Audrey Telfer, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2014
I have become all too familiar with the dreaded exposé.
It was the first thing they taught us in the Welcome Week program: how to prepare an exposé. An exposé is an oral presentation with a partner, usually lasting 10 or 20 minutes, which is structured like an essay. Creating a Power Point, researching a topic, and synthesizing information are nothing too unfamiliar and provide the basis of the exposé. However, one must also have a precise problématique that is specific but not too narrow. A problématique is a question you pose at the beginning of an exposé or dissertation that takes the place of our American theses. Thus, you answer a problématique in an exposé instead of trying to prove a thesis.
I have now completed (mostly successfully) three exposés. The first was in English, which was a nice way to ease into this foreign method of evaluation. The second was 20 minutes long, in French, and about modern democratic theory: a triple threat. It was very intimidating, but my partner and I got through it without too many hiccups. After that, the final exposé, only 10 minutes long, felt like a breeze.
Despite how intimidating the exposés seem, I feel that I have benefited from them in several unexpected ways. First, being required to have a partner for each exposé, I have had the opportunity to meet many people from many countries and many academic disciplines. I’ve become friends with all the students I have worked with because we have to spend so much time together preparing the exposé. Second, I’m no longer apprehensive before a presentation. For my last exposé, my partner, a girl from Montreal, said she was nervous about presenting. I was going to say me too, but when I thought about it, I really wasn’t nervous. I was eager to do my best but not worried about talking in front of the class—even in French. This is really an invaluable skill. Finally, exposés are always followed by commentary and questions. Students can question the exposants to clarify certain points in the argument. Then, the professor will critique the overall exposé in front of the whole class. The first time, I felt uncomfortable having everyone listen to my grade essentially. However, now I have come to realize that it is extremely useful to get the immediate feedback. It’s informative for both the presenters and the other students who have yet to present their own exposés.
Overall, the exposé is a strong example of the benefits of studying abroad. Sciences Po’s methodology is very different from Northwestern. Here, I get to exercise my mind in new ways!