from exchange students
MilanThe chance to study some time abroad is something every student should grab. The EMPA network therefore gives you an unique opportunity to do this at some very prominent universities. I chose to spend one term at the SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, which is actually the business school of the Università Bocconi. I can recommend an exchange to the public management program for everybody who’s interested in all aspects and all levels of the public sector. Professors and the many guest speakers expect rather a lot of you, especially in terms of presentations, group and individual assignments, in-class cooperation, etc. But this puts also less pressure on the final exams.The MPM class is a very diverse but also a very close group. To join this group after their first term is not easy but after a while it is great. That is why I recommend to study there for both the second and third term.Lastly, I cannot forget to mention the city itself. In Milan you can find everything you are looking for. It is a very busy city with many social activities like the hundreds of aperitivi. Milan is also close to the other beautiful cities in northern Italy which are easy and especially worth to visit when you have a day off.
ParisFor three reasons the EMPA programme at Sciences Po was a marvellous good time:First, the university lies in the most precious part of Paris having the cafés of Sartre and Beauvoir nearby and the Eiffel-Tour, the Louvre and the Sorbonne (including students’ bars and clubs) within reach.Second, the university is praised for educating the elite of France with a strong focus on cultivating every topic concerning public affairs. Sciences Po has only few professors; classes are almost entirely given by experts working for administration, politics and business – I had consultants, high EU-officials and one French ambassador. Third, there are many opportunities for exchange students to mix with the people from Sciences Po. The university is very international, so they have developed many programmes to make life comfortable for students like me: I had an introduction week with a group of 15 exchange student and we did a lot of activities together for the rest of the time. In addition, I had a French Science Po student as partner. We met regularly and she was a great help to me understanding cultural differences – we have kept contact since then.To sum up, while enhancing my French I had a wonderful time visiting Paris in depth, gaining academic insights both in knowledge and methodology, and meeting new friends from all over the world – an experience I value as one of the greatest of my life.
Leiden...is a very nice city near Amsterdam and La Haye and where you will circulate only by bike. It is very quiet and you have a lot of students living there. Everybody speaks English, so it is not the best place if you want to learn Dutch ;-).The way of teaching asks from students that, each week, they prepare/read/analyse materials for the next course and everybody is asked to participate in class. It is a very good and nice way to teach and you will get a lot of experience which will be helpful in your next career. They have a system with trimesters what enabled me to go to Leiden from end of March until June and have a traineeship in the European Parliament in between Leuven and Leiden (from February till March).In a nutshell, I would say that it is a great university, great courses, great teachers, great environment!
BudapestIf you have the chance to participate in the EMPA exchange, you should take it. This is an opportunity you will only get one time in your life and you will enjoy having all the experiences, knowledge and people for the rest of your life. I had the amazing opportunity to go on an exchange from Leiden University in The Hague to the Corvinus University in Budapest for one semester. In Budapest I enjoyed the advantages of studying at the best university of Central and Eastern Europe. There were many possibilities to follow interesting and region specific courses, like the history of communism in Central and Eastern Europe. All of this in beautiful traditional university buildings, located right in the city centre. The city of Budapest has a lot to offer its students, such as exciting restaurants with exotic cuisines, an amazing night life and (of course) relaxing in a Spa after studying for your exams. Furthermore, there is an amazing international student community in Budapest in which you will never be lonely, making friends for life and building an international network for your further career. Another great experience is the Hungarian culture. Not being used to outsiders, once they get to know you, the Hungarians are the most hospitable people in Europe and you’ll be part of the Hungarian family forever.
Paris I spent an exchange semester at SciencesPo in Paris. I can recommend this experience to everybody! First of all, as a city Paris had certainly many things to offer that you cannot find in Leuven. Keep in mind though, that it is not student-minded at all and that costs for housing and general expenses can be multiplied by two or three compared with Leuven. The courses at SciencesPo were very interesting, I took for example “Lobbying européen” and “Systèmes politiques nationaux de l’ UE”. You can take courses in French or English or both - like I did - but if you already have proficiency in French, it might be worthwhile to take all courses in French (being of course more demanding). At SciencesPo, one also works with a pleasant teaching method. Emphasis is placed on presentations and papers during the semester, meaning you will have a lot of work during the semester. Therefore, the exams at the end only count for a smaller percentage of the grades. But eventually, it all pays off since the courses offered are very stimulating. Moreover, SciencesPo is perhaps not the “typical” exchange experience, in that teachers are demanding and treat you as a regular student.