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Prepare for your departure
Once your choice of exchange has been approved by Sciences Po, you need to start preparations for your period away. Certain procedures can take a long time, so you should get organised well before you leave.
Send your application to the partner university
Once your application for a university has been approved by the exchange programme committee, you must be formally accepted by the host university. To do so, you need to complete an application and provide the supporting documents requested by the university. The list of supporting documents can vary from one university to another.
Request a visa
Check the travel advice provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (FR) for the conditions of entry and residence in the country you are going to.
Some universities provide help with obtaining a visa, so check with your host university.
- It can take a long time to get a visa so get the process underway as soon as possible.
- Check the expiry date on your passport. Some countries require your passport to be valid for six months after you leave.
- The letter of acceptance from the host university, which is necessary to obtain a visa, will arrive once the partner has received your application. This letter will be sent to you by the Sciences Po International Affairs Division or the secretary of your campus. If your host university sends the letter of acceptance to you directly, please let Sciences Po know as soon as possible.
- If you are required to provide a copy of your French police record (FR), make the request as soon as possible.
- Non-French students: make sure you renew your carte de séjour if you plan to return to France after your study period abroad. Inquire at the Prefecture of Police and the French Consulate in the host country (which will issue the new visa) about the procedures for your return to France.
Find out about health issues
You may need to take special health precautions for travelling in some countries. Certain vaccines can be compulsory or strongly recommended.
If you take regular medication or require special medical equipment, make sure you take enough for the duration of your stay and find out whether, and where, it can be found locally.
It can also be useful to visit a doctor and dentist for a check-up in the months before your departure.
It is compulsory to have a health insurance policy which covers you during your travel and stay abroad.
Some universities have their own insurance policies which students are required to take out. In other cases you will have the choice between the university's insurance and private insurance. Students are often advised to take the insurance offered by the university. However, make sure it covers you in places other than your host country if you plan to travel during this period.
As a student going abroad, it is possible to extend your French insurance so that it covers you in your host country, as long as you are covered by French Social Security. This means you need to complete your administrative registration at Sciences Po and pay your annual Social Security contributions during the summer before your departure.
Here are a few useful links:
- SMEREP "WorldPass" (FR)
- ISIC "Europe-Monde Médicale"
- "Globe Partner" student assistance (FR)
- LMDE (FR)
- MAIF (FR)
Please note: by virtue of an agreement between Sciences Po and MAIF, once you have completed your administrative registration at Sciences Po, you are covered by MAIF for the following three risks:
- Civil liability (damage to third parties)
- Individual liability (personal injury resulting from an accidental event)
- Repatriation (in case of serious illness or accident)
Make sure you take a certificate of insurance from MAIF and always keep it with you.
While some universities offer on-campus housing, others will offer you help to look for accommodation or leave it entirely up to you.
For more information on housing services offered to exchange students, you can:
- read the university information sheets and exchange reports from students who have been there.
- check with your host university.
Note: If you have accommodation in France that you will be leaving and want to move back into when your return, contact the Sciences Po housing service so that it can be offered to students arriving in France.
Complete administrative registration
All students going abroad for their third year must be registered at Sciences Po (FR) during that year. They retain their full student status at Sciences Po, and continue to pay their tuition fees and social security to Sciences Po.
Buy your plane ticket
Start looking at airfares without delay, as the price increases as you approach the date of departure.
A few tips:
- If possible, you should arrive at least one week to ten days before your courses start.
- Choose a ticket that can be changed and is valid for one year (youth fare for under-25s) or make sure it can be changed at little cost.
- Choose a specialized travel agency for students as they offer the best fares and services (youth fare for under-25s).
Partir vert (Travel Green)
Sciences Po Environment (FR) helps you reduce the environmental impact of your journey. You can get financial support when you use alternative forms of transport to flying, or compensate for your CO2 emissions at little cost.
Find out more about Partir vert.
Ask at your bank about the conditions of using your bank card overseas. Consider taking a credit card so you can access large sums in an emergency. Note that some banks make it possible to use your French account through a partner bank in the host country.
Tips to prepare for your stay abroad on Pakata
Pakata is a free site where students can swap advice on preparing for a university exchange or internship abroad. The tips and information are organised under a list of tasks - finding housing or grants, comparing airline tickets, international insurance etc.
You can also contact the other members of the community, and ask students who are already there questions or get to know those who are leaving at the same time as you.
This website is independent and Sciences Po is not responsible for its content.