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Clémence Prud’homme ’19

Name: Clémence Prud’homme

Class year: 2019

Pronouns: She/Her

Hometown: Paris, France

Major: Communications


What is your graduation year?

Okay, so I would be considered a junior here, but in France it’s quite different because I’m going to graduate at the end of the end of this year, and I’m going to have a master’s in about two more years.  


What school do you go to in France? And what is it like? Is it a private or international school?

That is kind of a complicated question. What do you mean by private or international school? Yes, it is private because some of us have to pay to go there (student fees are calculated according to your family’s salary), but it also receives some help from the state and it delivers diplomas recognized by the state. It is also an international school: international students represent 46% of the overall number of students (way more than at Mount Holyoke) and our school has over 450 partnerships with universities and college around the world, if that is what you mean by international school.


I think the system may be different in France, but here we pay to go to both private schools (like Mount Holyoke) and public schools like say University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Private schools are also more expensive. I don’t know, is Science Po like that?

Education in France is free if it is a state school. My school is in between private and public. Students with low income don’t pay anything, whereas student with more money pay more (as I said it’s calculated according to your income). Another important difference is that my school is specialized in political science. You can study social science, journalism, history but not math or physics (unless you want a double diploma). The school was first created to educate and inform the elites- that is why it turned to political sciences. A lot of students will become politicians or work for the State. Our school is also way more politicized than here and opinions are more diverse. Almost the whole political spectrum is represented (with the exception of extreme right) and debates are very common. Here it seems like it’s complicated to see a lot of Republicans. In my school it’s very common, even though we are traditionally lefties, to see a figure of the right party give a conference.


What are you going to get your master’s in?

Actually my class year at Science Po is 2019, and so I still don’t know what master’s program to chose because it means I’m going to specialize in something. But I think I’m   interested in Communications.


I know you speak a lot of languages and I really admire you. So you obviously speak French and English, and I think you also speak Russian, right?

I’m trying to speak as much as I can because I think it’s so important and so I’m trying to learn Russian. I also did a lot of Spanish and a little bit of Italian.


So you were born in France?

Yes I was born in France, in the suburbs of Paris. I lived there for five or six years. Then I moved to the north of France and then around when I entered middle school, I moved to Russia, where I spent my middle school and my high school years in Moscow.


Do you like Russia?

Yes, I actually love it very much. Ah, I don’t know. I feel like if you live in a country for a long time, you create this link, a relationship to that city, because it’s your city. You’re used to it, so you end up liking it. It’s such an interesting city, too. I mean, it’s crazy how it evolves. When I first arrived, I felt like it was very, not backwards, but very Eastern Europe. And now it’s full of hipsters and cool places to hang out and it’s crazy to see how quick the city actually evolves and just keeps being built and rebuilt.


Do you like it more than France?

Ah, it’s just so different, because Paris is the contrary of Moscow. Moscow is a dynamic city and Paris is a static city where you cannot touch anything because it’s considered a UNESCO kind of thing, you know, so you cannot build whatever you want and you cannot destroy whatever you want. As a result, it’s very beautiful, but it’s like a frozen city.


So you’re here for study abroad?

Yeah, I’m here for one year. It’s an obligation at my school. We have to spend our third year abroad, so for example I’ve got friends in Boston and everywhere. You can choose whether to go to a university or whether to have an internship abroad. I chose to go to a university because I love learning and I love the environment because there is so much going on: so many students to meet, so many conferences to go to. I don’t know, I really wanted to experience that in another country, in another system.


How did you choose Mount Holyoke?

So, it was very hard because we can basically go anywhere all around the world, but I really wanted to go to an American school because I speak English, so I would have the opportunity to really follow classes and really meet people. If you go to a university where you don’t master the language for example if you go to China and you don’t speak Chinese I thought it would be like closing doors, so I really wanted to come to America. So I went to this conference that they hosted in my school, being like “Oh let us tell you what you’re going to have in the states, what to expect” and so they spoke about the schools. They were like, “Yeah just don’t forget about liberal arts colleges, because they’re very interesting. [They have] small classes,” which is something very different from what we have in France. They’re like, “check out Mount Holyoke, it’s a very pretty campus and it’s very fancy” and I was like, “Oh my God, this is my dream university, I wanna go there.” (giggles) 


So are the classes really huge at Science Po?

No. Actually, we are very lucky to have small classes, but we also have a big amphitheater that could hold up to 400 people, so that’s a lot. And I don’t know, I really fear the big universities like the Northeastern and UMass kind. I really wanted  [Mount Holyoke] because I feel like as a college of liberal arts there is a particular atmosphere because we’re not a lot [of people] and we’re all…I don’t know, [connected]. I kind of  like it better.


Would you suggest that students here go study abroad in France?

I would say yes, if you’re interested in French. The thing is, I see a lot of from my experience people who want to got to a country without really knowing it. Sometimes it’s a big shock because we may think that oh it’s Europe, it’s like the States that it’s the same culture. But it’s not. It’s very different. Sometimes people don’t expect that: they’re like, “It’s the States! I’ve seen a lot of American movies, I know what to expect.” Actually, no. Everything is different: the way people talk, the way they behave in the streets,  the way you interact, differentiate, how you make friendships, how you meet people. So I would say yes, [study abroad in France] if you study French and also if you are interested in history. And this may be kind of a cliche, but come on! Europe has got great history and just walking in the streets is like going back into the past. Also, France is a country that is affordable, so you could actually really explore it. We’re not the first tourist destination for nothing!

But I would really advise someone to [go abroad] because it’s very interesting to get out of your comfort zone, your safe space, because you should. You should interact with the world. We live in a world that is very interconnected, interdependent, and the more you learn about other cultures [the more you learn] how to adapt. Because if you go to France, you’re not just going to learn how to adapt to French culture, but how to adapt in general; it’s gonna be like questioning your habits or adapting to a new lifestyle, and this is very challenging, but also very interesting. I am so happy to be here. Everyday I learn something, like “oh I can do that, I never thought I could,” because you’re in another country. You’re more daring. (whispers) So if you wanna go, go.


Do you think you’re adapting well here?

I’m doing great. I was also really well prepared because I spent one semester in this special program in Science Po, so I spent my first semester surrounded by American students and American teachers, but in Paris. People here are so nice, so it’s really easy to adapt and it’s a very welcoming campus. I feel like that might not be the case in other universities because a lot of my friends are actually only friends with people from Science Po who go to the same university as them, and here I actually got to meet a lot of American people.


Do you think it would be easy for someone to adapt in France? Do you think they’d be as welcoming?

Yeah and no. I feel like Americans are really friendly in the way that you interact with people; you’re not shy. You go speak to people even when you don’t know them and that might be a big shock because in France, it would be like impossible for someone to just pass next to you and compliment you. I mean, that happened to me on campus and it’s so nice. Like people keep telling you, “I like how you dress, I like how you’re this,” but in France you will never see that. We are kind of rude. (laughter) Because on first contact, we’re not as engaging with people. But once the first contact is made, you’ve got friends for life. It’s about trying to build deep relationships rather than having a lot of superficial ones. But that might first be seen as a little bit rude and impolite. For example, friendships in the States: yeah Americans are nice, but they are kind of hypocrites. Like they will say “hi” to you but then nothing else. They will take your number but never call you, whereas in France, for example, if you take someone’s number it’s because you really want to see them and you want to talk to them. But I think it’s just different ways of living and it might be hard at the beginning.


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Hello readers! I'm a freshman at Mount Holyoke College. I love writing and bringing you news. Enjoy and thank you for reading my articles!
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