Hardy Hewson, a British student in the second year of the dual Bachelor’s programme between Columbia and Sciences Po, describes his time on the Menton campus, from classes specialised in the Mediterranean and the Middle East to parties on the beach and playing rugby in the town where Webb Ellis, the sport’s founder, lies in rest.
“They set you talking right from the beginning, even when you don’t know the Arabic alphabet!”
From the moment students arrive on the Menton campus, they are advised to spend an hour a day learning Arabic or Parsi, as well as the four hours of language classes they have a week. Hardy didn’t speak a word when he began Sciences Po but now he can have detailed conversations. “They set you talking right from the beginning, even when you don’t know the Arabic alphabet!” he laughs. On the Sciences Po campus in Menton, all students have to learn either Arabic or Parsi, as well as either French or English, depending on their mother-tongue. But the regional focus doesn’t end there - from law to sociology to political thought, Hardy has around six hours of classes a day, and all his courses have a special emphasis on the Mediterranean region. “My favourite class is States and Society of the Middle East, which is taught by Stéphane Lacroix. It combines economics, politics, sociology and language perfectly; it’s the ideal composite course that brings together everything we study at Menton.”
An idyllic place to study
Once class is over, Hardy heads to the library to study with his classmates or hops on the ten minute train to Monaco to sit in a café and have a break from it all. “It’s good to get away for a little bit because Menton is quite small; it sometimes feels like the whole town is the campus!” he explains. Despite this, the seaside town makes an ideal place to study. “You can even pick up the Sciences Po wifi from the beach!” Hardy lives a little way out of town, close to the Italian border, but many of his friends live in Vieux Menton, just five minutes walk from Sciences Po, where pittoresque houses painted pink, orange and red are huddled together in a perfect postcard scene.
Living in a small town also helps bring the campus together. “Everyone knows each other - there’s a definite sense of community. And I think we’re all grateful to start our university life in such a community.” Menton might not be fast paced, but the students make up for it with their liveliness. The BDE organises many parties - on the beach in summer -and Hardy also goes once a week to a jam-session organised by his friends in a local bar. “There are lots of people on campus that play instruments, so they all come together to play. Sometimes locals join in, it’s a really nice event.”
A crazy town for playing rugby
Solidarity between students overrides differences of political opinion and nationality. “It’s been fun being here during elections, because we’ve been able to have a lot of debates on campus. Especially since we’re in a region where the Front National is strong. But even on heated issues, our discussions are always respectful and good-spirited.” The many student associations hold conferences to fuel the debates, and Hardy himself helped organise a model United Nations that attracted students from as far as LSE and Princeton.
Alongside socialising and debates, Hardy also has an active sports life. He is the captain of the football team and also plays rugby every week. “It’s great playing rugby here, because the town is crazy for rugby.” And with good reason - Webb Ellis, the sport’s founder, spent his final days here, and is buried in the nearby Vieux Chateau cemetery.