One of my best de­ci­sions while study­ing abroad

Studying law in France is very demanding - which makes it all the more important to offset all that desk time. At my host university, there is a great range of sports courses - and the benefits go beyond getting exercise!

Isabelle with her Volleyballteam.
I met almost all my French friends here through playing volleyball. Photo: private

It’s a challenge studying law in France: you spend a lot of time studying not only the material, but also the French terminology. As a result, you spend most of your time sitting down. I quickly realised how important it was for me to get moving and find some balance that way. Fortunately, there is a large and well-organised range of sports courses at Assas University!

University sports are organised differently at Assas than they are at Humboldt-Universität. In order to support students’ physical and mental health, every student gets to take a free class every semester. The choice in Berlin is broader, but still there is something here for everyone, from rock 'n roll courses to classic fitness classes to fencing, which is highly regarded in France.

Improving grade point averages, one PE course at a time

What makes the offer here even more appealing is that by taking a sports course, you can get extra points that improve your grade point average at the end of the year. For most courses you get 1-1.5 points, at competition level it can even be 2 points. This doesn't mean you can skip a whole exam, but in the minor subjects you need 5 out of 10 points to pass - so a few extra points can make all the difference. This extra motivation seems to work pretty well. Compared to Berlin, where at most half of my friends take advantage of the university sports programme, here all the people I know go to at least one sports class and honestly enjoy it.

For me personally, the decision to play volleyball again was one of the best I made in Paris. Due to some initial difficulties, which I described in my first blog post, I only joined the volleyball training a little later than the others. However, since one of the competitive teams was still missing a setter, the coach immediately asked me whether I would like to come along to competitions as well. I ended up playing my first competition for the Assas on the very same day!

Friendships and sheep in the "Greater Paris" area

This definitely intimidated me a bit at the beginning, because here, too, I encountered a special jargon. If you tell me in German, I have no problem understanding which position I should stand on, which part of my technique I need to polish up, or where to run to in runner-1. In French, I was a bit apprehensive at first, but was able to pick up the most important terms in no time and could quickly concentrate on the game.

The competitions are organised differently in the different sports. In fencing, for example, there is a big tournament day where several rounds take place in a row, whereas in volleyball we are in a kind of league. There, in addition to the weekly two-hour training, we play against other universities in the Paris area every Thursday. Even though everything officially still counts as part of Paris, we have also taken longer train journeys. We came to realise that “Greater Paris” is indeed very generously defined when, one day, a bunch of sheep crossed our way on the hosting university’s campus. But the trips are a great bonding experience for the team - not only because of the weekly matches, but also because of the time spent going there together, which can be up to an hour one-way. For me, this last one is an important aspect because I met almost all my French contacts here through playing volleyball.

(Published 20 February 2023)