Hiking around Santiago and in the Andes

Michael Aleman, PUC Exchange, Fall 2012

Though my classes didn’t allow me much time for it, I did manage to get in a few good hikes during the course of the semester. The following are pictures from three separate outings I went on during the semester, two with a school club and one with a friend of mine.

Early on in the semester, I went on a day hike to the east of the city. Normally the city is covered by a fairly thick blanket of smog, but we got lucky in that it rained the day before on a weekend. I was living in Las Condes at the time, so getting to the hills was pretty quick.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.47.29 PM

This was an informal introductory dayhike organized by CAU or “Club Andino Universitario”, a university club. Most of these people had never really done much hiking but were nevertheless interested in learning more about the sport. Note the layer of smog above Santiago – definitely makes you want to hike out of the city more often.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.47.39 PM

One of my favorite hikes was to Cerro La Union, located a few hours away from Santiago. I was here for three days and two nights to learn about winter camping in the Andes. It was a course taught by both enthusiasts as well as professionals, all of whom were brought together with eager students by the Club Andino Universitario at PUC. The following are a few shots from that weekend.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.47.53 PM

end of semester reflections

Sofia Falzoni, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2012

I would like to dedicate this last blog post to reflect on the academic work I’ve been doing while abroad. I’ve noticed that most of my recent blog posts have been related to travel and other outings of the sort; however, I do dedicate a good percentage of my time here to studying. Sciences Po definitely requires a lot of effort and is quite demanding.

The thing about the work load, though, is that most of it gets pushed back to the end of the semester. Except for a few exposes or midterms in the middle.

This semester, I took a total of six academic courses, and I had a final paper for almost every class, and two final written exams. Because everything is a “final” paper or a “final” exam, it all falls within the same two weeks. Also, the final papers are 8-10 page, SINGLE SPACED papers, which I was not particularly used to. And when I had to write them in French, it took a lot of time and effort, but was definitely worth it and I learned a lot in the end.

I am going to take some time here to mention some of these projects and to reflect a bit on some of the ones that have affected me the most.

Sociologie des enterprises criminelles: first French paper EVER. In this class we talked about criminal organizations, focusing on the Russian and the Italian mafia, and talked about their relationships to the economy, politics, the justice system, etc. And another part of the course was dedicated to financial delinquencies and fraud, money laundering, etc. We were allowed to choose our own topics, and for my final paper, I wrote about women’s role in the Italian mafia—it was a very interesting project to do. I was not very familiar with the subject beforehand, so it was all new information and I learned a lot! And writing a paper in French was also a nice exercise, although it did take a lot of effort and time.

Sciences de la paix, Sciences de la violence-Sortir de la violence politique. This was a larger seminar course on political violence. I also wrote this paper in French, and I wrote aboutGuantanamoBayand international law—whetherGuantanamois a “legal black hole” as it does not abide by the Geneva Conventions and its detention and interrogation practices violate human rights

Sociology of Urban Relegation. This was a class on urban sociology, and we studied discrimination, marginalization, and ghettoization of cities. For our projects, we had to do field research in the banlieue of Paris. To give a quick overview, banlieue means ‘suburb’, but it usually carries somewhat of a bad connotation, especially the banlieue in the northeast of Paris—such as Aubervilliers, Saint Denis, La Courneuve, etc. These banlieue are highly North African neighborhoods, and it’s where the 2005 riots took place. They’re considered the dangerous parts of Paris and no one really goes there unless you live there.

For my project, I went on a Saturday afternoon to walk around St Denis for a few hours. The overall atmosphere is very very different from Paris, and there are some high-rise buildings and projects. This class and the project were interesting because it helped me understand Paris from a different angle. If it wasn’t for this class, I probably would have never gone to Saint Denis, and I would have stayed with the same pre-notions I had about the banlieue without actually understanding the why and how of its current situation.

