After finishing her Bachelor in Laws (LLB) at the University of Mauritius and working for a bit, Shazia moved to Paris for her Master degree. The journey was a hard one and is almost close to be over. She shares her experiences with us about moving to Paris for her Master’s, as part of the Leaving the Nest series I’m doing about Mauritians studying abroad. Was it worth it? I bet she’d say yes.
So, tell us a bit more about yourself? What have been up to since you left college?
Due to some financial constraints, I chose to stay in Mauritius and start an LLB at the University of Mauritius. Following my LLB (and a well-deserved sabbatical break), I joined a French Legal-Process Outsource (LPO) company based in Ebène, where my job involved various tasks outsourced from European law firms towards our Mauritian office. A year and a half later, I was offered the Bourse du Gouvernement Français (scholarship from the French government) to study for a master’s in France. I have, since, been living in Nanterre (outskirts of Paris). I’m currently in the second year of my master’s degree in “Droit des relations internationales et de l’Union européenne” (Master’s in International and European Law with a specialisation in international relations).
What led you to study this particular subject?
Well, I can’t say it was something I always knew I’d study. I had always been drawn to the legal field, but my passion has always been languages and literature. Following graduation, I had to make a tough choice between my passion for literature and the rational choice of going for a legal degree. I’m the type of person who always needs a challenge; choosing literature would have been a safe choice and would offer no new challenge to me. So instead, I decided to go for an LLB, knowing it would be a new challenge for me to tame and overcome. During these three years, I fell in love with the international aspects of law: international law, human rights and environmental law. I knew that I wanted to specialise in international law and international relations. This would allow me to merge my passions for languages and politics with my newfound love for law.
Why did you choose to study in Mauritius and France?
As opposed to most people who would answer this interview, I technically did not choose to stay in Mauritius to study. I wanted to study at one of the best universities, so I applied to universities in London and Paris. I was overjoyed to get in but I had some serious financial constraints, which made it impossible for me to fulfil my dreams. The choice I made was: not to burden my parents with trying to find exorbitant funds for me to study abroad and stay in Mauritius, at least for my first degree. I can say it was not the easiest choice: having to reject my dream universities to stay home was one of the hardest things to do. Looking back, I believe I made the right choice back then.
Patience is something I learnt over the three years at the University of Mauritius. Patience and perseverance were what got me to be here now in France. This time, things were different. I had less financial constraints since I had been working, which meant I could apply for a Master’s anywhere. I chose France since the degree appeared more compatible with my career goals. As opposed to a one-year LLM in the UK, France has a two-year Master’s program, which allows me to explore more areas of international law and go more in depth. I initially planned to study at Réunion Island, due to the proximity and it being cheaper. Getting the French scholarship changed everything; I decided to take the risk and chose to study in Paris. I had always dreamed of living in Paris and the wonderful opportunity offered me the chance just for that. It was the biggest risk I have ever taken, and till now, I cannot say I regret it.
How was the adjustment from Mauritius to Paris?
I have to admit it was not that easy. It was the first time I was on my own, far away. I do not have any family over here, so the loneliness kicked in quickly. It got even harder with the French method of teaching. The teaching style of the University of Mauritius is more closely similar to the one in UK universities. The teaching style here in France is at polar opposite. I had to quickly get used to a massive work load and different approaches to teaching. The adjustment was even harder since it had been more than a year since I had been a student. It took me a while to get back in the skin of a student.
What did you wish you had known before the BIG move?
I somehow knew what to expect. I just assumed I was grown-up and prepared to face any obstacles thrown my way. I wished I had listened to the people telling me that whatever the age, moving away from the people you love most is hard. I wished I had a clearer picture of the various administrative procedures to complete. Finally, I also wished I had known that no matter how organised you may be, things never go the way they are supposed to. You just have to learn to pick yourself up and adapt yourself to the situation.
What was the hardest thing to get used to?
Getting back to an empty room with no working internet connection to speak to my friends and family. Also, the loneliness: a year later, I still have only two or three friends. Let’s just say I am not particularly accomplished at friend-making.
What is one thing that struck you about your time abroad?
How people always imagine our country as the postcard beaches and coconut trees. I always get asked if I’m from India or Sri Lanka or Cambodia. When I answer I’m from Mauritius, they always seem super excited about it and start speaking of beaches and all.
What do/did you miss the most from home?
Right now, the comfort of a properly functional internet connection. I also miss the ease of jumping in a car to go watch the sunset or simply go to the beach. One thing I have been craving since I have been here is Chinese food from home: boulettes, fried rice, fried noodles, ANYTHING. Finding Halal Chinese restaurants are not easy here. But I believe what I miss the most is my loved ones. Since moving away, I started speaking more to my Mom. The distance made us grow much closer, which makes it even harder when you’re far away. I miss the simple dishes from back home and the comfort of just sitting and watching TV with my parents. I also miss the comfort and anxiety-free lifestyle of home. I never realised how much I took things for granted, till I moved away and had to deal with bills and other “grown-up issues”.
What will/do you miss the most when/if you leave France?
Can I be cliché and say the baguettes and the pastries and sweets? I’ll miss the food, in general. I’ll certainly miss the wonderful sights and museums, Paris being the city of culture and all. Not to mention the shops and the sales. But I think, what I’ll miss the most is knowing that I can just jump on a train or a plane and go for an adventure, just over a weekend and at a minimal cost.
What would be your advice to newly graduated college students?
Staying home for studies is not a shame. I believed that studying at the University of Mauritius meant I was not as good as my friends who had degrees from London, Paris or the US. Looking back now, it was wrong to think that. No matter where you choose to study, it is up to you to make the experience good or bad. It is up to you to make the most of it and aspire to greater things always. Life works in mysterious ways, if I may say so. Never give up.
Leave me a message on Facebook or email me at themauritiangeographer[at]gmail[dot]com if you also want to share your experiences abroad.