Sorting out accommodation, especially in Paris, can seem like a mammoth task - how do you hear about the best deals, when should you start looking, should you look online or find somewhere when you’re there...By having a look at our Accommodation in France article, you can find out what are the sites to keep an eye on, if you’re planning on looking for private accommodation. As a student, you can apply through the CNOUS for halls and student residences. Additionally, by keeping an eye out on newspapers such as Fusac, you can keep abreast of student lets around Paris, for example. Other publications particular to your year abroad town will also have classified adverts.
It is very common for students and young professionals to rent bedsits or ‘studios’ in France - although there are some flatshare websites available, most ads are for one-person-only pads. It might not be something you are used to, coming from UK flat or house sharing, mais c’est comme ça ici. Depending on whether you’d quite like some space on your own or sharing with some Frenchies or other Erasmus students, you can choose from there. If you’re looking into flat and house terminology, you might have come across some weird acronyms (the French love them) - for a list and their respective meanings, have a look at this list.
Make sure you know what’s included in your rent and how much your deposit will be; some landlords charge a month and a half rent for the deposit, with some agency fees being owed on top of this if you haven’t found the flat privately. Find out about the CAF - a government grant to help students with accommodation costs. Bills and service charges for your concierge, for example, may not be included in the rent so check before you sign anything. Be quite cautious when it comes to the inventory too, as it might prove a bit sticky if you hadn’t noted anything down at first, once returning the keys. If your name is on the contract and you are thinking about leaving early, you will need to send a préavis de départ - don’t forget to send it through recorded delivery. Beware of home insurance - you will have to take out extra insurance, regardless of whether you have a year abroad insurance policy for your belongings, to cover the house/flat itself. Previous students have sorted this out with the likes of AXA and the Crédit Agricole.
As an EU citizen, you should get hold of an EHIC health card to offset medical costs and fees you might incur at the doctor’s should you fall ill on your year abroad. Holding one of these cards will enable you to claim back any costs you may incur, although be warned you might have to pay a small excess fee but you should have the bulk of what you’ve initially paid reimbursed. You can find a doctor and/or specialist in the Pages Jaunes and book yourself an appointment independently. If you have private insurance on your year abroad, check with your policy to see what you are covered for.
While you're learning new vocab by the bucketload, it's definitely a good idea to carry around a small notebook, jot down new words and take the time to look them up in your trusty dictionary every night. If you think a big dictionary will use up your valuable luggage allowance, then consider a digital dictionary or eBook both of which you can use without access to the internet (something you might not yet have set up in your new accommodation).
It is paramount for you to take out year abroad insurance on your year abroad, for many reasons. Whether it’s a home uni or parents requirement, whether you consider yourself to be a bit of a Calamity Jane or John or even if you think ‘Oh, that won’t happen to me!’, it’s crucial you get yourself insured in some way. If you’re planning on bringing at least some of your clothes and personal valuables with you, if you were to get robbed or your house to be broken into, it will come in handy. If you miss your train or your flight, and it wasn’t your fault, it will come in handy. If you fall quite ill and/or need to be hospitalised, it will come in handy. If you’ve broken the photocopier at work and you’re being charged a whopping €250 straight out of your salary, it will come in handy. Get the picture? We’re not trying to be doom and gloom about the issue but something could happen, and if such were to be the case, you wouldn’t want to worry yourself and loved ones about your predicament as well as suffer blips on your cash flow, just for trying to save a pre-year abroad penny or two...
Discounts and more
As a student, even if it is back in the UK, you should make a point of taking your home university student card with you as well as applying for an ISIC card as it will making living costs just that little bit cheaper. Tarif étudiant offers some good deals to be had across France and the leading discount-aggregator site, Groupon, exists on the Hexagon too.
Speaking of saving, you might be interested in setting up a bank account here, to stave off charges and commission fees from UK banks (and your CAF grant can only be paid into a French bank account). There are a wide range of banks available, although be forewarned: French banks tend to charge you for just keeping your money sitting there, there are fees to use a chequebook (#oldschool) and getting your card sent over. However, if you’re planning on staying the whole year or are getting paid by your part-time job or internship, it’s a good idea to set one up for the long run. Additionally, if you choose to return to France after your year abroad, you might quite like to have it waiting for you instead of going through the paperwork all over again! The cast of ingredients to make the very best of bank account cakes hassle-free and straightforward are: your passport, titre de séjour or carte de séjour and a proof of address. It might be a good idea to bring your university acceptance letter or your work contract, just in case.