Boundaries in Europe- Citizenship, Societies, Identities. This was my favorite class. The professor was great, and it was a small 20 person class, which gave way to interesting discussions. And I now understand the European ‘crisis of immigrant integration’ in a different way. For my final paper, I compared how Islam and Spanish affect immigration policies in France and the US, and I did so by looking specifically at institutions, namely schools and the labor market. For example, I illustrated how the banning of headscarves in French public schools parallels the disintegration of bilingual education programs in theUS, as well as the rise of the English only movement. I talked about the perceived “threat” of Islam and Spanish in France and the US, respectively, and how these perceived threats shape policies and practices in both institutions. This course was very enlightening, and I plan to take this project as a ‘starting point’ for my Sociology senior thesis, which I plan to complete when I return to NU next year.

All of these final projects were very interesting to write, and I loved all of my courses at Sciences Po this semester—the quality of the professors, the courses, and the discussions were excellent.

Now, we have a month-long winter break until the start of the next semester! I will be staying in Europe the whole time—my family gets here later this week, and we will be doing a road trip to Prague, Budapest and Vienna for the holidays.

I have absolutely loved my experience in Paris and at Sciences Po thus far—I could not be happier that I am staying here for yet another semester!! I am very grateful to have had this opportunity, and I plan to keep taking full advantage next semester as well!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!



Chile Travels 2

Michael Aleman, PUC Exchange, Fall 2012

The following are pictures from a few different trips I made during the semester.

La Ligua
This is a small town located 160km northwest of Santiago, known for its textiles and sweets. Lush green hills surround the town and make for great sightseeing if you decide to climb some of them. Friendly people, lower prices (somewhat) than Santiago, and most importantly no smog!


Valle Nevado
During the first month of my stay in Chile, I went skiing at Valle Nevado, a ski mountain renowned as one of the finest in the Santiago area. Despite it being near the end of the season, the snow was still pretty good and felt the consequences of not skiing for a few years.

Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.51.43 PM Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.53.12 PM Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.53.25 PM Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.52.53 PM


Located approximately 85 km to the south of Santiago between the Andes and Cerro Cantillana. I only spent a couple hours here before I had to leave, but it was a welcome respite from the city. The plaza was definitely one of the more beautiful ones I’ve seen in Chile.

Screen shot 2015-02-05 at 12.36.57 PM


Some more shots of Santiago over the course of the semester. Some of the images were taken during the week leading up to the Chilean Independence Day (September 18th), while others were taken while exploring the city.

Screen shot 2015-02-05 at 12.37.19 PMScreen shot 2015-02-05 at 12.36.40 PM

Puerto Natales

Located at the southern end of Chile (about 700 miles away from some islands of Antarctica), this touristic town is a launching pad for hikers on their way to Torres del Paine National Park or to tour the fjords or glaciers that the area is known for. The town itself has two distinct sections: the plaza and the few blocks around it where most tourist accommodations and gear stores are located, and the residential area where the actual townsfolk live. I spent most of my time in the residential section as the hostel I stayed at was located here.

Screen shot 2015-02-05 at 12.39.24 PM Screen shot 2015-02-05 at 12.38.42 PM Screen shot 2015-02-05 at 12.38.29 PM

Chilean Graffiti

One of the most noticeable sights around Santiago and Chile in general is the graffiti/murals/protest banners. The following are some of my favorites.

Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.39.40 PM

Found in Puerto Natales, a tourist town known for Torres del Paine National Park, one of Chile’s most famous attractions. The first banner says “Indefinite halt!!! For better salaries”, while the second banner says “(Housekeepers)!! Mobilized by labor injustice”. It’s interesting to see labor and wage issues in a place so far away from the rest of the country, though not entirely unexpected.

Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.40.42 PM

Found in La Ligua, a town known for its textiles. The mural reads “Water is defended, it is not sold”. This is interesting in that it addresses two major issues in Chile, one current and one soon to be current. The first is the privatization of much of society, from the roadways to the water and sanitation system to the health system and the kind of inequality such policies may cause. The second is that of water rights – in particular, to the arid north the huge amount of water required by the nation’s copper mines and the high levels of arsenic in groundwater results in a situation in which populations may find themselves unable to pay for water, which would inevitably lead to conflict. This was unexpected as water rights issues traditionally pertain to regions such as the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, not western South America.

Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.40.54 PM

Found on the outer limits of Santiago, these are some of my favorites. The first reads “Resist. Latin America. “Something leaves he who takes NOTHING; something takes he who leaves NOTHING””. The second reads “Thousands transit through here, day after day, maybe, they don’t know that in this very spot, the expressway would pass. For them the ends justify the means, destroying the park didn’t matter, the only lung of this sector. The population was alert, those were intense days, the people didn’t want crumbs. And now you see, the park of the roses lives!! Even though there is no rose plant… The amphitheater was born. This was years ago.. make the most of it, care for it, respect it.” The third seems to be a mural of a traditional Mapuche woman and her daughter, but I can’t be sure of this.

An interesting presentation of the conflict between tradition (the park) and progress (the roadway) in Chile.

Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.41.13 PM

Found in downtown Santiago. Translation means “crazy woman”. Pretty hilarious.

Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.41.33 PM

Found in downtown Santiago. Claro is the name of a mobile services company – the note translates to “On strike”. Taken together it means “Clearly on strike”.

Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.41.45 PM

Found in a schoolyard in San Jose de Maipó. Translates to “firework for education”. Reflects the continuing struggle of most Chileans throughout the country to receive a quality education.

Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.42.04 PM

Found in Barrio Brasil, Santiago.

Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.42.13 PM

Found in Barrio Brasil, Santiago. Translates to “He fell in love for the first time, she fell in love forever”.

Screen shot 2015-02-04 at 12.42.22 PMFound in Barrio Brasil, Santiago. The first translates to “Attack the police!”. The figure in the second is the current president of Chile Sebastián Piñera. Clearly Chileans despise authority, most likely for good reason.

a touristy weekend at home

Sofia Falzoni, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2012

Last weekend, my friend Sofia (one of my friends from NU I went to visit in Bologna) came to visit me in Paris and stayed with me for about four days. Now that I’ve gotten used to Parisian life, I tend not to do so many ‘touristy things’ . Especially because, as the end of the semester approaches, I am more and more busy and have less time to take leisurely walks around Paris (like I did in the beginning).

After spending every afternoon this week at the library writing a paper about women in the Italian mafia (in French), it was great to spend time with Sofia and enjoy the weekend. She had never been to Paris before, so we did a bunch of touristy things.

On the first night she arrived, we went ice skating. So they set up this huge Christmas Market in the Champs Elysees, and it is absolutely beautiful. They sell all types of food, chocolate, hot wine, and they also have an ice skating rink! Usually it’s packed with people and little kids on weekends, but we went on a late Thursday night and it was perfect.

On Friday, I had class in the morning so I brought Sofia with me to show her around Sciences Po. She loved it. Because ScPo is located in the wonderful Saint-Germain des Pres, Sofia had no problem walking around on her own and soaking in the Parisianness of the neighborhood (while I sat in Ethics of War for two hours….)

We walked around the Quartier Latin, Notre Dame, Ile Saint-Louis, and walked around the Marais, where we enjoyed some nice cappuccinos while it POURED outside. (oh yeah, it’s been raining a LOT in Paris…. And the sun hasn’t come out in a looong time…)

We walked all the way to the Eiffel tower at night and watched it sparkle.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.33.32 PM

On Saturday we went toVersailles, which is about half an hour-40 minutes outside of Paris. We got in for free with our student cards and also got an audio guide! It was beautiful. We were able to take a few pictures before my camera’s battery died. One in the entrance and one in the Hall of Mirrors:

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.33.38 PMScreen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.33.43 PM

On Sunday, we got up early and it was SUNNY! Finally. In the morning, we went to the Arc de Triomph and then to the Louvre, and walked in the Jardin the Tuilieries.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.33.48 PM

And we saw everyone taking these silly pictures with the pyramid, so, why not…..

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.33.54 PM

Then, we walked to the Opera. My friend Sofia studies Opera at NU, so we had planned to go see an opera in Paris. So I asked everyone I knew how to get cheap tickets to see an opera, and we went and got last minute tickets at the Opera Garnier, which is one of my favorite buildings in Paris. We waited in line for about an hour, because we intended to get student tickets (which cost 25 euros but you get really great seats), but of course, 10 minutes before the start of the show they announced that they were sold out and we had to get regular last minute tickets.

