Patrick in Paris: « Méthodologie de Sciences Po »

Bonjour à tous !

As per the tags and my previous posts, you may know that the name of the school I am studying abroad at is “Sciences Po,” which is short for “l’Institut d’études politiques de Paris,” or in English, “the Paris Institute of Political Studies” (which is quite a mouthful and why everyone just calls it Sciences Po). As such, I’ve found that since the beginning, Sciences Po is quite different from Drexel, especially since I am experiencing this from the perspective of a math major at a technical school.

Thankfully, in true French fashion, during the Welcome Programme (which I would highly recommend to anyone coming to study abroad at Sciences Po) we had a “cours de méthodologie” where we learned about the school’s methods of instruction and evaluation. At Sciences Po there are a few different types of assignments such as press reviews, technical files, exposés, debates, and dissertations, that have very specific formats. I was actually surprised at how intensive the Cours de méthodologie was; it was four two-hour sessions during the welcome week, and everyone was expected to prepare a press review and an exposé with a partner. Nevertheless, I will say that I feel very familiar with what is expected of me when a professor asks for a specific assignment.

Speaking of which, interestingly my classes really do not have that much work. Although it will vary from professor to professor, most of my classes have an in-class “contrôle de connaissances” (general course knowledge quiz), an in-class written final, and a final dissertation. Some classes have supplementary readings that the professor puts online to give some background on the subject matter before lecture, which can be nice especially if it’s a topic I’m unfamiliar about in my French Politics of Comparative European Politics classes.

In general, though, I think that compared to Drexel the learning is more self-directed, because there really are times where you do need to do the readings and tap into additional material provided by the professors to understand the content enough to prepare an exposé or dissertation. And yet, classes at Sciences Po (except for magisterial courses, of which you can only take one) are only a two-hour session once per week, so comparatively students here have a lot of free time to prepare for class.

That being said, the attitude about doing schoolwork is much similar to the attitude of working a job: people stop studying between five and seven at night and wind down or pursue other activities. As a result, there really is nowhere to do work that’s open late (which I’ll expand on in a later article) as most libraries close around nine or eleven pm. Unless, of course, you’re willing to sit at one of Paris’s cafés and do work…but who actually has the ability to go there with the intention of doing work and not be distracted?