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My French-American University Experience

Sarah Zhang, a graduate of Sciences Po and UC Berkeley’s Dual Degree Program, reflects on spending two years in France, two years in California, and obtaining two bachelor’s degrees from a pair of top-tier universities.
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Courtesy of Sarah Zhang.

I never imagined myself, a Midwestern girl who had never lived anywhere else, attending university in France and California. But once I discovered the Sciences Po-UC Berkeley Dual Degree Program, I began to wonder which of the three Sciences Po campuses – Le Havre, Menton, or Reims – would be best for me. The idea that I could spend two years immersed in the cultures of France, spend two years in Northern California, and receive a degree from each institution seemed like a dream. I knew that this unique international program would offer an experience beyond any conventional study-abroad opportunity. Like most parents, my mom and dad had some concerns about me going so far away and being thrown into independent living so quickly. However, I think that by learning how to adapt and move overseas, I gained a newfound sense of responsibility and confidence that only comes from a dynamic program like this one.

I started at Sciences Po with grand plans and aspirations to launch a career in American politics, working with policy or international diplomacy, but left UC Berkeley with a passion for the arts and storytelling in all forms. Through the global and wide-ranging curriculum, which combines the best of French and American educational styles, a personal interest in the arts and how to promote them in an international market emerged. I am so proud of the solid background I gained in all the social sciences and look forward to applying that knowledge in novel and unconventional ways. Having friends from almost every continent, being surrounded by and absorbing dozens of languages, and travelling across Europe are experiences of a lifetime that I lived in just four years.

The “befores” and “afters” of this program stick out the most to me now. I went from barely being able to scramble an egg to regularly cooking meals for my 64-people Berkeley cooperative. I became fluent in French and learned to become a more independent person, managing bills, paperwork, and housing. I pushed through my struggle to find my own place amongst the brilliant student community and went on to write a seventy-page honors thesis that was recognized as the best of my department. I have grown by leaps and bounds personally and academically and am more than prepared for the next step of life in graduate school.

If I were to give any advice to those just now discovering the Sciences Po-UC Berkeley Dual Degree Program, it would be to soak up every moment. You won’t always be able to smell the fresh-baked goods straight from the boulangerie or see amazing works of art in world-famous museums. There won’t always be student open mics and band nights or days lounging in the California sun. Savor the amazing foods of the San Francisco Bay Area and enjoy the hugs given by your friends from all over the world. You won’t regret anything and you’ll want to do it all over again. Enjoy the transformative journey and every moment along the way!


Contact:

For more information about the Sciences Po-UC Berkeley Dual Degree Program, reach out to the program coordinator at dualdegree@berkeley.edu, visit SciencesPo.Berkeley.edu, or follow @BerkeleySciencesPo on Instagram.

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