So we ran to the other line and got our last minute tickets. They cost us 10 euros each. Not bad at all! The view is pretty restricted… the seats are reaaaaaaaally high up, and to the side, so you can only see about 2/3 of the stage. But it really wasn’t that bad, the experience was phenomenal. The building is gorgeous.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.33.59 PM (I was standing up when I took this picture, but this is the basic view from my seat)

And, on the last night, we went to the beautiful Montmartre to enjoy a spectacular view of Paris at night. My camera was actually dead by then, though, so I couldn’t get a nice picture. But this is the last picture of the weekend (when we stopped by the Moulin Rouge on our way out of the metro).

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.34.07 PM

It was a wonderful weekend exploring Paris and taking advantage to see all the sights, and to do things I wouldn’t normally do (especially since I’m here year round). For example, I’ve been putting off going to Versailles since September.

After Sofia left, though, it was time to hit the books again…

Until next time!

Clear skies & more travels

Sofia Falzoni, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2012
November passed by so quickly! It was a rainy month, but December has welcomed super chilly weather and clear skies. Since there are only two more weeks of my program left, I’ve been thinking a lot about going home, but also a lot about all that’s here that I’ll leave behind. I’m already getting nostalgic- for the international friends that I’ll only see via Facebook after I leave, for downtown, for traveling, and for all the little things (even the inconsistent trams).

Since I last wrote, I’ve been lucky to do quite a bit of traveling:

Amsterdam: I loved Amsterdam. Besides Paris, it might have been my favorite city! It’s so cute, and has tons of little shops and cafes. I saw the Van Gogh museum, the Bibliotek, took a canal tour, and of course, ate Dutch Pancakes.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 2.02.17 PM

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 2.02.23 PMFlorence & Rome: I met up with one of my best friends from Northwestern and spent 3 days in Rome, wandering around the incredible sites, eating spectacular gelato, pasta and pizza. It was nice and hot then, so I wore shorts the entire trip! Florence was absolutely beautiful; we hiked up to see the view of the city, and toured the Uffici Gallery and saw Michaelangelo’s David.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 2.02.37 PMScreen shot 2015-02-06 at 2.02.30 PM Prague: Prague was such an interesting place; while Rome and Florence were thought provoking in a more academic way, Prague’s recent darker history of communism was surprisingly prevalent through its city vibe. My roommate and I saw the castle and walked across the Charles Bridge, took a walking tour through Old Town and ate too many cinnamon twist baked goods they sell at the markets outside. Prague to me looked like a fairy tale, but one with a lot more complexity than expected.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 2.02.49 PM


Tuscan Hike: We trained to Florence (and ate some of my favorite paninos there), and then took a two hour bus outside the city to a small Italian town to do some hiking. The countryside along the bus ride was beautiful. We then hiked to a nearby castle amongst the fall foliage and had dinner in Florence!

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 2.02.54 PM

Venice: Venice was a true Italian town: a maze. We spent half of our time trying to find the square and a delicious buffet and pasta place off the beaten path. The shops and bakeries were fun to peruse, and there were literally canals around every corner that made for the perfect day trip.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 2.03.00 PM


Paris: Paris was my last trip, last weekend, and such a good last trip at that. The city is huge, and probably the most well-planned and consistently beautiful places I’ve been. Paris reminded me some of London, with a slower vibe and more old-world charm. I took a tour of the Marais district, then shopped around its boutiques (there’s definitely a reason the word boutique is French), ate at the Christmas markets, saw a view of the city from a Ferris wheel, saw the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffle tower, and made it to Versailles for a bit, too. Overall, Paris is definitely somewhere I hope to go back to.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 2.03.07 PM

Since the traveling is over, I’ll just be hanging around Milan- not that I can complain about that at all. Milan has been the perfect place to study; what will be difficult about leaving is not the plane ride home, but the knowledge that I’ll never come back here to be in this exact time, studying abroad, with all of these people. (See, already nostalgic.)

un bellissimo fine settimana con amici italiani

Sofia Falzoni, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2012

After Reims (see last blog post), the next weekend trip I went on was to Italy. The main reason for the trip was to visit some of my best friends from Northwestern—actually, friends from my Italian class at NU.  I took Italian (on and off) for two years at NU, and I got to take literature and conversation classes, which are really, really small classes, so I became really good friends with the people in my class. I went to visit them in Bologna, where they’re studying abroad at the Universita’ di Bologna (which was actually my second choice for studying abroad).

