Teaching & Learning Portal


Studying in Paris for a Dual Master's

11 September 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