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Student Testimonials: Sciences Po

Sciences Po

Name: Vanessa Xinyi Mao

Highlight of my semester abroad:

I enjoyed every part of my IBEX experience, including meeting people with different backgrounds from Sciences Po and other areas of life, exploring Paris’s art exhibitions, museums, galleries, restaurants & pastry shops, going on adventures such as hitchhiking, traveling in Europe during and after the semester.

Who I spent most of my time with abroad:

I hung out with a diverse pool of people. There was a close group of students from Sciences Po (each from Germany, Switzerland, Poland, China) with whom I hung out quite often. I also enjoyed the home meals/ wine chats with my French host family, whose daughters are fine art and architecture students. I still meet up with the friends I made in pastry school. While I was abroad, I kept an even more open mind of making friends; I was also constantly meeting new people through parties and traveling. The best part of socializing in Paris is that I met interesting people with different interests and aspirations, also the people who are older than you (those who are already working), listening to their stories and opinions might open up your mind and help you with your own choice. 

If you go, you must check out...:

  • Restaurants/Cafes: Le Relais de l'Entrecôte (best steak place), Ober Mamma (Italian), Le Souffle Cafe de Flore (for hot chocolate), Le Cherche Midi (Italian), Chez Bebert
  • Pastry Shops: Pierre Herme, Ladure, L’eclair de genie (the best eclair, try the framboise flavor), Hugo et Victor Carette (macarons), Michalak Le Bon Marche (food building, the best saint honore on the pastry counter), Lafayette Gourmet Berthillon glacier (ice cream)
  • Bars: Le Comptoir General
  • Places to hang out/Picnics: Canal Saint Martin, Champ de Mars, Jardin du Luxemburg
  • Concept stores: Merci Archive 18-20 by Galerie 208
  • The Best Views: Montmar tre/ Sacré-Cœur, Tour Monparnasse, Galleries Lafayette (you can go up to the rooftop)
  • Architecture: Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris Opera, Grand Palais, Eglise Saint-Sulpice, Versailles
  • Museums/Events: Nuit Blanche (my favorite art event!), Grand Palais (ongoing exhibitions), Centre Pompidou, Musee Rodin, L’opera (for ballets & operas)

What I would say to students considering participating in IBEX:

Make your own decision. And go do it. While you are abroad, make clear to yourself what your goals are and take action to achieve them. Keep an open mind and explore. 

Contact me about Sciences Po:

Vanessa Xinyi Mao -

More Student Insight



  • Air ticket to/from IBEX site: $1,300 - $,1800 USD
  • Housing: $3,800 - $7,000 USD/semester
  • Food: $1,500 - 2,500 USD/semester
  • Books: $0 - $50 USD/semester
  • Local transportation: $80 - $300 USD/semester
  • Phone: $80-120/month (5 Euros calling card can talk to the US for more than 2 hours)
    • "I started off by using a calling app through WiFi, then I got on a B&You plan with a French SIM card that allows for free calls to the US. Note: B&You is only available with a French bank account, which I borrowed from a friend. Orange is an alternative option."
  • "There is a mandatory fee to receive access to the French healthcare system. There is also a fee for a welcome program, which is highly recommended."


  • "Open a checking account as soon as you get there. It takes at least 1 week for it to be working, and bills are paid through this account (direct debit)."
  • "I handled my expenses with an American checking account. I recommend setting up a French bank account, it would have been beneficial." 
  • "Luckily, Bank of America is part of an international ATM alliance which allowed me to draw Euros from BNP Paribas and use a travel card that did not incur exchange fees. I also opened a French bank account since most phone plans required one. Definitely do not open one with LCL since they promised a 100 euro bonus for opening an account, but never fulfilled this promise. Societe Generale had better reviews overall."


  • "I was in a furnished apartment, no meal plan. I roomed with another IBEX student and found the place via Airbnb. It worked out great, although we paid a bit more than most other students were paying (the place was also significantly larger)."
  • "I lived in an apartment which I shared with a professor from the University of Paris. There was a cafe at Sciences Po with food for purchase. There were also student restaurants around Paris that serve lunch and dinner for around 4 euros. Other meals I ate out or prepared myself. I found my apartment on craigslist after arriving in Paris, while staying at a hostel. There is sufficient supply for housing in Paris, but there is extreme demand so finding accommodation is very competitive and can be difficult to do prior to arrival."
  • "Rented my own studio, no meal plan, went to the supermarket, bought food, and learned how to cook. Great experience, very satisfied, everybody in the program is on the same boat, so we all help each other out, go to each other's houses for dinner parties, etc."


  • "I liked that a lot of the classes really required critical thinking and asked your opinion (instead of just putting it on the syllabus and then never actually having a discussion). Since there was no cookie-cutter way to do things it forced you to think a lot more."
  • "The course load was significantly lighter, and mostly based on tests and presentations. In fact, there was practically no homework. The attendance policy is extremely strict. Instructors varied a bit, most of mine were pretty phenomenal."
  • "Sciences Po offers a great variety of subjects which is beneficial if you are looking to use elective credits. The system focuses largely on papers and presentations, so it helps develop those skills. Many business, economics, or finance-related/focused courses are meant for students without much prior knowledge of the subject, so they often cover material already covered in Stern's core classes. Most courses are politically or policy-focused, and not mathematically or technically focused. Workloads from class-to-class are much less than for Stern classes, but most courses require 15-20 page papers at least once per semester. Grading works on a 0-20 scale in which the average grade is 12-15, and 9 or 10 merits a pass. Grades above 16 are very difficult to achieve."
  • "Knowledge of your progress in class is nonexistent. I received one grade back across all 5 of my courses throughout the semester. The workload is comparable but not as evenly distributed. Most courses only involve two components (one paper and one final) which would both be due towards the end of the semester so everything usually piles up in the end. The program is also more demanding on written skills since most papers were more similar to dissertations. The grading system is set up completely differently on a scale from 0 to 20 with 10 as a passing grade, no alphabetical grading scales."

