One day as I was sitting in the park drinking a glass of wine in the sun I fell back in love with France. That feeling comes and goes, an hour earlier when I was inside trying to write a 20 minute presentation on European economic integration I certainly wasn’t loving life. I realised though that in a few months I wont remember a word of that presentation but I will remember the sunny days in the park and so its important to make time for those moments. Many students now will be making decisions about next year and for lots that decision will be whether to go on Erasmus and if so where to. Having successfully completed an Erasmus and returned for my post grad I have some advice worth sharing.
I’m going to share the truth about studying in France.
- You won’t miss your home comforts (that much)
If the thoughts of leaving your home comforts scare you fear not by the time your Erasmus is over it will be the french food you miss and not vice versa. Its undeniable that France has some pretty amazing food. From croissants and pain au chocolates (chocolatines in some cities), to saucisse de Toulouse and Moules Frites this country has food sorted. A simple baguette with local cheese is a crowd pleaser, cheap and easy to bring to the park for a picnic. Any bad day in France can be quickly resolved by wandering into the local boulangerie, trust me.
There will always be things about home that you miss like Taytos and a good cup of tea but these are worth sacrificing for a few months while enjoying la vie francaise.
2. You will be able to speak the language
French is a romantic language, difficult to learn sometimes but lovely to listen to. I may not always have the most confidence in speaking the language but I love to practice my accent in the hopes that someday I might be considered french. However the biggest fear most people have is that they don’t speak enough french to live in France. You really have nothing to worry about, it is more than possible to get by without a word of french.
Everyone speaks English, everyone. Honestly you may actually become frustrated by how little you actually have to use your french. At the same time if your aim with your Erasmus is to become fluent you will always come across those who are more than happy to converse in french. Either way, as a french speaker or not, don’t let language put you off a year abroad! My boyfriend arrived to France with limited french and not one word of English. Now he has near perfect English and pretty fluent french.
3. The university work won’t be too hard
Generally with an Erasmus you take less credits than you are required to in your home university. For my Erasmus we only had to take 40 credits compared with the 60 I had to take in 1st, 2nd and final year. Less credits meant less classes and more free time. We had Fridays off, most weekdays were pretty light which meant we had lots of free time. From nights out, to days at the beach and weekends away schoolwork didn’t ever seem to get in the way. We could take classes in English and French and were advised on which were easiest for Erasmus students to follow.
Talk to students who have previously done an Erasmus in the university you are considering. Their advice will be invaluable! You would be surprised on the tips you’ll pick up on what classes to take, what bars to visit and various secrets and less well known facts about your host city.
If you are considering Aix en Provence or Toulouse, send me an email and I’ll send you my top tips for an Erasmus in either of these cities!
4. You can keep in contact with your friends
In 2017 with Skype, snap chat, WhatsApp etc there is no reason to miss your friends. Staying in contact is so simple and the year really will fly by. Of course you’re also going to meet so many people! If you go with a group of other students from your university you’ll have a base group from the beginning. If you chose to go alone you will be sure to meet lots of others in the same boat. I have been in both situations. For my Erasmus we went to Aix as a group of 6 and 4 of us lived on the same corridor. The Irish really dominated the year!
This time around I am the only Irish person in my college. It can be difficult being the only one but I have spoken so much more french than I ever did during my Erasmus. With a group of Irish people English will of course be spoken. However in a group of Italians, Germans etc. while the common language could be English you’re more likely to try use your french.
You’ll meet people from all over the world which is the best part. Not only do you have accommodation in various countries for future trips but you also learn so much about different cultures. One week I went to a party hosted by Colombians and we tried traditional colombian food. The next week I hosted my own party and we’re including Irish and Brazilian snacks as well as the French staples of wine and cheese. Another weekend we spent with a Russian/ Italian and American couple.
The biggest truth is that Erasmus is an invaluable year, it adds to your cv and really is an unforgettable experience. Of course if your a home bird with no desire to do an Erasmus that’s ok too, it isn’t for everyone. However if it’s only slight nerves holding you back it will pass, I was so homesick for my first few weeks but it got easier and now looking back I wouldn’t change it!