Charan’s Postcard from Paris

Charan Naidoo is a Bachelor of Arts and Diploma of Languages (French) student, majoring in Politics and International Studies & Sociology. Charan spent Semester 1 of 2020 studying at the Institute of Political Science (Sciences Po) in Paris. Despite his program being cut short due to the pandemic, Charan shares with us his Global Learning experience.

Why did you choose this host institution and destination?

I chose this host institution primarily by reputation. Because I’m studying politics, Sciences Po is a very well known university for its study of politics. Because I study French at university, I thought it would be a really good opportunity for me to improve my French and apply what I’ve been learning in the classroom at Unimelb. I did some politics subjects and one sociology subjects. I picked subjects that I didn’t have the opportunity to study at Melbourne Uni. For example, one of my politics subjects was about Lebanon, its political system and history, which I really enjoyed.

What is your favourite memory from your overseas experience?

I was in France for two months. The best memory from an educational standpoint were some of the lectures. They were very interactive, the class sizes were smaller and the faculty were very engaging. So I really enjoyed the lectures.

From a non-educational perspective, I honestly just really enjoyed walking around Paris. I had never done so much walking in my life. There was so much to see and do. Seeing the city in a general sense was very enjoyable for me.

What was your biggest culture shock moment?

It’s a bit different in terms of the way that French families operate. When I’m in Melbourne I will eat a meal very quickly for 20 minutes at 6:00pm and then go back to do my work. Here I was very surprised that my host family would eat dinner at 8:00/8:30pm and then they’d sit for an hour. In the beginning, I was feeling a bit antsy, sitting there wondering when we would finish as I had work to do, but it’s just part of the cultural experience – savouring the food, spending time with family. Not really a massive shock but it was something that took me a while to get used to.

What is one thing any student visiting your destination must see or do?

If they are coming to Paris, they have to go to Le Marais. It’s this really nice area, it’s pretty hip and chic. There’s lots of little boutiques, the streets are really narrow, it’s a really nice place to go.

What is the one piece of advice or tip you wish you had known before you went on your overseas program?

When you go on exchange you expect that you will be speaking the local language all the time. I wish I’d known that I needed to make more of an effort to speak French. There are a lot of opportunities to speak English so I wish I’d known that that was the case and that from day one, I needed to focus on speaking French as much of possible. It took me 2-3 weeks before I realised that I really needed to speak more French because that is what I was in France for.

What is the most important lesson that you learnt from your experience? 

The lesson for me was really to take every opportunity you have being there on exchange. Because when I was there, at times I got a bit habituated to it. I had to snap myself out of that at times, because I found if you got a bit too habituated and in too much of a routine, you might miss out on the beauty of being overseas. For me, seizing the day and remembering the opportunity I had was limited and so to enjoy as much of it as I can.