By Alexiane Terrochaire-Barbançon

Last year, when I arrived, I did not have the chance to know anyone. Before the first day, I prepared myself, repeating that I should be as open as possible, as social as possible, as well as being aware I would meet people from all around the world. I am not sure I would be able to enjoy this pleasure continuously throughout my life. After all I chose Sciences Po because I wanted an international experience.

Therefore, the first days, I talked to many more people than I could count. I remained friends with only a few. I thought to myself “that’s it Alexiane, you have your friends, you are well integrated at Sciences Po”. However, I was far away from imagining I would also make friends throughout both semesters. That is the magic of university and maybe of Sciences Po Reims itself: the world has shrunk into this city, allowing us to meet someone new every day and bond ourselves tightly to what we may eventually consider as our “second family.”  Let us never forget that, dear 1As!

At the beginning of this second year, I understood the word “integration” has multiple meanings provided that you think about how it applies to our campus.

First, I have come to understand that the first weeks are very important if you want to be “well integrated”. Day after day, parties after parties, presentations after presentations, we learn to know each other vaguely, but still, we are glad to see that we meet people that are more or less like us. We are happy to tell ourselves we will not be alone, since we have new friends that share the same experience. Yet, there is a major issue if you are a bit reserved and shy: to go see people actually requires a lot of courage. You can easily be left aside if you are not confident enough.

Second, I have also noticed what seems to be an odd pattern: once we have met other people, groups form according to their country of origin. International students tend to stay together while the French reproduce the same pattern. I believe it complicates the integration of the former into the French life: they have to discover by themselves what the French lifestyle can offer almost without any help or advice provided by native French people. International students are not the only ones finding themselves at a disadvantage: most students hardly benefit from the diversity on campus.

Third, I get the impression that the campus is divided into three different groups: the Euram, the Euraf and the exchange students. I recognize I know few of the two last groups since I shared few classes with them. However, for this upcoming year, I want to overcome these barriers. I want to continue meeting new people, staying amazed by their experiences or being delighted if I discover a new culinary taste (this being one of my personal objective!)

That is why I dedicate part of my time to the association Sciences Po Connect, formerly known as “Beavers Helping Beavers.” After having thought about the term “integration” I am now convinced this process should never stop. We should always discover new people because it is what makes our two years on our Reims campus so special. The association was renamed by our current team, composed of five members: it is a step towards the inclusion of the Exchange and the Eurafs into the scope of action of the association.

Besides, we as 2As should be able to help the 1As to enjoy the best of this first year, guiding them through their academic life, as well as their social life. I believe we should never have to make a choice between these two aspects of our student life. Thus, the association aims at favoring the exchange between 2As and 1As. For this reason, the team is open to any question, is volunteer for providing any kind of support. Most importantly, make sure to keep in mind we have been through this first year, we have struggled with our own difficulties and fears…but we found comfort thanks to the former 2As and our own promo. It is this kind of bond Sciences Po Connect is eager to create.

Should we have to summarize what the team and the association have to offer, we would say Sciences Po Connect aims at connecting people to their best two years of university.

From this text, here are three tricks to find your place easily on campus. First, integrating yourselves will be a lot easier if you try your best to participate in the events on campus, or outside with the community of your fellow Sciences Pistes. Second, dedicating time to one or multiple association is a good way to make social connection while you invest yourself for a purpose you have chosen. Third, never stop seeking to meet new people!

Alexiane Terrochaire-Barbançon is a second year student at Sciences Po Campus of Reims and president of Sciences Po Connect. The association aims to foster the creation of community on campus, and its Facebook page can be found here.

Image: User lala h//Flickr

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