Parisian life for a Chinese student

Name: Yang Ming
Age: 23
Hometown: Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province
French university: Sciences Po Paris
Chinese university: Shanghai International Studies University
Program of study: Master of Communication


Translation: I’m studying Communications at Sciences Po in Paris. My life here in Paris is totally different than in Shanghai, the city where I did my previous studies, in some ways better and in other ways worse. But in all ways, different. So, here’s what it’s like to be a Chinese student in Paris.

Why did you choose to study in Paris?
I actually chose the school before the city. The reason why I’m now in Paris is all because of Sciences Po. It was the school I wanted to study in since my sophomore year. I encountered a lot of Sciences Po alumni when I was in Shanghai. It seems I was destined to go there as well. I was touched by the spirit of the school which was carried by all the alumni themselves. So I decided to apply for it and finally I got accepted.

What are the biggest differences between student life in France and China?
I would say that in France, as in many western countries, independence and autonomy are very much expected from the students, which is much less the case in China. For instance, in Sciences Po, a lot of topics and projects are very large – for example, a project on the controversial exploitation of shale gas – and students are expected to do all the documentary research themselves, to find an interesting angle and to finalize the project in a presentable way. Here, students have to take a lot of initiative. In China, generally speaking, a lot of guidelines are provided and students are simply expected to follow them.

What have been the best and worst aspects of your study abroad experience?
The best aspect is actually the fact that, unlike in China, I have to be proactive. It is a challenge, of course, but also a discovery and an opportunity for me to be more competitive.

Another aspect that I appreciate a lot is the highly international environment. In Sciences Po, about 30% of the students are international students. Plus, I had the chance to live in the Cite Internationale Universitaire de Paris, another place with a highly international ambiance. I really enjoy meeting people from different cultural backgrounds and talking to them.

The bad aspect for me lies in the fact that compared to Shanghai where I did my undergraduate studies, Paris is not ‘modern’ at all. There are few convenience stores that are open 24/7. The metro system is really old whereas in Shanghai the metro is spacious and modern, and most commercial facilities here close on Sundays and holidays, which is unthinkable in China. But for the rest, Paris is a beautiful city.

How do you see this experience impacting your future goals?
That’s really a big question. One thing is certain – I would not prefer to spend all my years in France. Actually, I would really like to move on to another country and experience another culture. I think my stay in Paris has helped me to confirm the choice of a lifestyle that consists of tasting different cultures. And the best way to gain a certain insight into a society and its culture is to live in that country and learn its language. My next destination is not yet decided.

Read more interviews with Chinese students in Paris in the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique!

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