Droplets of rain, grey clouds, and the wheels of a few suitcases scratching the concrete. Frightened faces asking, “you don’t have working coffee machines”, “is that the entire campus?”, “is the weather always so gloomy?”, or “where can we eat something in less than 10 minutes?”. Questions that us, Havrais, keep on asking to ourselves. You might think this is the beginning of yet another complaint about the wonderful city we get to call home for two years. But you’d be wrong. Because this weekend, Perret and Niemeyer had everything to offer, and all campuses got their breath taken away by Bharatanatyam, clapped to Bollywood, danced to LH sessions. This weekend, this nation’s elite got drunk au Fût, and slept less than a 6-month-old toddler. Yes, this weekend, we listened to the most wonderful speeches, heard a member of government offer a Kinder Bueno, and Stéphanie Balme became a swimming teacher. Le Havre hosted le Prix Richard Descoings.
Although it would be an expectable pun to ask you to embark on the Odysseus of PRD with me -the theme of this year’s prize, for those of you who missed it-, I’d still like to navigate the troubled waters of eloquence’s biggest Sciences Po contest. We went through rivers and bridges, guys with briefcases, hits of heroine, youth and old age, doubt, cheap wine, and Dijon definitely hit the stars. Lost in this myriad of words, I tried to swim against the current of time, and explore the hidden part of the iceberg.
Before attending the PRD, I thought it would be yet another Sciences Po’s episode of “don’t do good, do better”. Better than before, but rather, better than others. And how couldn’t we feel that way? Surrounded by bright, charismatic, incredible people that have written books, probably launched two startups, and most likely invented hot water in a past life, what do I have to bring to the table? Perhaps yet another sarcastic, ironic article, for the sole goal of proving that I see through all of us, that I am better in some way. But don’t worry, being better is also not being predictable. Or am I?
I think PRD has shown me how grateful we should all feel to be part of this community. We are surrounded by better people than us. We are learning, every second. This weekend, I could burst in tears or cry of laughter in the same amphitheater in which I learn about sociology of gender. Point is, and to quote one great speech of this weekend, who doesn’t love getting wet in a sea of knowledge, especially when it comes from all of us? Our dear dean sure agreed.
The question remains. What will I be remembered for? If not for being better, if not for doing good, or even being good? Perhaps all that matters is that I remember this voyage. Because this is the Asian campus, I’d like to mention the Japanese art of kintsugi. The art of repairing broken things with golden paint because something broken and repaired should be appreciated as new, different. Our impostor syndrome probably all made us feel like empty bowls. I can only speak for myself when I say that Sciences Po, and its people, have made me travel in all corners of my mind, and painted my broken bowl with golden lines. Along these lines, I travel. A drink and a smile shared when the city was too cold for the warmth of happiness. The stories of the Mahabharata told by a friend when I felt empty of philosophy. A drunk party and a tough Sunday morning which revealed a whole world of promises. Waking up with my roommates, at the 6th floor of our building, watching the sun rise on Hôtel de Ville. From sunset to sunset, I travelled. I travelled in people’s eyes, seeing their countries and their cultures. In people’s hearts, listening to their stories. In people’s hands, collecting each moment they have touched like one would do with precious jewelry. I carry that necklace on my chest.
It’s also the fleeting kiss which robbed me of my heart, for a little while. The tears because I could not do better. The exhaustion of feeling like I am running after a train I will not catch and see all my peers planning their trip to their future, like a well-oiled machine. The disappointment of not knowing where I’m headed, not even whether my head is in the clouds or down the earth. The voyage, back and forth, between certainty and utter anxiety. Running with a pointed finger, feeling like I can almost touch my destination, and remembering I don’t even know where I want to go. The G spot of life.
Sciences Po is a rocky boat, and sometimes, I felt I could have very much drowned in its troubled waters. In this city, my mind is crowded and feels like the Mumbai’s local train, going back and forth along the same line: do good, be better. Be good, do better. Swimming against the current and hitting the stars at the same time. I think sometimes, I perhaps just hit the shores. The time to say goodbye is knocking at the door of our campuses, louder and louder as the weeks go by. And I still can’t answer my question, what will I be remembered for?
This weekend, Le Havre hosted the PRD -quite brilliantly, thanks to our wonderful SPK team. And it made me realize that I know why I’ll remember each and every one of you. Not for winning, not for being better, not even for your speeches. I’ll remember you because you said this one word, which enlightened my day or even changed my life. I’ll remember you for your smile, for your art, for your hugs, for that one pair of pants I love. I’ll remember you for all the golden lines you painted on my scars.
The sun slowly drowns in the sea in front of campus, as I wrap up this article. The memories of this weekend are crushing my heart under some sort of nostalgia. The amber rays are painting the most beautiful kintsugi on the ocean, all is silence, light, and only my keyboard and the seagulls sing in unison. Still water runs deep. All is repaired and reborn. And I can only think, how lucky are we to find each other. I put my scarf on, choose my music, the sun is dead, and I can’t see the golden rays anymore. Like all of you, I am ready to go home. But I’ll do so with all the faces and the words in mind, travelling again and again, writing our own Odysseus. We’re doing good.
By Maud Niemi