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

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

  • Students sitting on the Péniche at the Reims campus ©Martin ArgyrogloStudents sitting on the Péniche at the Reims campus ©Martin Argyroglo

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 live 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. 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 déco bench located in the middle of the entrance hall at 27 rue Saint-Guillaume in Paris. There are now several Péniches on the different Sciences Po campuses. La Péniche is the meeting place for students, so learn its location quickly before your first date. The campus newspaper in Paris even took the name of this legendary bench; you can check student news on their website.

I got a 1 for 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 situate yourself in the class.

Hearing the word Urkund will 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 in 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

It's important to "problematise" your essays at Sciences Po: you have to explain your question to your reader and then try to answer it. But not just any old way! The answer must be divided into two sections which must each be divided in two sub-sections.

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