‘A year in the life’ – BA Geography student reflects on Sciences Po Erasmus Exchange Programme

Lydia Luk is a final year BA Geography student, who has spent a year abroad in the 2015-2016 academic year as a student in Sciences Po in France. In this blog, Lydia shares her experience of having applied for this exchange programme and the student life in Sciences Po.


To anyone who is unsure about applying to Sciences Po or is interested already, I cannot recommend it enough. The environment is completely different to LSE, but in a way which loves and befriends you in the only SciencesPistes way possible.

As a Human Geography student at the LSE, I always thought studying the relationship between people and the economy, environment and society in the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world was going to enrich my thinking in one way or another. During my time at LSE, I have both struggled and thrived with this combination, as the trials of being part of a university environment often spills over into the burgeoning city around it.  This has challenged and broadened my mindset. The unparalleled international environment at LSE is one of the main reasons that my the first two years of university life are so memorable.

Lydia Luk, BA Geography

Lydia Luk, BA Geography

When the opportunity to spend a year abroad in what many deem the French equivalent of LSE – Sciences Po – as part of the Erasmus Exchange Programme presented itself, I knew I couldn’t refuse! The multidisciplinary social sciences programme at Sciences Po in a way felt familiar. It attracted me due to the university’s excellent reputation – especially in political science – and how I could choose any of the courses offered while taking copious amounts of French and Chinese language classes. In Sciences Po there are six campuses to choose from and every campus besides Paris has a regional area of focus. Due to my interest in East Asian geo-political affairs, I chose the Euro-Asia campus In Le Havre, situated in the heart of Normandy (and just two hours by train to Paris!). The curriculum meant that I could explore courses outside of Geography from a wide range of fields including economics, law, politics, history and sociology. Choosing modules across these subjects made me see social science issues from a wholly different perspective when I returned to LSE for my final year.

Besides academics, the best part of the exchange had to be the incredible campus community. Moving from a 24/7 city to a sleepy coastal French town or what others call the ‘birthplace of impressionism’, was a shock to the system.  Little English was spoken among the havrais, Sunday afternoons were completely still, and crottes (dog droppings) were a constant feature of the streets. Somewhere between the indescribable post-war Soviet style buildings and my mind boggling shipping cabinet of a campus, I grew to love Le Havre and its people immensely. Nowhere had I witnessed a student union and campus community more supportive: from helping with international students’ painful relationship with the French administration system, translating for Anglophone/Francophobe (!) students, organising ski trips and integration trips, to providing mental support. A multicultural campus of over fifty percent international students was surprisingly well integrated as weekly bar nights, karaoke knights and aparthanons made it easy to make great friends from all around the world.  Highlights of the year included road-tripping through the Normandy countryside and French town hopping from Honfleur to Camembert (!), watching a Tuvalan music set in Le Havre’s infamous Le Volcan venue, and of course, the cultural days and food comas spent during weekends in Paris. Being in continental Europe was a definite plus as travelling to neighbouring countries was only a click and short flight (or bus ride for the strong) away.

To anyone who is unsure about applying to Sciences Po or is interested already, I cannot recommend it enough. The environment is completely different to LSE, but in a way which loves and befriends you in the only SciencesPistes way possible.

Lydia Luk is a BA Geography student in the LSE Department of Geography and the Environment. Undergraduate students interested in this LSE – Sciences Po exchange programme can find out more about it on this link: http://www.lse.ac.uk/study/erasmus/SciencePoUndergraduate-Exchange.aspx