"Teaching what is at the cutting edge makes the need to fully grasp the basic principles become more obvious."

Professor Alan Aylward, Dept of Physics and Astronomy

Studying in Paris for a Dual Master's

7 August 2013

Luca Iemi, a postgraduate student in the Institute of Neurology, explains the appeal of doing half of his Master’s in Paris.


The concept

The Dual Master’s in Brain and Mind Sciences is a two-year course in which students spend their first year at UCL and their second in Paris. At the end of it, students gain a Master’s from UCL and an international university diploma (Master’s level) from UPMC/ENS.

At the time of interview, Luca was about to depart for Paris.

Luca’s story

I am originally from Italy but I studied in Stockholm before coming to UCL. I’m from a very small place so I always wanted to travel, but I also think that studying in a range of countries gives you more job opportunities.

I was attracted to the Dual Master’s because we get to choose our own modules. The nature of the degree is also useful, internationally speaking, because I don’t think the British Master’s degree is recognised in Italy – they require a Master’s to have 180 credits whereas the UK Master’s is only 60 credits. Spending a second year in France enables me to say I’ve got a ‘full’ Master’s.

I’ve never studied in France before, I just thought it would be nice to go to another big European city! When you’re at university it’s really easy to travel but I don’t know whether it still will be once I start working and settling down; this is the best time to just do a year here and a year there.

I’m not fluent in French but I’m going to try and learn. I will be able to choose modules given in English and even though some lectures might be in French I can still write my exams in English. I know it sounds a bit scary but I was in Sweden last year and although Swedish doesn’t sound very easy I learned it, not fluently, but I can have a conversation. Italy isn’t great at teaching languages but I was motivated to learn English so I did. It’s just about having the will to be somewhere new. I feel there’s a lot to discover.

I’ve noticed a few differences in the way that my subject is approached and taught between the UK and Mediterranean Europe. Here, the focus is on research-based knowledge, but in France I think it will be more about critical appraisal and my own opinion – it will be useful to have a grounding in both schools of thought. When it comes to teaching, in Italy, you have to interact with your professors in a very formal manner; I find people friendlier here and therefore it’s easier to work and do well. I suspect the teaching I receive in Paris will be more similar in style to Italy than the UK although, having said that, I have chatted to my research supervisor on Skype and she seems very nice.

At UCL I have interacted with students from France, Italy, Germany, the UK, Norway, Denmark… I think having a good range of nationalities is very beneficial to learning because it broadens your horizons.

Having studied in a range of countries will hopefully boost my employability but also help me decide where I want to end up. Knowing a range of languages will give me a greater choice in where to live, but having experienced different countries first-hand is also useful because, for example, I really like Stockholm and its working environment but I wouldn’t want to live there because it’s so cold and dark in the winter!

Talking to British students, I think a lot of them see going abroad as losing time, but that doesn’t make sense to me because, for example, although I didn’t actually study that much when I went to Nottingham Trent University on Erasmus, it helped me way more than being at home: I learned English, I did some networking, I discovered new things and it really changed my ideas about the future.

In most European countries going abroad is seen as a very positive thing but here there’s sometimes an attitude of “I’m going to lose a year, I’m not going to do much, I will struggle with the language.” People are asking me, “Oh my God, Luca, are you fluent in French, do you know what you’re doing?” And I’m like, “No, but hopefully I will learn.”

Luca is now in Paris doing the second year of his Master’s.

Interview by Ele Cooper

Further information 

Page last modified on 07 aug 13 16:40

Tell us about the inspiring teaching and learning taking place in your department: email teaching.learning@ucl.ac.uk