Ivy Sabwami is an exchange student from the University of Nairobi, in Kenya. This past year, she studied abroad at Sciences Po on the Paris campus. Interview.
Why did you choose Sciences Po for your study abroad?
I heard about Sciences Po during a French day expo at the Alliance Française in Nairobi. I was accompanying a friend who was asking about a Master’s programme, and the Sciences Po counselor suggested considering an exchange programme since I am currently pursuing my bachelor's degree at the University of Nairobi. Given the fact that I was studying French at the University of Nairobi, I decided to take a chance and explore a new culture and a new education system.
Tell us about your time at Sciences Po.
At Sciences Po I was able to take a wide variety of classes such as International Relations, Sociology, Economics and many other workshops, and it has truly been an unforgettable experience. I took classes in both French and English. At first, classes in French were a bit of a struggle for me, but little by little, understanding more and being able to enjoy the classes became been quite a rewarding accomplishment. I have made friends from all over the world through classes, in choir and in the organisation AIESEC. It has been a great experience learning about each others’ cultures and living as one community. I have also been living with a French family over the past year, which has really helped to immerse myself into French culture through dinners and even weddings! I have learned to understand more about the French culture as a whole. I also really enjoyed living in Paris. The museums, the parks, the castles, the lights, the Seine-- it is one beautiful city.
You were part of the AIESEC organisation on campus. Can you tell us about this experience?
AIESEC Sciences Po is an organization that allows global volunteering abroad mostly among students. To me, it has been more of a professional experience. I joined a group that interviews students who want to volunteer abroad in diverse countries and organisations; from teaching children to helping the needy to work in professional organisations. I took time during the week, balancing projects with academic work at Sciences Po to interview participants, help them choose their dream destinations and their dream volunteer programs, guide them through the applications and connect them to with other AIESEC leaders in other countries. Being part of this organisation allowed me to meet French students that were helpful even during some of my academic projects and as well, meet diverse participants even from other universities such as the Sorbonne.
Do you have an idea what you would like to do later on?
We discover small parts about ourselves everyday that define what we want to do in future. In the meantime, my goal is to finish my degree back at the University of Nairobi and later, my plan is to apply for a Master’s in International Relations at Sciences Po. Taking into consideration my interest in International Relations and Economics, I would love to work in a field that deals with both, and volunteer in social programmes whenever I can.
Has your time at Sciences Po impacted your goals, changed your views?
My time at Sciences Po has impacted my goals and changed my views in a lot of ways. My interest in International Relations grew enormously during my time at Sciences Po. I challenged myself to study a variety of different fields from Health Sociology, Economics, among many others, and as much as I was afraid that I had not made the right choices, my classes at Sciences Po only allowed me to see how these different worlds are connected. I learned to understand the world from different viewpoints and was able to interpret one course through information I got from the others. My class in health sociology expanded my mind as I was able to deal with subjects from the medical field that are integrated in the social world that is also very useful in International Relations. Sciences Po changed me for the better all thanks to this exchange programme.
What would you say to students from your home university who are thinking about studying at Sciences Po?
My advice to students from my home university who want to study abroad at Sciences Po is, take the chance! Believe in yourself and everything will work out for the best. The first few weeks can be a bit rough, but that is normal for any new place you visit, and learning to adapt to a new environment is a great experience in itself. I would advise anyone to come to Sciences Po for it is a world-class university and the students as much as the lecturers are great. Also, be prepared to work.