I had always dreamt of attending a summer program abroad since I was in first year, so I began doing my research way ahead of time to make sure I would meet the criteria of a potential candidate. When the applications opened, it was important for me to go through each of the programs and see what was available. I eventually selected a business course in economics; I am an aspiring global entrepreneur so I thought this course would help me further this aspiration.
I would say that making the video was my favourite part of the application because I had a chance to convey my personality more, through simple things such as smiling and really transferring my character through the camera. At first, I thought I would need professional camera equipment but in the end an iPhone, selfie stick, some natural lighting and the botanical gardens as a backdrop did me well.
Make sure your video is interesting to watch, I began my video with a clip of me walking through the library searching for an atlas. I eventually found an atlas and when I opened it the first page to open was the map of France, I simply pointed my finger to the country and said “voila”. Looking back, I do not know if that was very creative, but it is all I could think to do since I was applying to France as my first option. In addition, I got to show off my armature acting skills.
After completing my application, I submitted it. I then waited in suspense for some weeks. When I finally received a phone call on a Friday morning from the PGIO team asking me to come to the office I was nervous, I did not know what to expect. Luckily, it was good news; I made it! I was to participate in the UPEC summer school in Paris. I was ecstatic and I could barely believe it.
Applying for my visa was straightforward once I had received all the required documents from the SU international office. I also used the checklist I downloaded from CAPAGOs website and on the day I went to the embassy everything ran smoothly. I received my visa 2 working days later.
Usually you attend summer school with another person from Stellenbosch University. If you do not have a car, I would recommend pairing up with someone to go to the embassy to cut costs. Also, when you’ve completed your application take it to Sarah at the international office to make sure everything is in order.
NB: it is good to book your flights early to get better prices. I used the Neelsie travel agency next to pulp and this worked great for me. You can also book online it is up to you.
During this period, I compiled my budget for food and outings, checked the weather, the location of my accommodation and so forth. I did most of this research online on various sights and worked with that. Do make sure you budget for outings; it was great for me to see all the sights in Paris, including the party scene! I packed my summer clothes as UPEC communicated to us that the temperature would range between 25-28°C. This was very accurate as most days were sunny , and reminded of Stellenbosch during welcoming week, hot!
After a long 26-hour journey, which was rather enjoyable thanks to the free movies and drinks on the flights, I arrived in France. I was elated, as I had finally touched down in the city I had been envisaging for months on end. Once I was in the airport, I wasted no time and connected myself to the free Wi-Fi. I let everybody at home know that I had arrived safely .
When we walked through arrivals there was a lovely South African girl to receive my colleague and I ,Thlangi, she would be our guide for the next 2 weeks. She welcomed us and handed us our train passes and we made our way to our residence, Maison des Mines, situated in the Latin Quarter of Paris. We stayed in an apartment style dorm that we shared with an American and Chinese girl. Since we had arrived on a Sunday morning we wasted no time at all, we unpacked our bags and made our way back on to the train and to the mall to wonder about and accustom ourselves to the surroundings.
If you have long layovers as I did, I would recommend using that time to rest as much as you can, just in case you get to your destination and it is still daylight. This was the case for me as I arrived at 9am; however, as I had slept during my flights I was able to have a full first day in Paris. Which was thrilling, my colleague and I even got lost on the trains, never have I been so calm in such a situation, however, we soon used the trusty maps we had received to navigate ourselves back to our new home.
PARIS, THE CITY:
Paris intrigued me with its diversity and multiculturalism. There was a fusion of cultures in all parts of the city. The first taste of culture we got was from a street art tour; everywhere in Paris from buildings to bridges, you will find the most interesting street art. Each piece of art with its own history and meaning. To my astonishment, there was even an unwritten code of conduct for street artists, which we soon followed as we too left our graffiti on one of the walls in Paris, legally of course! After this tour we were able to identify some famous street artists over our 2 week stay as we walked through Paris.
I was surprised to discover vendors in France as the main preconceived images one has of Paris are ones that portray a sort of luxury. Which there was, however, the city had a raw edge as well. The summer school could not have been over a more exciting time as we were able to join the French in supporting their team in the EUROPA games. And on one night we went out to some bars and along the Seine river we were pleased to discover South African house music being played.
The course I did was European and French business economics. We covered interesting and relevant topics such as BREXIT. Class was a mentally stimulating environment thanks to the many international intellects that were present. Our class was set up in an informal manner, thus, it was easy for us all to contribute in the lecture. We then took our study further by picking a research topic about BREXIT and we did brief presentations in small groups. In the following lectures, we covered the presence of McDonald’s in the French economy in comparison to the American economy. The differences were most shocking! Lastly, we learnt all the different ways in which one could start a business in France, a very informative lecture.
Comparing this with the setup we have Stellenbosch University, I noticed that I enjoyed having smaller classes as it is easier to ask questions and know the lecturer better. Classes were also more engaging because of this aspect. I am an Accounting Student and classes with 100 people plus are the norm, for this reason , I easily get left behind in lectures and I also don’t have “student-lecturer” bonds with my lecturers. As for Campus life, I was not able to compare, because UPEC students were on their summer vacation.
AFTER THE EXPERIENCE:
As I write this blog on my flight back to Stellenbosch it’s really given me a chance to reflect on my journey and indescribable experience. I have made so many new contacts from all around the world, as well as knowing lecturers who have connections to larger organisations; I feel this will most definitely help me in the future.
I will to return to Paris someday, I might even live there for a year or two to improve my French. I have always loved the idea of living in Europe since I was young. In comparison to Stellenbosch (Possibly South Africa), I found that issues of race are slightly more relaxed in Paris. In addition I found that people from all different walks of life use public transport whereas in South Africa it seems to be reserved for certain groups of people.
I am so glad I applied for this summer and that I was fortunate enough to attend as this has been one of my greatest life experiences thus far. If you are considering attending a summer school I would most definitely recommend it, you will not regret it!