I travelled with an airline called EasyJet—which was absolutely great! It leaves from Charles de Gaulle. I got to Bologna on a Friday afternoon, took the ‘Aerobus’ to the center of the city. My first thought as we were going into the city: “Everyone looks so… untidy!  Why are people wearing jeans? Why are people wearing tennis shoes out on the street?! Is that girl wearing a sweatshirt? Sweatpants?...in public?”

I stopped and thought for a second… just a few months back, I was one of those college students at NU waking up 5 minutes before class and going to Global History lecture in a sweatshirt and leggings. Not anymore. Now I’m in Paris, where students wear high heels and mini skirts to class (I don’t…yet). And after being in Paris for over two months, I’ve realized how accustomed I’ve become to the Parisian lifestyle…and I love it!

At the bus station, my friend Sofia (yes, same name as me) was waiting for me at the stop. Sofia squared, as we are called…together, we are the two most giggly, most hilarious partners in crime—it was great to be reunited.  I was staying at her apartment with her coinquilini for the weekend—we began walking toward her place and stopped into a café/bar place to see our other friend Michael, it was also sooo great to see him! He has been growing his hair out (and a beard) for the past ~5 months, so he was kind of unrecognizable…

Anyway, we got to Sofia’s apartment, settled in and I met all of her roommates. She lives with 5 other people—two other Italian girls, two other Italian and one American boy—and they were all so sweet and so welcoming. And the apartment was huge and surprisingly very clean.

That night, we went out to a restaurant/bar 051 to what Italians call “aperitivo”. This is seriously the best thing ever invented, and most bars in Bologna and around Italy have them. So it’s very simple, this is how it works: when you buy a drink at the place, you have unlimited access to a food buffet. Yup. I know, it sounds too good to be true. I couldn’t believe it. (Also, most drinks on the menu were around 6 euros… whereas in Paris, for that amount of money you get a beer only during happy hour…without food of course). Probably most people who go to Aperitivo, though, just get a  few items of food to snack on… as poor and hungry college students though, we would fill our plates to the top and go back for seconds… and thirds… and fourths… That night, we went out in a big group with Michael and Sofia and all of their friends, went to some of their favorite bars, went to Via Zamboni, which is the main student street in Bologna. The experience as a student there is just so different than Paris, because here we don’t really have a street or a piazza where the students from Sciences Po hang out—we go to different bars throughout the city, and different parties hosted by the BDE and the AS (which I talked about on my last post as well).

Anyway, we went home relatively early because we were heading to Florence the next day.

Saturday morning, Sofia, Michael, and I, took the train (TrenItalia) to Bologna. It cost us 13 Euros and it took an hour (On the way back though, we discovered a faster train (ItaloTreno) for 15 euros).

So we got to Florence at around noon, got to our hostel, which we had booked online at hostelworld.com (I have used this website multiple times now, and I highly recommend it). We didn’t do much research on our hostel though, we just picked it because it was called “Hotel Paola,” which is the name of our Italian prof at NU.

And the hostel turned out to be very nice! We had our own room with 3 beds, and the location was good too. That Saturday, we kind of took easy, walked around Florence,  went to see the Duomo at Santa Maria del Fiore, which is…..INCREDIBLE.

Here’s a picture, but really, the picture does not even capture the magnificence of it…. it’s really so… splendid … in real life… unbelievable.. I’m kind of hesitant to even put this picture here, it does not do it justice. Also, it was reaaaally hard to get a good picture, because it’s so big… I didn’t know how to do it.. Anyway, here it is.


