Inga Linkert, 26 years old, student of Master of Arts in Creative Direction is at Strate – École de Design, France, doing a study abroad in the Master in Design for Smart Cities program.
I went abroad to focus my profession on the topics of the people and cities of the future, to improve my French and, above all, to get to know people and cultures throughout the world.
The Strate École de Design is located in Sèvre, just a few kilometers from Paris and easily reachable by train. The Strate is innovative and up-to-date. The idea of user-centered design is not only taught here, but active field trips are made, where you can talk directly to the users. This provides a very important input for the projects.
The building is a bit run down: the furniture is plastic and not stable, there are no real windows in the rooms and it is cold in the cafeteria. There are workshops that seem to be well equipped. However, I did not use them. There is a Cintiq room and several computer rooms. The computers are very old, same as some of the software. For example, they are still working with CS6 from Adobe.
The cafeteria is okay, but quite expensive. For a court you pay between 6-8 euros (even as student).
The staff and most professors are very helpful and friendly. In particular, the director Dominique is always friendly, dedicated and seems to be very well connected with the industry (resulting in many cooperation projects in the school).
Master in Design for Smart Cities
The ‚Design for Smart Cities‘ Master program focuses on the needs of people in the cities of the future. The program is innovative and lives the idea of user-centered design. The projects offer a lot of innovation potential and room for creative new ideas. It was about new technologies, urban planning, environment design, interaction design, game development and the identity of cities. All courses are taught in English. The timetable was a bit chaotic and could change within minutes. Some courses were great and interesting. Some courses were not that good, as unfortunately some teachers were not qualified.
We had a cooperation project with Prisma Media, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann Verlag (www.prismamedia.com). The project was purposeful, interesting and the customer excited. We are particularly proud that our ideas are being further developed and even implemented at Prisma Media.
The second major collaborative project was with Idemia, which focuses on digital verification in, for example, banking and is now looking for new options and market opportunities (www.idemia.com). Also this project was very interesting regarding the city of the future. However, the professor was unfortunately not competent to lead this project and couldn’t express himself in english.
For the most exciting project, we traveled to China (https://lrdc.lucitopia.cn/en/). In a field trip in the Chinese countryside, we talked with the locals to get to know their needs and desires. In an international competition with design schools from around the world, we have created innovative ideas that enhance the villager’s quality of life and fights the depopulation of these rual areas in a sustainable way. The week was challenging, as we had no water or working restrooms in the first days, but I do not want to miss this experience. We were really happy about winning the second prize in the competition. The costs for the trip were taken over completely and I was glad that I was allowed to participate as an exchange student in the project.
My semester was very international, which made the work on the projects very exciting. Different cultures from India, China, Japan, Germany, France, Mexico and Singapore have looked at the topics and challenges from different perspectives. Overall, the class was very small, 4 permanent students and 6 exchange students. As an exchange student I was fully integrated into the class. That was good on the one hand, however, so the Strate also turned out to be very inflexible. I had a total of maybe 14 different courses and wanted to change only one of them. I was directly threatened that I would fall through the entire semester, if I change even one course. With the variety of studies and courses at the Strate I found this a great pity, as I would have liked to do more of my exchange experience!
Living in Paris
I decided to spend the semester directly in Paris instead of Sèvres. The rents are not different and I wanted to get to know the city and the French culture. I was very lucky: with the help of an agency I was able to move into a small studio right on the Eiffel Tower (with an incredibly friendly landlady)! The agency also helped me with the application for the French student housing money 'CAF'.
It is very important to know that Paris is very very expensive. It is normal to pay around 50-100 euros per square meter of rent. The supermarkets, bars and restaurants are a lot more expensive than in Germany. My monthly ticket for metro and bus (Pass Navigo) cost me about 75 euros a month.
If you do not have enough savings, freelance work or financial help from your parents, you better not go to Paris, as it will not be fun. Unfortunately, the ERASMUS scholarship is only enough for one rent and will not be paid on time. I have taken a student loan to pay my monthly rent and health insurance. The agency cost me 550 euros, which I can absolutely recommend, as it is very difficult to find a good affordable room. The agency was there for me all semester and helped me to get the CAF and open a French bank account. They manage many rooms, studios and homestays in Paris. I can give you the contact, just write me!
Paris is beautiful, the architecture is breathtaking and the exhibitions and art collections are incomparable. Up to 25 years you can get into many museums for free (unfortunately this was not the case with me). Paris is very green, the many parks invite you to go for a walk and chill out. Directly in Paris you can also move well via bike sharing (App: ,Vélib') and with e-scooters (App:' Lime 'or' Bird '). Just download the apps and go! Due to the ongoing Yellow Vest demonstrations, local traffic unfortunately did not work well on Saturdays adn holidays.
Paris has many nice bars and cafes where you can enjoy your ‚Apero‘ in the evening. I have not found many good clubs for dancing. If you like techno, you should definitely go to 'Concrete'. This is a techno club on a boat and like many clubs in Paris, entry is free before 11pm.
On Facebook, there are two Erasmus organizations planning events and trips for exchange students. However, the organizers curiously speak only French. The events are okay, but there is no real ERASMUS community in Paris (like in other big cities).
If you want to do sports and do not want to sign an expensive contract in the gym, I recommend the apps 'OLY be' and 'Affordable Yoga'. In the apps you can book various yoga and fitness classes, for just 6-10 Euro per course!
You should be able to communicate in French in Paris. I also recommend taking a credit card, as in France more is paid by card than by cash.
I had an exciting time in Paris. The courses took me a lot further, but it was also exhausting and a lot of work. I had imagined the semester abroad a bit more free, so that I can live out my interests and focus thematically more. However, the Strate has been very inflexible and schooled. Although I have also completed my courses in Pforzheim, my grades are now replaced by the marks of the Strate, which unfortunately worsens my average. The time in Paris was great and I met many wonderful people. However, I am now sad that due to my additional commitment and diligence, my master's degree has deteriorated and I have to pay back an expensive student loan of over 4000 euros.