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Dublin High School Alum Hania Guiagoussou on Combining Computer + Political Science at Sciences Po + Columbia

July 30, 2018

DUBLIN, CA–A few years ago we profiled Hania Guiagoussou after she was awarded Oracle Duke’s Choice Award for her Java-based water saver project. Fast forward to 2018 and Hania has just completed her first year of college at Sciences Po Reims (France) where she started a dual degree Sciences Po / Columbia University program, with the unique combination of political science and computer science. We recently spoke with Hania as part our popular Life in College series of articles (over 80 Dublin High School alum have been profiled).

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OneDublin.org: How did you decide on a joint degree program?

Hania Guiagoussou: “After the Canadian election, when I was doing a lot of research on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I found out that his father [and former Canadian Prime Minister] Pierre Trudeau went to Sciences Po. I discovered that there were Sciences Po alumni from all over the world including most of the French Presidents. I became super interested in Science Po when I learned the school has joint programs with Berkeley, UBC and Columbia.

“I had to work really hard to convince my parents about how cool and enriching it would be to spend two years in France, improving my French and learning a new culture, and then coming back to New York for Columbia. After getting into the school my parents said yes!”

OneDublin.org: Your combination of majors is really cool and unique. What led you in that direction?

Hania Guiagoussou: “The decision started with the 2016 election and discussions we had in my AP English Language class at Dublin High School. Our teacher exposed us to so many books on social justice, civil rights, Malcolm X and the wounds of American history, which got me very interested in politics and social justice. I kept reading cases about racism and Islamophobia, and started closely following the news. I started to see that I could make an impact on the world through the study of politics and government.

“I still wanted to pursue computer science and thought this program would be the way to achieve both goals.”

OneDublin.org: Is finishing both degrees in four years possible?

Hania Guiagoussou: “Having computer science as the second degree will make it pretty hard, and my advisors warned me that it may not be possible to complete both degrees in four years because the Sciences Po credits won’t transfer for the computer science requirements. There will be a sacrifice when I reach Columbia and it may take longer than four years, but they said it is possible. There have been students who after completing two years at Sciences Po have pursued a degree in Environmental Studies or Neuroscience; it’s possible.

“I’ve spoken to other exchange students and their advice was to not make graduating in four years my only priority.”

OneDublin.org: What has been your experience living in France and being so far away from home?

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Hania Guiagoussou: “It was pretty scary at first. I was excited to experience a whole new environment outside of Dublin and the US university system. The school is small and there was definitely culture shock. I’m a native French speaker which made it easier to adapt as compared to other students who are not French speakers. The experience has helped me grow as a person, to become more social, more open and more comfortable speaking a different language since it’s been a really long time since I’ve spoken French.

“Speaking and writing French in an academic environment was a challenge, despite having grown up speaking French.”

OneDublin.org: How has the transition been from high school to college-level academics?

Hania Guiagoussou: “So far our main courses have been lecture-style in an amphitheater, and similar to high school everyone is taking the same classes during the first year. We also had smaller classes with 18-20 kids. We had quizzes, we had tests, we had homework – overall it really felt like high school. The main difference were the mid-terms and finals. The workload was a lot more and you need to be more independent, but I felt prepared.”

OneDublin.org: What was the coolest thing about living in France for eight months?

Hania Guiagoussou: “The coolest thing was meeting different people from all around the world and having discussions about what they’ve gone through. At the beginning of the year I was discussing politics with a girl from Singapore, where they have a one party system, and how that approach has worked without it being a dictatorship. She viewed Singapore’s approach as democratic and hearing her personal view was very interesting. If you are writing a report you can go talk to someone from that country and hear their perspective.

“I also remember earlier this year a student from Burkina Faso who’s teacher was killed in a terrorist attack; it was such an emotional moment. The student wrote a speech about his experience which helped us gain a first-hand understanding of the tragedy.

“Being among such an international body of students has been very interesting.”

OneDublin.org: What were your strategies as a daughter, to help your parents with you so far away?

Hania Guiagoussou: “My parents are very strict and I was lucky to have relatives in France. Compared to other students I was in a better place. What really helps us is having daily phone calls – I talk to my mom every single day – it’s very rare for us to miss a phone call. I share how my day has been and that really helps put my parents at ease. Social media, my mom is on Snapchat, helps out too.”

OneDublin.org: What extracurricular activities have you participated in?

Hania Guiagoussou: “I joined an African association, SASA, to discuss problems and solutions specific to the African continent. Next year I want to participate in a coding club.”

OneDublin.org: What advice do you have for high school students who are about to head off to their first year of college?

Hania Guiagoussou: “Work hard and remember your goals. In high school there are clear goals – achieve this GPA, get into college. In college there isn’t the same structure and at first I struggled to make specific goals. It’s important to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are, and to think about your goals. Some students let loose when they get to college, but really the hard work starts when you arrive in college. Your goal of getting into college leads to setting a whole new set of goals.”

OneDublin.org: Are there any Dublin High School teachers you’d like to embarrass with a shout out?

Hania Guiagoussou: “Mr. Kaehms, my computer science teacher, was so supportive. He kept telling me to keep pursuing computer science, and to combine a political science degree with computer science. Ms. Hake kept asking about me – having teachers who don’t forget about you, who are always thinking about your success, means a lot.”

During her senior year at Dublin High School, Hania received the Presidential Gold and Gael Scholar awards.

Know a Dublin High School graduate we should profile or interested in submitting your Life in College story? Contact us at editor@onedublin.org!DSC07243.

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