Première réunion de la Coordination Nationale des Universités
Tania Li has been through it all on her year abroad at La Sorbonne in Paris. Here, she passes on her top tips and everything she's learned about about how to survive university in Paris.
- Be patient. French admin is notoriously slow and definitely lives up to that reputation. Prepare yourself for long queues, loads of paperwork and bored snotty people pretending that they don't understand English.
- Arrive early! Even if classes start in early October, make sure that you arrive at least in mid-September.
- Sort out all your paperwork before arriving. The French don't believe in emails and faxes, especially in Universities. Make sure that you bring double or triple copies of all your documents for school/rent/opening a bank account.
- Ask about the Erasmus grant. I'm not sure about the details as I wasn't entitled to one because I'm not an EU national, but I do think that the grant is about 900-1200 euros or so. Don't take my word for it though.
- Open a bank account ASAP. I would advise opening one at Société Générale – they tend to be more student-friendly and only ask for your student card when opening your bank account (BNP tends to ask for more papers especially if you're a non-EU citizen). You can also accumulate reward points under Soc Gen's student account scheme and exchange them for lovely gifts!
- Buy a topup simcard or a forfait bloqué if you prefer. The forfait bloqué is a package deal that is tailored to your budget (I think it goes from 10, 15, 20 and 25 euros) and gets "blocked" when you go over the allocated budget. An automated text message will be sent and will ask you whether you want an extra topup. Basically what you pay for is what you get and if you've used up all your phone credit, you can fish out your money, pop to a tabac (where they sell cigarettes, newpapers, magazines, lotto tickets and sweets) and topup. This way you won't have any bad surprises when the monthly bill arrives!
- Explore! Buy a guide book and a small phrase-book that you can use when you're out and about. Googlemaps will also be your best friend.
- Look out for your local marché, boucherie (butcher) and poissonier (fishmonger). The produce is fresh and costs less than buying from supermarkets. Speaking of which: Monoprix tends to be a bit more expensive than the rest. Franprix and Champion are the cheapest. There's a big Champion in the 13e arrondissement.
- Look after yourself. Paris in general is quite safe but you can carry around a personal attack alarm if you want. Going to Chatelet les Halles and the north-east at night isn't such a good idea though. There are a lot of pickpockets around and ladies, beware. You can get verbally harassed and wolf-whistled at if you're alone. Avoid the banlieues (maybe except Neuilly-sur-Seine which is the poshest place alive and who knows, maybe you can run into Monsieur le President during his morning jog!) and anywhere where that has too many HLM buildings (council flats).
- Always trust your instincts when it comes to safety. Don't take risks.