Aislinn Cunningham. Architecture. F Paris 319

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1 Aislinn Cunningham Architecture X Ecole Nationale Supérieure d Architecture Paris - Malaquais F Paris 319

2 Student Experience My experience as an Erasmus student at Ecole Paris-Malaquais was definitely my favourite year of my studies so far. It may have been a bit difficult at times due to the language barrier but to study through another language was the best choice I made. In architecture we have no opportunity to study languages as a module and without my studies at Malaquais my French would have never reached the standard it has today. Before the academic year began in October the hosting school organised french classes for all the international students for three weeks in September. This was an amazing opportunity for me as I hadn t studied French since I left secondary school in Firstly it was a great way to refresh my memory on the different conjugations of verbs, formal writing in french and improving my confidence to present in French. Secondly I met all the other Erasmus students who would be studying at Malaquais for either the first semester or the year. Thirdly the school organised trips to visit famous architecture buildings, such as Villa Savoye by Corbusier, and walking tours around Paris for the third week of our classes. These first three weeks were extremely beneficial as I began to get used to the new college and became more confident at speaking French while making friends at the same time. Without these intensive French classes I think it would have been a bit more difficult to make friends as all my other classes for the rest of the semester were only one day a week and almost always with different students. The Erasmus students were definitely a lot friendlier than the local students. But I think that s due to a cultural difference. Unfortunately the Erasmus students who joined the school for the second semester were not offered french classes or trips, so they missed out on this great opportunity to meet other international students and have a chance to improve their French before the semester began. I however arrived in Paris one year before I began my studies at Malaquais, therefore I had already made a set of friends, knew my way around the city and was used to using the language daily which I feel made it a bit easier for me to settle into college life there. I had a job working in a cafe which I managed to keep and work part time hours during my studies there, I felt that this was a great way to get to know some French people as I felt at the school the French were not so inclined to integrate with international students. Working at the cafe also helped me improve my french and make French friends who therefore greatly helped me with my French. I think if anyone on Erasmus is finding it a bit tough to integrate with people at their Erasmus college getting a part time job is a fantastic way to meet local people, improve their language skills and keep busy. From my experience I have made great friends who were also international students studying at the school but as none of us were francophones I did find that we were speaking french incorrectly with no one there fluent enough to correct our mistakes, therefore I felt so lucky to have some french friends who helped me greatly with the language.

3 Institutional Practices, Support As I mentioned above, before the semester began we had three weeks of french classes which I am so grateful to the institution for. The week before the french classes began we had to go to the college to register. The school is located right in the centre of Paris on rue Bonaparte, which is just across the river from the Louvre Museum, making it very easy to get to either by foot, metro or bus, depending on where you re living. I was living south of the school therefore I tended to get the metro as it was most direct form of transport. The University campus is part of one of the oldest and most famous art schools in Paris, Les Beaux Arts. One part of the school is on this campus but there is a second building about a five minute walk from here where a lot of studio classes take place. For the selection of modules we received an with the different descriptions for each module and as an Erasmus student we had the option to choose between bachelor or masters modules, we could also do a combination of the two which I did for the first semester as I was aware that my French was not yet at a high enough standard to do some of the master classes so I chose one bachelor class and the rest as part of the masters programme but for the second semester I was more confident with my level of French and did all masters classes. I did however find the application for the different classes a bit complicated for the first semester as no on ever really explained it to us, we just received the document by mail. But I think perhaps the main reason why I may have found it a bit confusing was because I was coming from such a small architecture school in UL where we had no choice of modules until fourth year so therefore my first experience of choosing modules was in a new and much larger architecture school with about 150 students per year and also in another language. However being in such a large school there was a large range of classes to choose from and as a student we had the freedom to choose classes that interested us rather than having to do all the classes that were set out for the students of the school. By the time the second semester came around I knew exactly how to apply for the different modules and it was a lot easier. There is also a portal online which we can log onto to get the descriptions for all the different modules but also where the lecturers note our grades at the end of the semester. I did not have to sit any exams for my modules as they were all projet or research based. However I do not think there is any registration for exams as I had many friends who sat exams throughout the year. Each teacher organises the final presentation date with the class as the dates vary depending on the teachers. As the school is so large with 150 students per year there is a great range of modules and studios ranging from digital knowledge to sociology. I found that this wide range really gave me the opportunity to choose classes in the areas of architecture that interested me the most. Sometimes, due to demand, students do not receive their first choice of modules, but I was very happy with the modules I received.

4 Differences from UL I think the main difference for me was the size of the architecture school in Paris. I know that architecture in UL is part of the larger campus life but the number of students in architecture is about 22 per year in UL. Consequently I had always been used to small classes in, we always had quite informal classes, sitting around a large table with a lecturer so my first experience of a class in an amphitheatre with hundreds of other students was in Malaquais. The staff at Malaquais were usually quite nice and helpful, but seen as it was a larger school we did not have as many hours with the lecturers as I would have in UL. There was also no Studio to work from like the studio in UL, which has always been such a great place to work and only now that I have studied architecture without this same facility I realise how privileged we are in UL to have such great facilities available to us 24/7. I found that in Malaquais I was working alone from my apartment and I missed the studio atmosphere in UL. I was only in the college for classes and then worked from home or a cafe, there was also a mezzanine area we could work from but I found that it always tended to be quite busy. The library in Malaquais was fantastic and had almost every book or journal relating to architecture that you could ever imagine. As it was solely an Architecture school, the three floors of the library were architecture based, but we also could also borrow books from the other architecture schools in Paris if we needed to. There is an online catalogue which searches through all the libraries for the references. I happened to be very lucky with my accommodation as the rent is so expensive in Paris. We have a family friend who has a holiday apartment in Paris and she kindly let me stay there during my studies. However if any future Erasmus students are looking for accommodation I would advise them to have a dossier ready, this is what all landlords look for when renting. It needs to contain a copy of your ID and then work contracts and payslips, or if a student, a signed letter from parents stating they will pay the rent. There are more documents necessary so I would advise students to search online to make sure they have all the necessary documents organised. Cultural Differences Before beginning my Erasmus year at Malaquais, I had already been living in France for a year, I found that this was a great benefit to me as I was used to being surrounded by the French language and culture. I would advise people that if they had the opportunity to move to their Erasmus destination a couple of weeks before being the semester to do so. As this would give them the opportunity to settle into the city, get to know their area, become accustomed to the different culture and get used to the new language. Therefore when beginning the college semester the only main focus is to settle into the new college surroundings. At the beginning it can sometimes be a bit difficult to understand lectures and follow

5 class discussions but with time I found that my french improved and I no longer had these difficulties. However from my experience I found that it was always easier to understand others speaking french but more difficult to express my opinions. But this is somethings that comes with time and I believe that the only real way to learn a language is to be completely immersed in it and if anyone is having second doubts as to whether to do Erasmus or not due to the language I d advise them to grab the opportunity. It may be difficult at the beginning but while studying for their degree they are also improving their language skills in a foreign language and I am so grateful that I had this opportunity. The college gave me a student ID card and all I needed for this was two passport photos. There are many transport options such as the metro, the bus and the velib. There s never a need to get a taxi. Paris can be very expensive to live and looking for accommodation can be quite difficult so I would advise people to start looking for accommodation well in advance and just to warn them that there are many scams online as apartments are in such high demand, so just to watch out for that. Hints and Tips Make sure to socialise lots with the other students at the beginning of the semester as this is the best time to make new friends and get to know other students. If you really want to learn the language try to really immerse yourself in it and not have too many friends who speak your native language. As i have mentioned above, if you are having any doubts about whether or not to do Erasmus I would highly advise you to go for it. In my experience the positive experiences majorly outweighed the negative throughout this year. It s a fantastic opportunity to live and study abroad and definitely one of the best years of my life!

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