As 2As stress about our visas, select our courses, and research housing options for the exciting adventures lying just around the corner, we’re also preparing to begin the routine of meeting new people and figuring out how to navigate life abroad. We’re reminded of our first weeks at Sciences Po, with the typical “What’s your name, where are you from, and what do you want to study?” routine. The thrill of meeting new people and discovering a different culture is paired with anxiety about finding connections and figuring out how life works in an unfamiliar environment.

To help relieve some of this nervousness and prepare to discover a new culture and environment, I’ve asked some current 3As studying in North America about their experiences and advice. These discussions left me with a new sense of eagerness — academically, socially, and culturally, we have a lot to look forward to!

Current 3As are taking a diverse array of courses offered by their partner schools, from indigenous affairs, to anthropology, to feminist studies, to finance. They have the opportunity to gain a local perspective on countless issues and take classes that may seem outside the scope of political science. Genevieve is a 3A at Berkeley who said that a professor in her Legal Studies on Feminist and Social Movements seminar gave students the chance to gain experience working in local feminist associations outside of the classroom as a volunteer legal coordinator for unhoused individuals. She told me, “It is more common to participate in research at American universities, and I’ve had an amazing experience as a research assistant to a professor at Berkeley Law School who is writing a book about contraception and abortion in the US.”

When I asked about 3A experiences integrating into a new cultural environment, Xavier (who is studying in Montreal) recommended getting ready for North Americans’ lack of geographical knowledge. He told me that “stating that you are Czech is followed by (including, but not limited to) the following questions: Is that an island like Malta? Did you vote for Putin? Do you mean Belgium? That’s in Yugoslavia, right?” Besides that, Xavier has found friends by joining football (soccer) and taking advantage of events, going to bars, and immersing himself in the local culture of hockey-playing and poutine-eating. 

For the more introverted crowd, a 3A in Pittsburgh has a different perspective. They told me that 3A taught them to get out of their comfort zone, and despite hating small talk, “US people are by far the easiest people to befriend, you just have to make the first steps towards them.”

Genevieve also highlighted the excitement of having the opportunity to experience two distinct university environments, saying, “It’s been really interesting to compare French and American universities and culture. I love the big American university vibe — there is so much school spirit, huge sporting events, and tons of career and extracurricular resources.” But she also acknowledged that on a small campus, it was easier for her to maintain friendships and connections since she saw the same people every day.

Any words of advice? Here’s what they had to say:

“Social media will make you think that everyone is constantly doing crazy things but behind the camera everyone has lows too. If you sometimes just do normal student stuff, it’s okay.”

“Don’t be afraid of dating and having relationships during your 3A. Whether it’s creating one or maintaining one already existing, long distance is really not that bad. It even seems convenient with the very busy life Sciences Po brings.”

“I would recommend maintaining your connections with your friends from Sciences Po and taking advantage of having places to stay all over. It’s so fun to meet back up and compare experiences and see how much everyone grows during their 3A.”

“Don’t overwhelm yourself with classes! Enjoy your year abroad, join extracurriculars, travel, explore the area, meet new friends, and don’t procrastinate your parcours civique thesis tooooo much (coming from someone who has not started theirs).”

“People do not know/care about Sciences Po, so you are gonna have to come up with a different character trait. You will get decent enough grades with marginal effort, so take it easy, consume an abundance of whichever local alcoholic beverage, and travel out of your dad’s wallet, you bourgeois rascal.”

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