Where are you from in France?
I’m from the south east of France. I was born in a really small town and I’m really proud of my region! We have forests, mountains, rivers, and chestnut trees. It’s a very idyllic place to grow up and I really appreciate having been born there and not in a big city like Paris. My family has lived there for generations and everybody knows each other, I love that.
I understand that you attend Sciences Po, a political science institute in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. How is the student experience in France different from that in Madison? How is it similar?
I think there are some similarities. At Madison, you’re very proud to be at the university because it’s a really good school. I think you find this in Sciences Po, too, because it’s a highly selective school and so we’re really proud of being there. We also have this sense of school spirit which you can’t find in many other schools in France because there are normally so many more students. At Sciences Po, we are small group but really proud. I also think, in terms of the quality of the classes, that we have a lot of good professors at Sciences Po, and Madison is also great for the quality of the classes. I’ve learned so much here.
But I would say that there are more differences than similarities! At UW-Madison there are 40,000 students and at Sciences Po there’s about 500 students total, with only about 150 first year students! I was also really surprised by the number of student associations, clubs, and organizations at UW-Madison. It’s another dimension here. We have some at Sciences Po, but they’re more focused on political studies. And at UW-Madison you can study all different subjects. At Sciences Po, we don’t have a football team or football games. But I ‘m part of the handball team in Aix!
What are you studying and what’s your motivation for studying it?
I’m studying Political Science. At Sciences Po, I love it because we study several topics including history, politics, geopolitics, economy, and government. It’s really broad and I appreciate this because I’m really curious about many different subjects. I really don’t want to specialize in one particular area, so I like that Sciences Po is multi-dimensional. But in your second year [at Sciences Po], you have to take an optional course which is the beginning of your specialization. I chose the history of international relations. In year four, you have to specialize in something again, which then becomes your Masters. I’m not sure yet but I think I’ll stay with international studies, geopolitics, and diplomacy.
As for my motivation, my father transmitted his passion for history and international relations to me because he’s a high school geography and history teacher. So I’ve always been fascinated by the history of countries, wars, all those things. I grew up in that environment.
Why did you choose to come to Madison?
At Sciences Po, we have the option of choosing from several different universities in several different countries. I really wanted to study in the US so I hesitated a lot but I talked with a friend from Sciences Po who studied at Madison last year and she gave me the desire to come. UW-Madison is a great school, and I didn’t want to be in a huge city because it would be so different from where I come from. I really like this region, the Great Lakes, the fact that there’s nature here. I also wanted to experience the typical campus life. I could have gone to Miami, for example, but the university there is pretty new and they don’t have this tradition, it’s not really anchored yet. I wanted to discover this.
When you think back on your time at UW-Madison, what will you remember most?
The opportunities the US gives to its students. For example, I applied for an internship at the Capitol and am currently interning there! That’s not possible in France if you’re not connected. Madison gives us a chance that we don’t have in France if you’re not from a privileged background. I was really proud to be accepted, it’s a really rewarding experience.
Can you share a bit about your internship at the Capitol?
I work for State Representative Beth Meyers twice per week and it’s so interesting. I really think I have discovered the political system of the US, first through my classes, but also in concrete terms through my internship. I can see that the local politicians here are really close to their constituents, always sending them emails, they really do a lot of things.
As interns, we respond to questions or issues that constituents ask Beth and we also write articles for holidays and other press communications. We also have to read all the local newspapers of her district (she’s responsible for the 74th district of WI) and look for noteworthy articles concerning her constituents. In one day we might write nine emails to people who have have been featured in local newspapers. We also have to find articles where Beth is featured and enter it into our system. I really like it!
The US has a strong and competitive internship culture that has become part of the higher education system. Is there a similar internship culture in France?
I think it’s really different. In the US, students are pushed to work at the same time that they’re studying and they’re encouraged to participate in as many student associations and clubs as they can. I think it’s a good thing that we lack in France because you learn different responsibilities. In France, students don’t work at the same time as they’re studying. I actually think it’s a good thing to work and study, because for many students in France, when they get their diploma they enter the job market right away, even though they’ve never worked before, or maybe just during the summer. But things in France are changing, even at Sciences Po. To get our diploma, we now have to do at least three internships. I think it’s a really good thing because it’s a different world out on the job market.
France is having presidential elections next year. Any thoughts?
I think I’m pretty lucky to be here and working at the Capitol during the US elections. I was so engaged in this election, even more than I am in France. I even participated in an event with Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate for Vice President. I really followed the election process from close-up and we talked about it every day in my classes here. The day of the election, I was really affected because I think it reflects a broader problem that the entire world is facing. I’m scared that this pattern could also occur in France with Marine Le Pen [of the National Front party]. More and more people are rejecting politics. It has really touched me because I think there’s a huge gap between citizens and politicians around the world. I’m a citizen but I also like politics and I really think that not all politicians are corrupt. I still believe in politics and I want people to come together. I’m also worried because I have to go to the French Consulate in Chicago to be able to vote in the French election. It’s a problem because it’s more difficult to vote absentee in France. But I will definitely go and vote!
How do you think American and French politics are different? Similar?
Politicians in France don’t spend a lot of money on campaigns like they are doing in the US. I think it’s a big problem in the US. But there are also lots of similarities currently. In France, there’s also a gap between citizens and politicians. But I think that here, the local politicians really do a lot of things for their constituents and they’re always recruiting and campaigning. In France, local politicians are more focused on getting onto the national political scene and don’t care as much about their local constituents. That’s a generalization and not the case for everyone, obviously, but it is a difference that I’ve noticed. Americans have a negative view of national politics but they like their local politicians. If you look at local rates of reelection, they are higher than on the national scene. But it makes sense because local politicians are closer to you and aren’t seen as much as ‘politicians.’
Let’s switch gears. I loved to eat out when I was an exchange student in Aix. Do you have a favorite restaurant, café, or hangout?
When I hang out with friends, we go to La Place des Cardeurs, and especially to a bar called The Woods. We usually spend the beginning of our evenings in a bar like the Woods and then go to nightclubs, like the Mistral. For restaurants, we love to go to Piaccere, an Italian restaurant where you can find “piadina.” We also like to go to a burger place called Le Bidule.
What are your plans for Winter Break?
I don’t want to go back to France because I want to save my money to travel around the US because it’s such an opportunity to be here! My boyfriend is coming to visit me soon for two weeks. I’ll show him where I live and we’ll go to Chicago and Milwaukee, and visit the surrounding area. For the last week of break I’m going to San Francisco because I have a Sciences Po friend who is there. I’ll be there for one week and I’m so excited!