An Inspirational Year in Paris with the UK’s European University

It’s no coincidence that some of the greatest creative minds of all time have gravitated to Paris, from Pablo Picasso to Ernest Hemingway. Still to this day, scores of people from the four corners of the globe come to Paris to be inspired whether they are merely on holiday or do an extended stay to write, learn French or simply take in the city. However, if you’re looking to connect with Paris on a deeper level and advance your craft, you may want to consider the University of Kent’s MA programmes in arts and culture.

It’s still possible to sign up for some of their programmes for autumn 2020 or winter 2021. What’s more, Americans are allowed to come to France for their studies, despite the current travel restrictions, as long as they can get a visa, which can be processed quickly depending on the consulate. Kent is also being flexible regarding Covid in case unforeseen circumstances arise. I originally came to Paris for my studies and think that this is one of the best ways to experience the city. I was therefore very keen to visit Kent’s Paris campus to learn more about their unique programmes, which you can discover below.

The Paris School of Arts and Culture

With a main campus in Canterbury, England, the University of Kent is one of the UK’s top research-intensive universities. It has several satellite campuses in Europe, among these is their Paris School of Arts and Culture, the only graduate programme in the Humanities in Paris run by a British University. Even the American University of Paris doesn’t offer subjects in the Humanities at the graduate level. Since courses are taught in English, prior knowledge of French is not required, but it’s something students can choose to work on during their time in Paris.

The program revolves around four different areas of study, English and American Literature, Creative Writing, Film and History and Philosophy of Art, although students can opt to take some classes in other fields. Led by internationally respected academics, lectures are taught at Reid Hall and are complemented with study trips to museums, art exhibitions, cinemas, archives and in various other places around the city—Paris is a veritable open air textbook.

Top Photos Courtesy of Reid Hall – Columbia Global Centers

Studying at Renowned Reid Hall

The University of Kent is one of academic institutions housed within Reid Hall. The prestigious university complex is ideally located in the Montparnasse area, the heart of artistic and literary Paris in the early 20th century and a short walk from the Sorbonne, the Luxembourg Gardens and the Saint Germain neighborhood.

Arriving on the quiet side street, I pushed open a large wooden door and entered the campus’ peaceful oasis of refined buildings, graceful courtyards and verdant gardens. The history of the site goes back to the mid-eighteenth century when the main building was a porcelain factory. In 1834, the complex took on its first intellectual function when it was transformed into a Protestant school. The property was bought by Elizabeth Mills Reid in 1893, a wealthy philanthropist and social activist. She converted it into the American Girls’ Art Club, a sort of finishing school for young American women, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who spent a year here in 1949. It was bequeathed to Columbia University in 1964 and today is known as the Columbia Global Centers. 

The historic character of the complex has been beautifully retained and students might attend classes in rooms where Gertrude Stein or Simone de Beauvoir gave guest lectures. In addition to the outdoor sitting areas in the courtyards, there is a cozy lounge where students can mingle and a library room complete with a long wooden table, fireplace and iron chandeliers.

A Stimulating & Interactive Student Experience 

The majority of the University of Kent Paris students come from the UK, US and Canada, however, there are students from all over the world. Unlike other study opportunities in Paris, like the French civilisation courses at the Sorbonne, since this is a Master’s programme, you have a cohort of mature students. In fact, this past year the students ranged from 22 to 80 years old! So it’s never too late to get a Master’s.

“In addition to the academic programme, there are a lot of social activities,,” says Emily Rae, Kent Paris’ on-site administrator. “Once a week there is a Student Forum featuring special guests such as writers in residence, curators and film directors who can inspire the student’s own career path. Then the year is capped off by a week-long cultural festival designed entirely by students at the School.”

Students can also choose to get involved in The Menteur, an arts and literary magazine run by the MA students. It features poetry, prose, art and photography submissions and offers students an opportunity to showcase their work and build their portfolio.

More Than a Master’s, a Life Changing Experience

“One of the best things about Kent is that there’s a great ambiance and an ‘anything is possible’ philosophy,” says Dr. Frances Geurin, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of Graduate Studies of the Paris programme. “Student’s ideas are taken seriously and professors help them make things happen.”

“The programme can be life changing,” she adds, before telling me about a Turkish student who, after attending Jim Haynes’ famous Sunday Dinner event, was so inspired by the experience that she made a film about it. She came back to Paris when it was finished and a screening of it was at Reid Hall.

“Many students decide to stay on in Paris once they complete their degree,” added Frank Mikus, Kent Paris’ Office Manager. “One graduate now works at the Paris-based OECD, while another curates content for an online art gallery headquartered here in the Montparnasse district.”

I can personally attest to the life changing powers of studying in Paris. I was so inspired by my own time studying in Paris that I decided to make it my permanent home. While this doesn’t have to be your own ultimate plan, a Master’s at Kent Paris’ School of Art and Culture will certainly broaden your mind, immerse yourself in Paris and alter your life path.

Read more about the University of Kent’s Master’s Programmes and application process on its website at this link.

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