Considering studying abroad for a year? I am insanely jalouse.
A bit of background info: I completed my Erasmus year in Lyon two years ago. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of the magical year I spent living next door to a beautiful boulangerie, almost (I stress, almost) becoming an athlete on my vélo and receiving a magical EU Grant for said “study” year.
To be honest, the idea of an Erasmus year didn’t always hold a huge fascination for me. Although I have always loved travelling, I did find the idea of living abroad for a whole year slightly daunting. I worked in Disneyland Paris in the summer before I was due to depart and unfortunately I returned home in the middle of August slightly disillusioned with the idea of ever living in France again, let alone for a whole year. However, I decided to go and I’m so glad I did. Here’s a few of my top tips for completing a year abroad in France.
- Try to have accommodation sorted before you begin
I know that this is the stressful bit- but it’s worth it! A company called “Crous” organise student accommodation (find their website here) in the major French cities and towns. While the accommodation varies in quality and is really quite basic (and some feature shared kitchens), it is extremely affordable, often well located and is full of students. I would definitely recommend this option. Otherwise, there are lots of Facebook groups (just search location appartement and the name of the city) and websites advertising accommodation. Unfortunately, many are extremely overpriced. You can search for a roommate on this website. Personally, I was extremely lucky and found my accommodation through another girl in my university who had lived in Lyon the previous year and gave me her landlord’s details. I paid €450 a month (all bills included) and shared with two other girls.
- Be organised
French bureaucracy almost gave my naive self a heart attack when I first arrived. Or my crossaint consumption. Whatever. Seriously though, even though you’ve only just arrived at the end of August and it’s lovely and sunny- you need to get organised. Firstly, get a bank account sorted. For this, you’ll need proof of address (this can be difficult to get, especially because you’ve probably only just moved in to your new apartment/ are still homeless), a student card (you’ll get this from your new university on orientation week) and proof of identity. Don’t do what I did and just run to the bank across the road from your university on your first day and decide to set up an account with them- try and find out if other banks have better student deals!
- Get your CAF set up
Basically, CAF is a French means of rental assistance. You should set this up the minute that you move into your new apartment and have your bank account set up as it takes so long to actually receive it. I’m not exactly sure of the rates but if your rent costs €500 you should be entitled to around €180 back. You register yourself on the CAF website and hope for the best. You will need a lot of documents- you can get their details on the website.
- Make sure you actually pass university!
When I applied for my Erasmus I’m pretty sure that nobody actually mentioned that a) classes start at 8AM in France b) the pass rate is 50%. Oh. In my particular university students were afforded around three weeks to sample classes and then pick whichever ones we liked. Or whichever your friends were doing… Ahem. A few crucial mistakes were made (who knew geography could be so difficult in French? Apparently doing it for the Leaving Cert all those years ago doesn’t make it easy…Oops) but here’s a sneaky tip- join the Facebook groups for your classes and sometimes a kind French person may donate you some notes if you’re having difficulty understanding (or attending…) class. Luckily I received the DEUF diploma aswell as passing the year- this is an extra diploma awarded when you pass 52 out of 60 credits. Merci Dieu.
- Travel as much as possible
Erasmus year is a dream for travelling. France has fantastic travel networks- make use of them. If you think you’re going to travel often, you can buy a student railcard for €49 which offers you up to 60% off fares. I bought one and personally didn’t think it was great- often the discounts offered weren’t even near the elusive 60%. A really cheap form of train transport is the Ouigo -it also serves Disneyland. Another popular and cheap way of travelling is the covoiturage system- this involves car sharing and can be organised here. Your Erasmus Student Network (ESN) in your area should organise some trips at a reduced price. Bon voyage 😉
Profitez-en bien! If you happen to be going to Lyon and are particularly stuck, these guys claim to be able to help you at a cost (note- I’ve never used them and don’t know anyone that has. Please message me if you’re having problems with anything Erasmus related without paying a large fee to any companies- I’ll do my best to help!).
As always, if you’ve any questions please feel free to comment!