Franco-Nigerian Student Exchanges - Ayoola Fakunmoju

202210 Ayoola

"My experience as an Erasmus+ / Sciences Po mobility grant exchange student in Paris"


Ayoola Fakunmoju, a IFRA-Nigeria fellow and student in sociology at the University of Ibadan had the opportunity to study at Sciences Po in Paris for the 2022 spring semester. She recalls the experience, the challenges and the things that she learnt. 

Since when are you an IFRA Fellow ? How did you hear about IFRA and how have you benefited from IFRA-Nigeria? 

Looking back to the period I received an email as a research fellow of the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA-Nigeria) and putting together my document for the Erasmus +/Mobility Grant call for application, the pre-selection stage and the interview process of shortlisted applicants, I can truly say it was worth every minute of my time invested. As an MSc student in the Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan, I saw a call for a Transcription Officer for the TNOC project with IFRA and I applied. Fortunately, I got the job and started working on the files. Along the line I got to know what IFRA was all about and took interest in the workshops and training programs, so I applied to be a Fellow in 2020, that same year I was awarded Fellow of the month of October, 2020.


How did you hear about the exchange programme with Sciences Po ? 

Starting this Exchange Program seemed like a reality that would have never come through. The institute sends out various academic opportunities to all fellows in order to help expand their scholarship and this was how I got to know about the exchange program with Sciences Po which I applied for. Having been selected as a recipient of the Erasmus +/Sciences Po mobility grant semester exchange between the University of Ibadan and Sciences Po through the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA-Nigeria) in May 2020 and expected to commence in September 2020. I was advised to differ the admission till the spring semester in 2021 due to the Covid 19 Pandemic and the worrisome surge in Paris, France. Unfortunately, the pandemic situation did not improve and I was offered an opportunity to take the exchange virtually as my school, Sciences Po had gone virtual the following semester. I considered this option because at the time, Nigerian universities were on a nationwide strike and I was going to have time to focus on my classes virtually. Well, so I thought until the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called off the strike and the examination time table for my second semester was released, also the Department of Sociology set a deadline for submission of our final year thesis shortly after the strike was called off. At this moment, I knew it would be impossible to focus on my virtual classes for my exchange program and still prepare for my final examination as well as my thesis. Stuck between my worries, I ran to IFRA-Nigeria again for the best academic advice I could get and decided to defer again.  Differing this time gave me the opportunity to prepare well enough for my exams and enabled me the opportunity to graduate as the best graduating student in the Department of Sociology as a whole. I also became a recipient of the Professor Isi-Ugo Abanihe award for the best graduating student in Demography and Population Study. 

I ordinarily expected that I would be able to resume fully at Sciences Po by fall semester but unfortunately, due to some unavoidable circumstances, I was unable to complete my enrollment process for the semester. At this point, the administrative staff of the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA-Nigeria) had changed and I felt the dream of studying at the best institution focused on Political Sciences in Paris was lost.  Alas, to my greatest surprise the current administration provided me with all the support and guidance needed to ensure that I embark on my exchange program by spring semester 2022. The process commenced and fast forward to today, I have concluded my semester exchange in International Development (Global Health Major) at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po. 



202210 AyoolaBHow was it to study at Sciences Po ? Can you tell us what was different from what you experienced in Nigeria ? 

The exchange program offers an opportunity for international students to partake in the professionally relevant social sciences curriculum, take same courses as students doing a degree programme at Sciences Po and form an integral part of the student community. The learning system was quite new and at different times I felt some culture shock because the experiences I had studying in Nigeria was totally different from what I was now exposed to. The study experience was great, it was interesting and very enlightening. Firstly, the level of class interaction was one that I had never experience before. Professors had a list of articles to be read throughout the semester and for every class, students had to engage based on these readings such that 75% of the lecture time went into class discussions. This was a new form of learning because everyone just had to share a valid perspective, learn from other experiences as students come from different continents. Secondly, the approach to midterm and final examination was different. We had essays for the midterm and final exams available on the student module platform rather than the in-class invigilated examinations I was used to, we had fewer questions to attempt which are uploaded to the module weeks before the end of the semester, as opposed to the 3 hours final examinations we had in Nigeria. Professors also provided a list of materials and articles to read and reference in order to answer the exam question(s) provided, in other instances students are asked to develop a problématique from the articles provided and this forms the final assessment. 


How did you like the intercultural experience of studying Paris? 

During my stay in Paris, I made quite a number of friends from France, Sudan, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Algeria and the United States with whom I visited a lot of attraction sights because this is a beautiful city rich in culture, art and history. I visited the Louvre Museum, Musee d’Orsay, Eiffel tower, Notre-Dame cathedral, Luxembourg Jardin, Parc Montsouris, Montparnasse tower, Opera Garnier, Seine River, and the Galeries Lafayette among many others. In these places I made beautiful memories, had a lot of fun and even had the opportunity to visit Osnabruck, Germany all of which would not be possible without my engagement with IFRA. Thanks to IFRA I have been able to network, make connections with an international community, and strengthened my knowledge in Global health with courses I took during the semester, and I look forward to PhD opportunities within this field.  

Tags: France, profiles

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