Madeleine – Exchange to Catholic University of Lille, France
Semester 2, 2016
Facts about my host city – Lille, France
- Lille is France’s fourth largest city, and the capital of the Nord-de-Calais region.
Often overlooked by the glamour of Paris or the allure of the South, Lille might be France’s most underrated city. It has a big student population, meaning you’re never deprived of a social gathering, and it is sometimes referred to as a gateway to Europe as it is a crossroads for several major train routes. By train, Lille is 1hr from Paris, 1hr20 from London, 35 minutes from Brussels and 2hrs30 from Amsterdam, making weekend trips very accessible.
Being in such close proximity to Belgium means that Flemish tradition permeates Lille’s culture, architecture and cuisine. It also results in pubs and bars in Lille being well stocked with Belgian beer, which has an average alcohol content of 8.5%; basically double that of our beers at home. Something us international students found out the hard way… Just ask fellow ACU student Jayden!
- French Bureaucracy is very real.
This was something I was dreading when coming to France (already having done a mountain of paperwork for my French visa) and my concerns were definitely valid. Enrolling in subjects and getting a timetable for my classes at university was initially done on paper, a system that may have been the norm for ACU a good 15 years ago. I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness for tutorial direct! Needless to say, it took about 3 hours to properly register and get my timetable, which wasn’t finalised for another 2 weeks. There is a LEO equivalent for my university, although no one seems quite sure how to use it and thus most course work is given to us in paper form. Room changes for classes will mysteriously occur, classes get cancelled arbitrarily it seems but hey, it’s all part of the fun and games of studying in another (arguably less efficient) country!
- The French’s reluctance to use English is also quite real.
“You are in France, so you must speak French.” Or at least try. That is generally the sentiment expressed by the locals, and while I totally understand the logic, it was a rough few days upon arrival when my vocabulary was limited to ‘oui’, ‘non’ and ‘s’il vous plait’. Now that I can order a baguette and buy a bus ticket, things are looking up! The Lilloise pride themselves on being more friendly than their Parisians counterparts, and a local told me there is a saying that because it rains so often, ‘the sun is not in the sky because people of Lille carry it in their hearts’. So when they can see you battling to speak French, they’ll usually give you an encouraging smile and maybe if you’re lucky use some English. Small mercies!