We kept strolling, walked through the markets on the streets, shopped a little bit, Sofia and I tried on leather jackets, but didn’t buy anything this day (little did we know…. We would go back the next day to a shop where the guys would remember us and bargain down the price a LOT)…

On our beautiful stroll on the Saturday afternoon we passed by the Ponte Vecchio.

At night, we went to eat some Bistecca Fiorentina (Steak) at a restaurant) which was de-licious. We ordered a large large plat to share between the three of us, and devoured it.

And of course, we ended the night with gelato.

On Sunday, we got down to business. We woke up early (at 8). And we had pre-bought our tickets to the two main museums in Florence (for anyone going to Florence, I highly recommend buying tickets in advance, because the line to buy tickets is really long) (you still need to stand in line to get the printed version of the ticket… I don’t really understand why.. but it’s much shorter). Anyway, so we got up at 8, had a quick breakfast at a café in the corner. We went to the Galleria degli Uffizi and to the Galleria dell’Accademia, where we saw Michelangelo’s David. They didn’t let me take a picture, though.

In the afternoon, we went up to this hill called the Piazzale Michelangelo where we had this great panoramic view of Florence—

we chilled there for a bit and contemplated the view before heading back down and catching the last train back to Bologna.

Monday was my last day in Bologna, and Sofia showed me around and we did all the “touristy things” during the day. We went up to the Due Torri (climbed up the stairs…) where we had a great view of the city.

It was impossible to get  a good picture of the Due Torri so here’s a picture from google images so that you have an idea of what I’m talking about:

We also went into some churches, into the Siete Chiese (which were my favorite—it was seven churches built one inside/on top of the other over the years)..

I was only in Bologna for two days, but my friends got to show me a lot about the student life there. Bologna is definitely also very politically active—there’s a lot of graffiti , for example

It was great to spend those 4 days in Italy and see my friends. I also spoke a lot of Italian all the time, which was great practice and a nice change from French! (I also don’t want to lose it!)

I had a great time in Italy- it was really fun to see my old friends and I had delicious food; however, I would not trade Paris for anything. Sofia and Michael kept telling me that I’m becoming a Parisian snob… so let it be, c’est la vie!

Chile Travels 1

 Michael Aleman, PUC Exchange, Fall 2012

On a personal level, my favorite thing about being able to study abroad in Chile is the opportunity to leave the city behind and get to know what really makes this country unique. Posted below are some pictures with highlights from a couple different places I’ve been.

This coastal city built along high hills that flow down into the Pacific Ocean has played an important role throughout Chile’s history. It hosts the Chilean Navy and preserves one of the homes of Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet and nobel laureate. Between the awesomely cheap seafood and beautiful architecture and views I think it is one of my favorite places in Chile thus far.

San Jose de Maipó

Small town deep in the mountains southeast of Santiago. It allows access to a volcano and a number of different ranges high in the Andes, most of which are above the tree line. I arrived during a feria or market day and managed to get some shots of a couple small stalls. I was here just before independence day, so the Chilean flag was flying strong all around.

painting a picture of my life in Paris

]Sofia Falzoni, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2012

Hello everyone!

This post was actually written on October 6th, 2012 but unable to be uploaded due to technical difficulties… I apologize.

It’s a little bit long but there’s too much stuff I wanted to talk about!!

So I’ve been in Paris for a bit over two months. I absolutely love everything about Paris, about Sciences Po, and about my experience so far. To give you a general idea of what I’ve been up to these past six weeks, I’ll break down this blog into sub-parts:

My Apartment:

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.50.44 PM

…is beautiful. I am really lucky to have found an apartment before getting to Paris; the apartment search is  literally a nightmare! I know people who had to live in hostels for two weeks before they found apartments. I live in the 8th arrondissement, which is a pretty central part of paris and I am close to everything; its a 40 minute walk to Sciences Po, about 20 minutes on the metro. It is very very small.. 14 squared meters.. It`s probably about the size of a dorm roo, in Elder or Allison at NU, maybe a liiiiittle bit bigger, and also has a counter with a sink and microwave and a small bathroom. And two little french style windows.

