Accommodation costs in Paris are fairly high, but manageable… it’s Paris after all! I paid $750 euro/month when sharing with my partner for the first semester (he came along with me). During the second semester, after my partner left, I paid double that amount. The place was a one-bedroom freshly renovated apartment, fairly spacious in Parisian terms and with a fold out couch for visitors. It was great living there, but I do not recommend leading such an elaborate lifestyle. Most of my friends were paying around 800 euro.
I did find the food and other daily living expenses lower than in Brisbane. I was lucky enough to have a lot of savings. I worked full-time prior to my exchange and studied part time which allowed me to save up. I think I burned through about $20k of my own savings over the year, and the bursary I got from QUT was exceptionally helpful. I started running out of cash in the last two months and had my partner kindly lend me some money. I did not work, but had a few friends that found some casual part-time work either tutoring English or baby-sitting. I set up a local HSBC account to avoid paying excessive fee. It seemed to work well. Beware the opening and closing of account involved paperwork and a bit of time.
It’s hard to say what my biggest challenge in Paris was. My main challenge was after Paris – i.e. getting back to the normal life. Biggest practical challenge was probably extending my visa as it had to be done quickly (once the schools pre-approved the extension of exchange) and the process was somewhat tricky to navigate. Communicating with the landlord was a bit of a practical challenge too as she spoke next to no English. It was not a big deal though, she was lovely and I just go to practice my French.
I can’t actually think of a time I felt unsafe during my exchange. My advice is to avoid certain parts of the 18th, 19th, 20th arrondissement (do your own research) and just exercise common sense. One thing worth noting – sometimes it was nearly impossible to get a cab late at night, so particularly females should be mindful of having someone with them as they search/wait for a cab.
To summarise the benefits of my experience – it was arguably the most fun year of my life to date, I met some great people that will remain friends for a long time, and opened up doors to pretty incredibly job prospects.