Student and parent: combining the two

Sciences Po is proud to have been one of ten academic institutions selected by UN Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women, to act as a “HeforShe Champion”. As part of the annual HeforShe Summit in 2018, Director Frédéric Mion discussed the actions taken by Sciences Po to advance gender equality, specifically work accomplished by the university on the question of parenthood. We share the inspiring story of one of our female students: Camille Viros, graduate of the Class of 2018, and mother of three children. 

You graduated in 2018 from the Sciences Po School of Public Affairs, and you are also a parent. Did it feel like an even greater achievement to have combined the two?

I think I am a graduate like any other and I do not feel more special. It is true that studying and having children can be challenging at times, but everyone has his or her own special circumstances that can complicate and/or enrich being a student.

What was the greatest challenge about being a parent and student? Were there some pleasant surprises? Were you supported by your peers?

The main challenge was probably juggling family obligations with three small children and a full-time master’s programme with all the constraints it can have (essays to write, group assignments to coordinate, exams to prepare). I found it was not so different than being a working mother, but with the added difficulty of often having to study after the children’s bedtime or during weekends. Once I had found the right balance between my personal and student life, it became much easier.

There were also many nice things about being a student and a parent. For example, my girls would love to tell their teachers and friends that their mum was also going to school. I was also able to organise my classes at Sciences Po to be able to pick my girls up from school most days, and could often make myself available to assist parent-teacher meetings at my girls’ school. I also felt supported by professors at Sciences Po. Once I had to take one of my girls to the emergency room the same day a paper was due. With my husband away on a business trip, it was impossible for me to finish my paper on time. I explained the situation to my professor and he gave me an extension. 

Are there preconceived ideas or stereotypes around student-parents?

I did not feel at all judged by other students and did not find there were any negative stereotypes about being a parent-student at Sciences Po. Other students were often surprised when I told them I had three children, but they never put me in an awkward position – quite the contrary. I think there are more positive stereotypes about parents than negative ones. Other students often suggested that parents are well organised, efficient, and able to multi-task. I also think students with children can help promote greater acceptance and understanding of parenthood in the workplace in general, by showing fellow students that parents can be just as successful.  

Did you meet other student-parents during your studies? Is there a community at Sciences Po?

Yes, I did meet other parents during my year at Sciences Po. In my MPA (Master's in Public Affairs) class of 27 people there were four other parents, two fathers and two mothers. It was really great to meet other people in the same situation as me and we often joked about our parenthood stories, like having to deal with a sleep-resistant child while trying to finish a paper for a midnight deadline. There is no official community per se but Sciences Po has a very active gender equality unit. It also organises a yearly event called “Sciences Mômes”, a Parent-Child Day when staff and students can bring their children to the Paris campus. Group reflection on parenting issues is also organised for this occasion. I think it is really great that Sciences Po organises such events and it certainly made me feel part of a community.

What advice would you give to future students who are also parents?

Be organised! Try to gather people around you that you can count on and who can be on call: your partner, a grandparent, a nanny, etc. If you want to follow a programme at Sciences Po, just give it a go and have no reservations about doing it with children. It will be intense and demanding, but you’ll manage and it will be one of the most enriching experiences of your life. And besides, Paris is a fantastic city for children, with lots of international schools, day-care services, and an amazing healthcare system. 
To future student-parents out there, good luck! And don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need any help or advice!
 
More information

Prof. Kevin Parthenay: “The Romanticism of Latin America”

Prof. Kevin Parthenay: “The Romanticism of Latin America”

Latin America is a continent of writers, of passion, and of revolutions. But that’s not all! In his class “International Relations in Latin America”, Kevin Parthenay invites students on the Poitiers campus to take up a new perspective of this continent that, far from taking a back seat, is at the heart of many global dynamics. 

More
FEMPO: Period-Proof Underwear Made in Sciences Po

FEMPO: Period-Proof Underwear Made in Sciences Po

FEMPO are the first period-proof underwear made in France. When Fanny Abes, at the time a third-year student in Vancouver, met Claudette Lovencin, the idea for the product was born. They are now both Sciences Po graduates. We met with them to speak about their career paths and business.

More
Prof. Marine Denis: the Geopolitics of Climate Change

Prof. Marine Denis: the Geopolitics of Climate Change


What does it mean for a region such as South-East Asia to be simultaneously an agent and a victim of climate change? Or for a country like China to be recognised at once as one of the biggest polluters and one of the pioneers of environmental diplomacy? When large-scale international organisations can decide to survey… or to punish? The debate begins! This way to the “environmental galaxy”, where we find Marine Denis and her brilliant students...

More
The Historic Class of 2020

The Historic Class of 2020

After two years pursuing a Master’s degree or five years pursuing first a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s, the Class of 2020 has obtained their prestigious Sciences Po diploma! But they’ve also accomplished something completely unprecedented: they completed their final semester in the midst of a pandemic. What impact will this historic period have on their lives in the future? Until we find out, here are the profiles of a class unlike any other. Congratulations graduates of the Class of 2020!

More

"From history to herstory": a new look at old galleries

Cécile Fara and Julie Marangé met on the first day of their Master’s degrees at Sciences Po. Together they founded Feminists of Paris, an organisation that offers walking tours and museum visits ‘through the lens of feminism and gender equality’ in Paris, Lyon, and Bordeaux. Cécile and Julie spoke to us about their entrepreneurial experiences with Feminists of Paris and how the history of feminism in France resonates today. 

More
Prof. Odile Goerg: On Africa’s complex history

Prof. Odile Goerg: On Africa’s complex history

“The idea is to do away with the myth that Africa had no history before colonisation”. Africa’s long and diverse history comes alive in this class by historian Odile Goerg, a storied traveller of the continent who teaches history armed with a catalogue of hundreds of adventures.

More
Goodbye Plastic, Hello Koovee

Goodbye Plastic, Hello Koovee

A committed ecologist and graduate of Sciences Po in 2015, Tiphaine Guerout has channeled her entrepreneurial ambition towards an environmental cause. She is the founder of Koovee, a startup that offers an alternative to disposable plastic cutlery: forks and spoons made of biscuit, made in France, that have the particularity of being sufficiently resistant so that one can eat with them. Interview with a young graduate who hopes to flood the French and European markets in the years to come.

More