I was an exchange student at the Université des Antilles-Guyane for about 4 months. I enjoyed my time there, although it wasn't entirely what I expected. I was quite stunned at first at how architecturally French-looking the town was, although the colours were more of a Caribbean palette. I liked studying as it meant I had free time to travel to close-by islands, like St Lucia and Barbados, but I was also quite happy to take in the Martinican air and travel around the island by foot most of the time! Martinique: not as famous as its neighbouring islands, but just as gripping! I didn't want to leave and who could blame me?!
Charleville is quite small with not a lot to do - but the people are lovely though, I had a brilliant time. The locals were very friendly, but there were no clubs or bars to speak of. It was quiet but I think that forced people to band together and groups of friends were very close. As they say "variety is the spice of life". The number of forms that need to be filled in is a joke; a lot is expected of you in this regard.
Without making an effort, a small village can be a very isolating experience. Moreuil was a beautiful place and the people were very friendly, which helped me settle in. There were lots of clubs and societies and I wasn't far from Amiens. To really enjoy Moreuil, you'd have to be up for living in a small village. I worked a lot and therefore didn't have much time to get involved in town activities, which is important for making friends (although there wasn’t a huge number of young people). With a car, this would be a good place to be. Make sure you know exactly what you will be doing and think seriously about whether or not you will enjoy where you are living – it’s definitely worth visiting beforehand. Also, consider how much French you will be speaking.
Cahors was very small and quiet. There were a couple of bars, but no real nightlife to speak of. I met most of my friends through joining the local climbing society, where everyone was really friendly. I travelled every weekend and during the holidays. As a teaching assistant, you have plenty of spare time (and money) to be able to travel easily. The most difficult aspects were finding accommodation, setting up (and closing) a bank account and there was limited public transport, but I had great fun visiting Toulouse, Montpellier, Sete, Bordeaux, Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Corsica and Paris.
There was very little to do in Angoulême itself, but people were gregarious so it made it quite easy to socialise. As a teaching assistant I had lots of free time and holidays so many chances to travel - I visited Paris, La Rochelle, Bordeaux and Poitiers. Make sure you throw yourself into it, make lots of plans, and accept offers outside of your comfort zone. Don't worry too much, any problems you have can be solved as you have so many people supporting you and looking out for you, here and back at home!
It was a fairly quiet town but it did have a theatre, three cinemas and a few bars. There weren't many young people, but I was still able to meet lots of locals and had a great time in the process. There were 8 other assistants, so we got the chance to organise many things together. I also lived with a family which was a great experience as it meant I was never lonely, always meeting different people, going to places with them and doing new things. I made the most of the opportunities I had to travel. I went on a two week tour of France, visiting six major cities. I also went to the main towns of my region over the weekends.
Living in a small place like La Mure, I felt like I'd exhausted the things to do there after 9 months. I thought that integrating and immersing myself into the local community and culture was the hardest challenge of the stay - but by far the most rewarding. After a few weeks, you start to feel at ease with the place. The people are really welcoming and there is a real feeling of a close community and pride over the surrounding area. La Mure is a very small commuter town with very little night life but great access to the 'outdoors'. I was able to travel very easily using Grenoble as a hub. Places I visited included Paris, Geneva, Marseille, and many parts of the Rhône-Alps.
The place was really great; I had to make an effort but I made a lot of really great friends, mainly the French people living in my area, other language assistants, and their friends. I travelled to Belgium at every available opportunity though - Belgium is fantastic fun and, in hindsight, I maybe should have considered it for my year abroad destination. What you choose to do while you’re away probably isn't that important though. I didn't enjoy my work that much (though other assistants definitely did) but my year abroad was incredible nonetheless because of the experiences and the people... you just have to always be motivated and make the most of it.
I very much liked Arras; there were always plenty of things going on in La Grande Place, different festivals and so on. The city itself is also really pretty, with some Medieval architecture.There were good theatres, cinemas and museums etc to visit too. I tried to travel as much as I could, so along with trying to visit much of France, I went to Belgium, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands - all of this in just a few months! The people were really friendly in Arras and it's brilliantly situated in terms of transport.
In Pau there are a fair number of pubs and clubs, all student friendly and good fun. Being an Erasmus there was great, as I got to know other foreign students, organise some wicked trips and hang out with French students as well. The city has lovely atmosphere and is attractive and in a great location for outdoor sports. From Pau I travelled to San Sebastian and also went hiking in the Pyrennées (highly recommended!). Many students skied in the winter months, as well, so if you're sporty, this is the place for you!