Shobhan – Exchange to Catholic University of Lyon, France
Semester 2, 2016
In this blog I will show you my life as a student in Lyon, France. Looking at:
- my student accommodation
- my university (UCLY, ESDES)
My first few days here were a massive shock for a number of reasons, such as: not speak the language, not having people speak English where you would expect (like your housing office), by being underwhelmed by my room and a number of other factors. The purpose of this blog is to better prepare you for time in Lyon or France in general. It is a realistic account therefore there is no editing on the photos to mislead you haha.
1) Student Accommodation/Residences
* Before you read any further I would like to note that I have not lived in student residences’ in Australia so I cannot truly compare the experience but on my understanding Australia has much better standards.
We all know that student accommodation is not the lavish life style we all wish for but, seriously I would compare my building to that of commissioned housing city, you know those big, ugly buildings that block the good views.
This first photo is taken from my window and shows two of the NINE buildings at Residence Andre Allix. As you can see they are not the most appealing buildings but the surrounding trees make up for it. This residence is the largest in Lyon so you we will meet a lot of people from ESDES (if that is where you study), other universities and a lot of French people. All the buildings are different, depending on the price you want to pay. I have a very simple room/building so I only pay 193 euros a month ($278). This seems to be the cheapest for Lyon that I have heard. I chose the cheapest so I would have more money for travelling (and food!! haha).
The first shock was on day 1 – checking in. Surprise, surprise..off to a great start… It was the start of the academic year so the office was filled with people (you had to push through people to get anywhere) and no one behind the desk could speak English…(but the person who processed my check in could speak a little, thank goodness). I booked the room through the university, but I still followed the instructions and made a booking appointment online but they did not appear to have a record of it, so make sure you have a check-in appointment, (print the screen confirming it and take it with you) otherwise you have to wait. ALSO while you are checking in make sure they give you your ‘Identifiant’!! This is your code to access the wifi, the most important thing for us students, and especially when you have to organise things. I did not receive my code and had no idea, until of course I tried to access the internet. I went to the office about 5 times in 3 days trying to ask (french people who cannot speak english) for it… so clearly I had no success. In the end Facebook saved the day – so make sure you like all official pages regarding your accommodation, if any.
The next shock was immediately finishing my check in. I obviously had all my luggage, a massive, heavy suitcase, my back pack and handbag. So they give you a map of the residence so you can find your building, honestly I had no idea where I was to start with haha but I eventually figured out which direction to go. Unfortunately, it was up the hill and far, far away… so after taking the hike to my building I look around for the elevator, because why would there not be elevators in 4 story buildings where people come and go with luggage every weekend…right? Wrong! So very wrong. Of course I was at the top, level 4. I tried to remain positive and think of the health benefits of walking up 64 steps. I will note that other buildings have lifts so you may be lucky.
So to the right is my floor. There are 34 rooms with two kitchens and two sets of bathrooms.
Now by kitchen I don’t mean your average kitchen because there is no OVEN, or even any bins to put rubbish in… very weird. For myself, I was in complete shock and despair because I used an oven every day to roast vegetables and before I left Australia I thought about the kind of meals I could make to ensure I was eating healthy. But that plan was thrown out the window along with the oven, clearly. So keep this in mind when you are preparing to leave, try to cook without an oven and without ingredients that require a freezer. Also the fridges are not all that cold to be honest. So good luck, pasta is easy but you quickly get over it. You have to buy kitchen EQUIPMENT so don’t be shocked. Some places may provide a pot and plate but generally, you have to go for a big shop. I was lucky enough to meet someone on my floor who has been there for a few years so he had some things that I could take, he was a live saver! But I still had to get more.
Now the bathroom. It is similar to a shower and toilet block at a camp site. In my building there are 3 toilets and 4 showers in each bathroom. There is NO toilet paper in the toilets! It is something you need to purchase. There are no mirrors in the bathrooms, and only a top half mirror in your room. My tip for the showers is to try everyone in the first week and find the one you like best. After 6 weeks I just discovered a better shower than the one I was using, I wish I realised from the start but better late than never.
My bedroom. Again different buildings have different rooms, my friends in D block have a tonne of storage but I have more space (because there is less in it). Yes you can see the fridge in my room, about 1.5 meters away from my head which is annoying because every 10 minutes it hums, for the first week it is so hard to sleep but you soon get use to it.
There is no fan which is tough in the heat because you just lay on your bed sweating all night… and in winter I have no heater but I just rug up. Also you have to buy your bedding. So many hidden costs.
While I did not like my accommodation to start with, it has started to grow on me. I have added photo’s from home which always helps.
2) University in France (ESDES at UCLY)
ESDES refers to the business management school and UCLY is University Catholic of Lyon. It is a beautiful campus, intwining a new industry building around an old prison full of charm.
The biggest revelation is that every student (at least 99.99%) smokes… but what makes is stranger is that they all smoke at the front entrance of the uni, this means that my perfume scent is replaced for cigarette smoke. Top stuff. While I still find it strange after 6 weeks, it is slowly becoming a normal thing to see. I think I find it bizarre because it is a catholic uni and is a stark contrast to ACU with a free smoke zone. Of course if you smoke you will love it.
So classes are set up differently to us. Classes go for 3 hours with a 15 minute break in the middle. They are not lectures but more like a combination of workshops and tutorials. Class participation is important and strongly encouraged, like in a tutorial – in some classes answering question may earn you bonus points for your end mark. They are also heavy on group work and group projects so prepare to buddy up and delegate tasks and meet up after class or on your days off. Also attending class is a must as most classes make a quarter or third of your overall score from attendance.
Another shock is that is no comfortable place to hang out before/after class only uncountable wooden seats. This is very different from ACU (well Melbourne, that I know). To study my friends and I meet up in the cafeteria not the library.
From my time in France so far I already know that poor information and communication is standard where ever you go. So there should be no surprises when you study in France because now you have been warned. Clearly my lack of French does not improve the situation but my friends that can speak French have also experienced the same problem.
At the university they do try to be effective at communicating and providing information however they still have a way to go haha. For example, in the first few weeks some classes were cancelled because the lecturer could not attend class, the uni did send an email out to notify people of the cancellation but they did not send it to all the right people. Some from the class did not receive the email while those who did receive it did not have the class… not sure how they decided who should receive the email… Other than a mishap with emails the staff at ESDES are very friendly and always happy to answer questions and sort out problems with you.
ESDES and the international program organise many events for the students to do. There has been a wine tasting and village tour to a quant little village, there are dinners with a local French family where you and a few other students are guests to the family and receive an abundance of french food and wine.
The photo to the right is a group snap of your diverse cohort this semester.
Despite any problems that I have faced or any downside of studying in French that I have mentioned above, this experience has already been the best thing I have ever done. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you take the opportunity to study abroad. Having fears and doubts about moving overseas for half a year is understandable but life is far too short and valuable not to explore the world.
I am so excited that I am only half way through my time overseas because it means that I have so much more to learn and enjoy. It also means that I have so much more of Europe to explore. In fact while writing this blog I have been on a spontaneous trip to Interlake, Switzerland!! It was only a 4 hour train ride there. I went paragliding and traveled by a very slow train up to Schynige Platte where I trekked along the mountain side admiring the view of the lakes and snowing mountains. Also for our week break next week, myself and 12 other friends are travelling to Barcelona, Spain for a few days! Then I will be traveling to Budapest, Hungary! I have already been to Paris, Venice and Milan before my studies commenced and will have 4 weeks after my exams to continue to explore the beauty of Europe.