Tips and tricks for your arrival in France and at Sciences Po

La bise, La Péniche, Urkund... Learn a few basics about daily life in France and at Sciences Po.

“La bise” is a custom you cannot escape

In France, almost every time you greet or say goodbye to someone, you have to “faire la bise”. Basically this means kissing each other’s cheeks, but there are subtle details to understand before you really master the art of “la bise”. 

You need to know that depending on the French region you find yourself in, you will not kiss cheeks the same number of times. In Menton, Le Havre, Poitiers, Dijon, Nancy and Paris, you’ll have to do two bises, but in Reims people traditionally do four. In practice, la bise is technically not even a kiss. It's more like brushing cheeks on both sides. You kiss the air without your lips actually touching the other’s cheek.

“La Péniche” is not a weird barge floating on the Seine River

The original “Péniche” is what we call the long art deco bench located in the middle of the entrance hall at 27 rue Saint-Guillaume in Paris. There are now Péniches at each and every Sciences Po campus. La Péniche is an iconic hub and meeting place for students, so learn its location quickly. The campus newspaper in Paris even took the name of this legendary bench; you can check student news on the student website.

I got an 11 out of 20 on my essay. Is that good news?

At Sciences Po, the grading system works with numbers rather than letters. Essays are usually graded out of 20 or out of 100. It’s always a little challenging to get used to in the beginning if you come from a different grading system, but your teachers will be happy to help you acclimate in the classroom.

Hearing the word Urkund may give you chills

Urkund is the name of the anti-plagiarism software used by Sciences Po. In Swedish it means “document” or “record”. It's very simple to use: students send their essays to their teacher’s Urkund email address and the work goes through the anti-plagiarism system to be compared to the internet database.

The student's mantra: two sections, two subsections

For every work you will hand in at Sciences Po, there should be a problématique. You must set up a question, or problem for your reader and then attempt to answer it. But not just any way! Your answer should be divided into two sections which each have two sub-sections.

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