Orientation and First Weeks
Bonjour from France! I am currently two months into my exchange program, and I cannot begin to explain how amazing this opportunity has been. I never imagined going on exchange during my undergraduate degree, but when I got that email in December that I was qualified to apply, I decided to take the chance and I am only happy I did so. Participating in an exchange program has truly been academically challenging and a life changing experience for me.
In addition to the orientation week organized by my host university, the "Bureau des Elévès" (student body) planned an integration week before classes began. It was an awesome opportunity to socialize and make friends with other exchange students. They planned club days, campus tours, champagne tours, wine tasting tours, and a lot of fun activities. Given that Sciences Po Reims campus is an international campus, it made connecting with people easier because everyone was excited to learn about where you came from and wanted to make friends.
Cultural and Environmental Observations
France was my first choice for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to study Political Science from an international perspective and my host university is a prestigious for diplomatic studies in France. Secondly, I genuinely wanted to immerse myself in French culture and learn the language in order to become bilingual. After receiving my SFU nomination, I remember binge-watching "Emily in Paris" on Netflix to get a sense of what life might be like in France. I daydreamed about eating croissants and engaging in other stereotypically Parisian activities. While I am not living like “Emily in Paris", I still get to experience culture in an intimate way in the smaller city of Reims.
My exchange so far has been nothing but amazing. Most days, it feels like I am living in a dream. The city of Reims is historically rich with magnificent gothic architecture. The bakeries, the food, and the people make me fall more in love with France each day. Living on my own in a country where I am not proficient in the language and having to take care of myself has contributed to my growth as a young adult. It comes with a lot of difficulties and responsibilities, but it gets easier over time.
Prior to my exchange program, I had little travel experience and had never been to Europe. Now, I can visit neighbouring European countries while going to school here. Travelling and studying abroad can be extremely expensive which makes it even more inaccessible for minorities. I cannot express how crucial it is for Black women to take up spaces and be recognized, and I appreciate the EDI IMA and SFU for making such a project more accessible. I am looking forward to sharing my language and intercultural skills when I get back to SFU.