Welcome Program:

I got here about four days before the Welcome Program, so I had a few days to settle into my new apartment, set up my French bank account, French cell phone, and familiarize myself with the city that would be my home for the next 9 or 10 months.. The Welcome Program took place the last week of August, and it is somewhat similar to Wildcat Welcome at Northwestern. We had “methodology classes” during the day (mine were in French, but this depends on what language level you’re in) and then in the evenings they have what’s called “A Bar a Day”, which is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s just a great way to meet people and chill.

This is my idea of getting to know parisian cafes:

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.50.50 PM


It’s really easy to get around in Paris. The most common mode of transportation, I would say, is the metro. There are 14 metro lines and they all connect and they literally take you anywhere you need to go. And it’s super fast. Not even close to the El. However, the metro closes at 12:30am on weekdays and 1:30am on weekends, which can sometimes be a bit annoying to get home. So if you’re staying out past those times, you have a couple of options: 1) walk 2) take a cab (which can be impossible to find) 3) take a “Noctillien” night bus (but they run every 40 minutes and don’t go as many places as the day buses) or 4) Take the Velib!!! The Velib is awesome. It’s a bike-rental system all over the city. There’s a lot (I don’t know how many) of bike stations throughout Paris, and you can get a bike, ride it, and return it at the next bike station. It only costs 29 Euros for the whole year and it’s totally worth it, and it’s the cheapest way to get home at night. And it’s also an awesome way to get to know the city, riding around Paris. I also ride Velib to school some times when it’s nice —it’s faster than the metro. For example, it takes me about 20-25 minutes to get from my house to Sciences Po in metro, and about 15 minutes on the bike.

Sciences Po:

I could not be happier with Sciences Po, I love all of my courses and the people and everything it has to offer. I’ll sub-divide this section to talk about different aspects of Sciences Po

This is the entrance of ScPo, the day before welcome program started. I have not seen this street this empty since that day.. it’s always packed with students socializing and smoking

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.50.59 PM


So I am taking six courses (which is normal for Sciences Po). Each class meets once a week for 2 hours. One of those classes is a lecture course (cours magistral, which means that we also have a discussion section that meets for an additional 2 hours).

I am taking two classes in French and four in English—I figured I would start slow with the amount of French courses, since I am staying the whole year, and take more French courses next semester when I am more acclimated to Sciences Po and the style.

So the classes I am taking are:

Right or Wrong, Politics and Ethics (this is the big lecture course)

The Ethics of War (this is a ‘seminar course’ so it’s like 60 people, lecture-style)

Sciences de la paix, Sciences de la violence—sortir de la violence politique (another seminar, in French)

Sociology of Urban Relegation (small 20 person class)

Boundaries in Europe-Citizenship, Identity, and Immigration

Sociologie des enterprises criminelles


All of the professors are French, even for the courses that are taught in English. Most of the classes have a nice mix of French and international students, except for the big lecture course, which is all international students for some reason..

Unfortunately, Sciences Po does not have anything like CTECs, so when I chose my classes in July I just chose it based on the titles and the description. However, I am very impressed with the level of the professors—they are all so knowledgeable and are experts in their fields.


Evaluation Method:

The evaluation method is different than Northwestern. For all of my courses (except for Ethics of War), the grade is divided into three parts: 1) class participation 2) an exposé and 3) a “dissertation” or long essay.

Exposés are basically oral presentations, and Sciences Po places a lot of emphasis on these.



There’s a lot of students at Sciences Po, undergraduates, international students, and masters students all mixed in the same campus, sharing the same cafeteria, going out to the same parties. The college system at Sciences Po is a bit different, for French students at ScPo, it’s divided like this: 3 years of undergraduate and 2 years of master’s, where they choose the specialization. During their 3rd year, the French students are all required to go abroad. And international students (like me) come to fill their spots. There’s a lot of international students—about 800 I think.  So the French students in my classes are other undergraduate students, so they’re, for the most part, second years. I’ve also met a lot of master’s students, who are only one or two years older than me, and have just returned from their experiences abroad. Most of the people I’ve met are very friendly, and it’s very easy to get to know people if you try, in my opinion.


