Bienvenue to my first blog of 2014. I hope you had a splendid 2013.
So anyway, I'm going to Paris.
I don't really know when or how I decided but I'm definitely going. Thursday, the 8th of January, on British Airways (ironic, huh). Landing in Paris 8am.
I'm going to be studying at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, more commonly known as Sciences Politique, or just Sciences Po. (Pronounced, seyonce-Poh, lol wutup French 101.) I'm going to be studying international relations and development studies. Sciences Po is a university that specializes in Politics and Economics, so it's right up my alley, bien sur.
I started thinking of studying abroad at the end of my sophomore year. While at Oberlin I took a lot of classes on international development and became really really interested in the subject. But what is development, Simba?
So Development studies is basically, like, trying to figure out why some countries do less well than others (economically, socio-politically etc) and how they can be made to do better. According to the uber-reliable go-to place for academic info on the internet, Wikipedia,
"Development studies is a multidisciplinary branch of social science." (Vague, but true.) "Development studies is offered as a specialized Master's degree in a number of universities, and, less commonly, as an undergraduate degree. It has grown in popularity as a subject of study since the early 1990s, and has been most widely taught and researched in the third world and in countries with a colonial history, such as the UK, where development studies originated."
Students of development studies often choose careers in international organizations such as the United Nations or the World Bank, non-governmental organizations, private sector development consultancy firms, and research centres. (LOL this is what I want to do after graduating haaaa.)
My initial plan was to actually go to the UK because as outlined in Wikipedia, it is the go-to place in the metropole for studying developing countries. (The irony really never stops.) But I decided at the last minute to go to the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po). Why not England, you say? Because I eventually pronounced England to be a boring choice. Nothing against the Brits, but Paris seemed infinitely more ethereal. It somehow had more charm, and the wonder of francaise. So I took a French language course this past semester (very useful for learning French conversational tidbits like "en fait" which as far as I know is a very durable non phrase you can throw in the mix when you run out of French vocabulary. I'm going to be clinging to that with a desperately tight grip since my French is less than hot stuff).
While there, I'm going to be taking a lot of classes on development in Africa. Learning about Africa in Paris. Sounds fishy? Like I said, the irony never ever really stops. One of my professors/mentors here, who studied in the UK himself, once told me that "the best place to study Africa is Europe."
He was right.
So after I decided that Paris was actually what I needed in my life, I set about applying to the program, getting accepted, and then figuring out logistics. "Figuring out logistics" as used here can be taken to mean "dealing with incomprehensible French bureaucracy." I wasn't even ready, guys.
Why don't you sit down and let me tell you a little bit about the French visa process. So, in order to get a French visa, there are several annoying steps that you must take before you can even begin picking up that brochure about the l'Arc de Triomphe. First up, Campus France. Campus France is an organization that is somehow connected to the French educational system. Basically you must send in a lengthy preliminary application to this mysterious organization and then WAIT for several weeks BEFORE YOU ARE ALLOWED to apply for the visa. So I waited. and waited. and waited. and waited. This was already late November, and I was getting quite nervous that my visa would not be processed in time for me to leave in January.
After some nagging from my end, the Campus France people finally sent me a confirmation email. It was literally two lines of writing. Which I waited upon for 4 weeks.
And then I had to travel all the way to Chicago for my consular interview, malheuresment, a week before finals! But not before hunter-gathering every itsy bitsy piece of paperwork you can imagine. Because the French are thorough and because bureaucracy is the French way, they want literally every piece of paper where your name has ever appeared, from your immigration papers to letters from your school, in addition to your cat's auntie's cousin's bank statements and your goldfish's birth certificate. Le sigh.
Anyhow, last week, I FINALLY I got my carte de sejour and passport back in the mail! Tres bien! En fait!
So, leaving Thursday. Apartment, found. Classes, kind of sorted out. Appetite, trained for French baguettes. To prepare for my spring semester adventure, I've been getting into this song so much: