Tag Archives: by Robert Coate

Free time. Me time.

Ironically, I have had little free-time to write anything for this blog for a while. And I know my avid readership cried in despair, waiting in agony for my little name to pop up with another post about my eclectic and wonderful time on my erasmus study placement. And for that, I do apologise…


One thing that you surprisingly don’t hear much about before you do a study placement is the amount of free time you will inevitably have. This is especially the case when studying something like politics. People doing similar courses will agree, we have of course all seen the course booklets “12 hours a week in lectures. 40 hours a week in reading.” Which means, especially for a fresher, “lots and lots of lie ins.” I’m not going to shy away from that fact, subjects in the social sciences really don’t involve a lot of lecture or seminar time, and you will eventually learn that the reading is incredibly important, however, on a study placement, you find that you free time is frequent.

At sciences po anyway, the workload isn’t anything compared to the masters students or even the french undergrad students either. This equates to a heap of free-time with which you have a free reign to think about all the things you could do while you lie in bed becoming a lazy slob… UNLESS you follow my advice.

Find a hobby! Find more than one in fact. In my case, the Braderie of Lille, the biggest flea market in Europe, pulled on my hipster heartstrings and eventually I bought two old, manual cameras on the cheap. I had absolutely no idea how to handle them or whether they indeed worked! Yet, through sheer perseverance, free-time and a useful tool called the internet, I developed a real love for 35mm film photography and I now take my two new-er film cameras EVERYWHERE.

But what I’m trying to say is, it is important to practice the cliché of expanding your horizons. But this isn’t only in terms of integrating into a new country, culture and language, but also in developing yourself, your interests and your hobbies. This helps cure the boredom that not only occurs on a study placement, but in the day-to-day life back at home. I’m happy about my placement because of the people I met and the things I did, and too of how I integrated. But I’m also extremely happy that I developed a new love for something like photography and it has helped in more ways than I originally thought.

Either way, find a hobby. You will have a lot of free time on a study placement and this time is important. University work can also cause stress and you need this time. However, without a hobby or some way of spending this time on you or in a positive way, boredom is only going to add to this stress.

Also, have some pictures from my 35mm cameras. Because why not?

Why Should I Choose to Study Abroad?

We are now nearing the end of March and this period for me, last year, consisted of looking into potentially a work placement to add to my already accepted study placement. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t find anything that suited in terms of dates and job responsibilities but even in my failure to find an additional work placement, I always knew I had a my study placement and the option to extend it to a full year as something to fall back on. Now, looking back on the decision to extend, I cannot really complain.

I think that those who are still in the position of looking for a placement, work or study, should seriously consider a study placement.

Continue reading

Vegetarian in France:

Apparently I am a rare breed in France. I exist here as part of a small and slow growing population of vegetarians. Yet really, that isn’t as much of a problem as I thought it would be.

In the 90s in France, 1.5% of the population were vegetarians and that has only increased to 2% recently, yet in the UK, 12% of us are either vegetarian or vegan and this rises to 20% when you look at people aged between 16 and 24. But despite the huge gap between the two countries, there are no real problems.

Telling a french person you are vegetarian is met with a few french ‘uumms’ and ‘errs’, of course, but after only just passed a year of turning vegetarian, I am already a seasoned-pro when it comes to batting off stupid questions about a seemingly rational choice.

– Where do you get your protein from?
– How do you not crave meat everyday?
– If you had to choose between eating meat or dying, which would you choose?
– If I touched you with a bit of chicken, would you be pissed off?
– Is it not really difficult to be a vegetarian?

And so on and so forth. These are genuine questions I and many others have had by the way, and they really aren’t worth answering. Except the last one.

Continue reading

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:

Channeling my inner Clint Eastwood with this post. An erasmus placement can throw up all types of situations. Some are Good, some are bad, and some are just plain ugly.

The Good

Clichés may exist for a reason, you can’t talk about France without mentioning food, for example. But as a longstanding anti-cliché-r, and because the food in Lille actually isn’t that great, I have to instead talk about the beer. Lille and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region has some of the best beer I’ve ever tried. You can forget the watered-down lager of your 15 year-old days sat in the local park, and instead, actual enjoy a nice beer here in the north of France.

But also, one of the huge bonuses of Lille is its location. The city is heavily influence by the 30 minute drive to Belgium, and the beer there is just a different class. Furthermore, with an airport for the city; two airports an hour away in Brussels; bus links to the likes of Amsterdam, Antwerp and Paris; and finally a Eurostar connection, you pretty much can’t go wrong when you need to escape the bad parts of the placement.

The Bad

Apologises for the lowering of tone. I know, I know, all that talk of beer made me happy, too. But it is important to note that while the placement year is a fun distraction from the work of final year and can really impress on your cv; it is also a time of change and it is only natural that there are going to be bad points.

Continue reading

Erasmus: Advice from my First Semester:

My return to placement blogging has been a long time coming, and the need to update upon my first post is constantly sitting in the back of my mind, but alas, my relatively small freedom away from exams has returned. Now I can FINALLY restart my meticulously revised routine again, like the good student I am…

So then, my thoughts and of course advice on my first semester of my study/erasmus placement at Sciences Po in Lille, France. (Bit of a mouthful that)

1. PLAN: In truth, I probably should have better planned my arrival in Lille. I had no apartment, and only a week stay in a hostel to find a suitable means of accommodation. That week stay evolved into another week in a different hostel, albeit an improved temporary solution as this hostel thankfully had windows.

(SIDE NOTE.) Living, even if for a week, in a room with no windows is truly a life changing experience. Life changing in the sense that you will never do it again. Jeez.

Luckily, after a week, I managed to sort out a flat on just the outskirts of the city with a french friend of a friend, her french friend and a dutch guy I met at the first window-less hostel.

Continue reading

“Questions”. – A day in the life of an Erasmus student

Erasmus. New day, new questions. Rhetorical, of course.

What time do I have classes today?
What happened last night?
How late am I already?
How many times will I use my translator app today?
How fast will my french teachers talk?
And, will I actually understand it this time?

Completing an Erasmus in France often poses theses type of questions.

However, although there’s this idea that the Erasmus year is pure partying with a side of study, and yes, this may be true elsewhere, it seems that Sciences Po Lille doesn’t quite understand the simple needs of the average student. Maybe this got lost in translation, who knows.

Continue reading