Danielle La Toullec
Université Paris Dauphine in France
2008 Global Exchange student
BA in Communications (writing and cultural studies)
What country/city/university did you visit for your Exchange semester?
Paris, France at Université Paris Dauphine. The university was in the 16th arrondisment of Paris. It was very easy to get to with the metro, and walking distance (15min) from the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysee and a bit further to the Eiffel Tower.
What did you like most about the city/country you visited?
Paris is such an amazing city; there is always a million things to do for every kind of person. The French culture has such an appreciation for art, history, food, fashion, music and all the things that make life a pleasure to live! They aren't in such a rush and really take time to enjoy themselves, the city seems to be made for someone to just wander around or spend hours in a bookshop or café. The language is beautiful and I found the people to be friendly. Paris is also a great place to travel from, during my stay I was able to visit many places around Western Europe such as London, Spain, Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and travel around France itself, despite the fact that originally I hadn't organised anything.
What was unique/different about the culture of your host city that differed from living in Sydney?
The opening hours are very different, it seems that a lot of shops just open when they feel like it! In a way this is refreshing as you get to step outside the 24/7 world that is increasingly popular. That said, it can be extremely frustrating when you have particular things to attend to but this is easily handled by readjusting your preconceptions and just preparing yourself.
List three factors that convinced you to go on Exchange.
I was looking for something new and exciting, to really push me out of my comfort zone. I wanted to surround myself in the French culture. I wanted to see what I was capable of, without the support system of friends, family and familiar surroundings.
What was unique about studying in an overseas university?
You get to see how different cultures interact in an international environment, and many different perspectives are brought to discussion. You learn to appreciate certain methods utilised by your home university, or perhaps recognise a superior system. You realise how much you depend on your ability to communicate in a familiar language. It is interesting to speak and interact with so many people from all around the world, that have happened to make the same choice as you and are now subsequently part of your life.
How did you spend your spare time, whilst not in the classroom?
I travelled, went to movies, art galleries, concerts, Paris has hundreds of parks, and beautiful arrondisments that you can spend hours exploring, I loved the Velib system - a city-wide bike rental system where the first 30mins are free and for every 30min after you pay 1 euro, I shopped, ate amazing food, made new friends, went clubbing, spent many hours 'in' the map!
In what ways did going on Exchange benefit your degree/ your life?
It made me embrace challenges, and realise that it is so important to put things into perspective, it's easy to let fear overcome you and be scared to take steps forward but by throwing yourself into a situation where you know no one, you can really find out who you are and what you want out of life. Upon return to your home, you learn to appreciate so many things that just seemed normal before, that you just took for granted. '
Most importantly, do you have any advice for other students who may be planning to go on Exchange?
Don't freak out when things don't go to plan, e.g. if you find out some of your classes are completely full and you have to change them, try to speak with the professor, and maybe they can arrange something. Be flexible. Try not to let your work get ahead of you. Space out presentations and make sure your teachers know who you are because then you will be more comfortable asking questions. Be open to all experiences, make as many friends as you can and don't wish any of your time away. If you are ready for anything to happen then you will enjoy your exchange much more. Try not to have too many expectations, I just went and hoped for the best and ended up having the best 6 months of my life because I welcomed every new turn and just went with the flow!'