Student Associations:

There’s also a lot of Student Clubs at Sciences Po. The main ones are the BDE (Bureau des Eleves) and the AS (Association Sportif). They plan parties, weekend trips, etc etc. and they’re open to all students. I actually signed up for two sports classes, which I get ‘credit’ for (but I doubt Northwestern will allow me to transfer this credit….) I am taking a “gym-stretching” class and also tennis lessons. I’ve found that sports classes are a great way to meet other French students.

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 1.51.05 PM
I also went to Reims on a weekend trip with a student Association called “Stop and Go”, we went and stayed with students from the Sciences Po campus in Reims. We stopped in a place called Champillon where they make champagne:


So, I think that covers most of Sciences Po.


So far I’m loving my study abroad experience! I can’t believe I’ve already been here for a month and a half! I’ve already done two exposés and the school work just keeps piling up. Paris is magnificent, there’s always something to do.

And next weekend I am going to Italy (Bologna and Florence) to meet up with some Northwestern friends there!

Until next time!


Autumn travels

Lauren Tindal, Bocconi Exchance, Fall 2012

It’s October now, and that means rainy, chilly days in Milan. This past weekend was one I spent entirely in Milan, just sleeping in and wandering around the city by myself, since most exchange students were on a school Tuscany trip. It took a peaceful weekend here for me to really get into a rhythm, to start to do the simple things like getting a haircut, mailing postcards, and grocery shopping less sporadically. I’m definitely welcoming such a rhythm- it’s really nice to feel more at home here.

Anyhow, some brief descriptions of my travels so far!

Lake Como: A short, Sunday trip (an hour by train) was a great way to start traveling. It was a sunny day to relax, take in the views on a boat tour, and eat a panino and gelato as one should in any trip around Italy.

Cinque Terre: Cinque Terre is 5 mountain towns on the coast of the Mediterranean, connected by trains and hiking trails. Most people have seen some sort of picture of Cinque Terre; each town features a cluster of colorful houses on the mountainside, staggering along the incredibly blue sea. A trip to Cinque Terre is some sort of a right of passage for Bocconi Exchange students. Everyone goes, since it’s only a 2-3 hour train ride away. We hiked between towns, ate seafood, swam in the very salty Mediterranean, and stayed at a classically suspicious hostel which forced us to climb excessive amounts of stairs to our room. The views? I think the pictures (below) really do speak for themselves.

Oktoberfest: I attended Oktoberfest with 150 other eager Bocconi exchange students with our ESN program, which runs the social events here. We bussed there and back in one day, leaving Friday night, and arriving early Saturday morning. Basically I can sum Oktoberfest up in a string of words: sausage, candied apple, beer, beer garden, crowds, people, dirndls, carnival rides, rain, more beer, Munich sight seeing, whrilwind, proust! It was hectic, tiring, and completely ridiculous, but I’m so glad it was something I got to experience while here.

London: I loved London. It’s probably been my favorite trip so far, and I hope that someday I’ll go back. I met up with one of my good friends from NU and spent two days touring the city, which wasn’t nearly long enough. We were able to squeeze in seeing the London Eye, Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the Soho district, and a bit of shopping near Regents Street. What I perhaps loved most about London was the simultaneous existence of the old and the new: the tours of the Tower and the Westminister Abbey highlighted London’s long history (which was really exciting for a nerd like me), emphasizing its past. Yet, walking around, the city is so alive. The buildings are built in such a grand, traditional fashion, but at the same time, the swarms of people bustling around them insist that city never really stands still. As my friend wisely said, it’s not difficult to imagine how J.K. Rowling imagined a world of magic in London. I think I’m already getting slightly nostalgic; I feel so lucky to have seen and felt that energy, even if just for two days.

These next two weeks are Midterm weeks at school, and as I only have one test, I’m visiting Rome and Florence next week  with another one of my best friends from NU. I can’t believe it’s the end of October almost, time is really flying by. More to come!