The City of Love; the City of Lights; the City of Art; the City of Fashion. These are just some ways people usually describe Paris. I say, Paris is ‘The City of Magic’.
Before leaving for Paris, I wrote this in my diary: “I hope I can get out of my comfort zone, embrace different cultures, and realize my dream.” I can proudly say I have accomplished all of these goals.
Learning Experience and Campus Life
I took six courses at the Sciences Po: Social Policies in Europe, Development Economics, Magazine Publishing, Environmental Politics, Water: A Contemporary Issue, and a French Language Course.
Sciences Po is a prestigious school in Paris especially known for Political Science studies. For as a person who had never studied Political Science before, it was completely new and in the first month, I really struggled with courses like Social Policy and Environmental Politics. There was a lot of reading to do for each course and the jargon was very confusing to me. What really helped me through this was the academic culture.
Compared to Hong Kong, the academic culture is very different in Europe. I was very surprised to see constant discussion between the professors and students. Students are not shy and they are very keen to raise their opinions; they have discussions about the readings and how they are related to the course, the questions they have in mind, and even engage in debates and arguments, with their professors. It is not a spoon-feeding culture; it is more about truly understanding the information and applying it to existing contexts and situations. This culture changed my way of learning, and helped me tackle the courses I found difficult.
Similar to HKUST, Sciences Po had many societies that cater to student interests. One of the events I joined was a hiking trip organized by the Sciences Po Environment Society. I got to meet people with similar passions, including those who care about the environment, like me. All the students I talked to truly believed in their goals and some had already put them into action. Hearing about their accomplishments and goals inspired me to work even harder for my dream.
Being in an international community taught me a lot about the culture and history of different countries. Not only did I get to meet a lot of people from different cultures, living in Paris for 5 months helped me truly embrace a new culture. For example, I didn’t understand why it takes locals three hours to eat a meal. I learned later that it is because they enjoy conversations and companionship. They also enjoy their food, and appreciate the gift that has been given by the hard work of people and nature. I think this is what’s missing in Hong Kong; we are often occupied with our mobile phones and hectic lives, so we speed through our meals, don’t talk to our dinner companions, and neglect the goodness of the food on the table.
While learning about another country’s culture, I found that I wanted to learn about my own culture even more. I realized that there is much I don’t know about Hong Kong and it is a shame that I have yet to discover many beautiful places in my own city.
The City of Magic
Paris had cast a spell on me. It helped me break the walls of my comfort zone, embrace new cultures, realize my dream, and most certainly, fall in love with the city. I’m really thankful for this overseas study experience. It was truly eye opening and I feel as though I’ve become a better person. I will definitely return to Paris when I am fluent in French and explore the city even more.