjoyed moving into political science, however, and Sciences Po has a very professionalising approach that was a key aspect in attracting me to study there.
My first year has served to build upon this excitement about languages and culture, and cultivate it into practical tools and skills that I can use in the future. Time has gone by and my studies have changed, but life has not lost any of the uncertainties, challenges, or excitements; it has simply seen them evolve and become a little richer and more rounded.
Where I will be in five years from now? Who knows? But at this moment, I feel very blessed to be where I am, and to look forward to another Parisian year, as well as many more Parisian pains au chocolat.”