Course Registration

  • "Sciences Po ended up offering pre-registration to my particular incoming group. The course offerings were not posted until summer."
  • "The registration process at Sciences Po is extremely competitive. Most courses fill up within a matter of seconds (not an exaggeration), especially electives. My classes were confirmed ahead of time. If you had serious schedule issues, the administration is able to help you if you request changes promptly after registration."
  • "Classes fill up after five minutes, so you have to register the second your time opens up with a lot of backup options."

Course Recommendations

  • "Marketing with Marc Auzanneau was fantastic. The subjects were a little bit introductory, but Marc is a Client Financing Director for IBM, and is an incredibly helpful professor. He's willing to look at resumes and give advice for out-of-class subjects. Strategic Studies with Ronald Hatto was a great political strategy course with a focus on war strategy from a Canadian veteran well-known strategy scholar, and Foundation of Moral and Political Thought with Carlo was a philosophy course with one of the best lecturers I have ever had. I would highly recommend it. "
  • "I highly recommend Introduction to the Israel-Palestine Conflict. First, it's relevant; second, it was extremely informative; third, the teacher is witty, prepared, and knowledgeable to an extraordinary level, and very good at maintaining neutrality when lecturing on controversial topics. The course ranks among the top three classes I've ever taken at any institution. And, it is not deliverable-intensive, so there is low stress. I also recommend yoga with Sebastien Cierco, who has great energy and managed to teach an entire class how to do headstands. I also don't recommend Marketing & Consumer Relationship Management despite the good teacher. This class is really an introduction to marketing, and thus shouldn't be taken by anybody who is already partway through a marketing concentration."
  • "All the courses I took at Sciences Po were quite memorable and expanded my perspective, but Social Policies in Europe with Bruno Palier definitely stood out. I had gone into this class with no prior knowledge or any expectations, but Professor Palier made the class worthwhile. An integral member active in the discussion of European welfare states, Professor Palier was extremely knowledgeable, drawing relatable examples from the home countries of our multinational classroom. Furthermore, this class provided an extensive overview of the development of the welfare state and put into perspective, the state that the United States sits at in comparison to the Northern European countries. The Business of Wine was another one of my favorites. Despite its focus on wine, this course really put wine into perspective on the world level and how France is competing with its New World winemakers."
  • "Favorite class was “Constructing the Europe of Universities” (in French), which was an extremely interesting course about the integration of research, students, and knowledge in a globalized and in the E.U. world. The quality of instruction is advanced for the most part, the grading system is comparable to Stern, with the difference that less work is given (homework is rare apart from papers and tests). Strengths include a political aspect to the business world, the professors, the tightly-knit group that is put together for the program driving of students from all over the globe, and the interactions that come from the program. The main weakness is the limitation on what courses you are permitted to take in the program (such as the economics courses) which may overlap with something we have already done in Stern (Organizational behavior = MOA in Stern)."

Student Life

  • "I didn't participate in any extracurriculars, but the school offered sports and dance classes which seemed very popular. Another big campus presence was student associations that put together events, dances, etc. You didn't have to be a part of the association to attend."
  • "Student life is great. The guys in the program had a constant soccer game every Sunday afternoon. Our group of friends was about 20% American, 30% French, and the rest international students from all over. It was very easy to meet students from the host country."
  • "The orientation program was the easiest venue to meet people, along with language and sports classes."
  • "Student life around the university was very exciting. Sciences Po offers sports classes and many clubs. Some clubs throw social events which are actually very fun."
  • "Not much student life for exchange students, besides the International Student Council. All associations go through a strict approval process to gain status at the school, so there are limited clubs. However, sports and language classes are a great way to meet local students."

Restaurants, Shopping, Must-See Sites

  • "Eating: Prive de Dessert has an interesting concept of creating savory dishes that resemble traditional desserts. The lunch prix fixe menu is not horribly priced and is delicious. Drinking: Harry's Bar is a unique space in Paris for a cocktail with a friend. Not for large groups. The Four Seasons Amaranto Lounge/Bar in London has one of the most extensive cocktail menus I've ever seen (it's pages long), an excellent afternoon tea, and good ambiance."
  • "La Cantine Du Troquet (awesome basque food in the 14th arrondissement), Du Pain et Des Idees (amazing bakery in the 10th arrondissement, by the Canal Saint Martin), and the outdoor farmers market at Bastille on Thursdays and Sundays."

Travel Tips

  • "I went to Madrid, London, and Lyon. Fly if it's outside of France. Airfare is frequently cheaper than train tickets. Also, Airbnb is awesome, so check both hotels and that site."
  • "I traveled about half of the weekends I was abroad. It was very easy, but discount flights from Paris often leave from Beauvais, which is logistically more complicated. I recommend booking train and air tickets as far in advance as possible. Traveling within France is often as expensive as traveling to other countries. Most phones don't work outside of France without purchasing extra calling credit."
  • "I traveled once to twice a month. Cheap airfare is readily available and the rail/bus system is very well connected throughout. Just book early to apply discounts and receive cheaper rates. Also, be alert to the random strikes that occur throughout Europe. Be ready for canceled flights within 24 hours and arranging alternative means of transportation."
  • "Low-cost airlines are much cheaper there. No trains are needed anymore in Europe. You can buy round-trip plane tickets to London, South of France and other destinations for less than $100. Flew to Stockholm for $60. Very easy to travel around."
  • "The officers monitoring the metro system are extremely strict and always check tickets, so do not throw out metro tickets on the metro. Fines are upwards of 30 euros if you are caught without a ticket."