Spotlight: Ines Arlunno
Each year, the School of Communication welcomes students from a wide range of academic, professional and cultural backgrounds. In this series, we meet some of them and try to understand where they're coming from and where they might be headed.
Ines Arlunno (M1, Dual Degree) didn't speak a word of Mandarin when she first went to China as a high school student. Fast forward to now: she's been there three times, speaks the language fluently, studied in Sciences Po's Europe-Asia campus in Le Havre and will, in less than a year, be in Shanghai to complete the second year her dual-degree program at Fudan University.
From Milan to Anhui
Ines was born in Milan to a French-Vietnamese mother and an Italian father, so she grew up speaking Italian, French and English. Perhaps as a result of this mélange of cultures, she is "extremely curious" and loves learning languages and interacting with other cultures. It wasn't until her first trip to Vietnam when she was thirteen, though, that she started becoming interested in Asia. "Everything developed from there," she says, referring to her sustained interest the region. "Asia was different," so it struck a chord with Ines. Soon she discovered an association in Milan that arranged year-long study abroad exchanges for high-school students, including to China. The decision to go, however, was not easy: she knew it was a great opportunity, but the thought of leaving home to live in the other side of the world for one whole year was nerve-racking. In the end,though, she knew if she didn't do it then, she would regret it. "And if you start having regrets when you're fifteen...," she says, shaking her head.
For Ines, it was more than anything a personal challenge. "I wanted to see myself in a completely different environment. To see if I could do it, if I could make it."
Things were especially tough at the beginning when she didn't know any Chinese (she had, instead, been studying Japanese the previous year). Although she was living with a host family who treated her like "a second daughter", communication was still a problem. But as she started taking Chinese classes, she slowly began understanding what people around her were saying. Soon after, she able to express herself. "That was the turning point." From there, things started falling into place.
Europe-Asia at Le Havre
After her year in China, Ines joined Sciences Po's Europe-Asia satellite campus in Le Havre. There, in addition to taking classes in history, law and economics, she was able to continue studying Chinese. Students at Sciences Po's Le Havre campus are required to spend their third year abroad in Asia; for Ines, it had to be in a Chinese-speaking region. She joined Qinghua University in Beijing, where was able to pursue her interest in International Relations while getting to interact with modern Chinese society in a meaningful way.
At the end of that experience, Ines decided she wasn't done being a student. She considered applying to LSE in London, but because she was already familiar with Sciences Po and because "London is more gloomy", she decided to come to Sciences Po Paris. Still, she had to choose between studying international relations (PSIA) and studying communication. "In the end, Com' was more my thing. With IR, you're mostly working with institutions and NGOs but Com' is more versatile: you can do anything from political communication to launching your own startup." And, of course, the dual degree with Fudan University would give her the opportunity to return to China.
English Track/Dual Degree
Dual degree students spend their first year at Sciences Po Paris and follow the 'Master in Communication' program (English Track). For their second year, they join the School of Journalism at Fudan University in Shanghai for a second degree in Communication and Media.
Ines is already looking forward to her year in China. "It'll be very interesting to see the different ways in which journalism is taught in China, so I plan to take classes taught in Chinese." She's particularly interested in media production differences between the North (Beijing) and further down south (Shanghai). "I think I'll find interesting differences."
For the moment, though, Ines is glad to be in the English Track. "I thought it was going to be a lot of theory, but I like the fact that we have a mixture of more theoretical classes and more professionally-oriented ones." This is important to her, she says, because it will give her an idea of what the outside world will be like when she graduates. "There's a useful and practical dimension to everything."
One of her favorite classes is Branding. "It feels like you're somehow 'backstage' and you get to see how things work behind the scenes." She believes that there is a lot of value in learning to successfully listen to and understand your audience and making yourself understood. "When you're communicating with people, you might think that you're transmitting something but it might not be perceived the same way."
On Being a Sciences Piste
Ines is enjoying student life in Paris. As someone who loves cross-cultural exchanges, she was thrilled to discover that Sciences Po is much more international than she had expected. "In my class only there are people from literally everywhere: Palestine, Nepal, Moldova, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Mexico... I love this diversity, and it's what I've always been looking for in my studies, relations, everything."
On Spontaneity and the Future
Ines is not sure what she will be doing after two years, but she does know that it will be related to Asia. "I don't see myself in Europe in the long term." Would she consider, after completing her degree program at Fudan University, working in Asia instead? "Definitely," she says, pointing out that one of the best things about the dual-degree program is getting to spend a year in China as a student, without the pressure of immediately jumping into the professional world. "I am open to broadening my horizons in the future, maybe even in India."
But like her decision to go to China, Ines is willing to allow a degree of spontaneity in her choice of career. "My biggest decisions have always been, in a way, very random. But they have a flow. No matter what, I'll be finding where I belong."