Ei-ffel in love with Paris

Marcella Denaro – Bachelor of Business
Universite Paris Dauphine (Semester 1, 2017 Exchange)

My exchange experience is one I will definitely treasure forever. What an amazing opportunity to be able to immerse yourself in a foreign country while partaking in a completely different study regime and culture. Paris’ Universite Dauphine was extremely welcoming to the large amount of foreign students arriving from all over the globe and made the transition almost seamless, particularly as the vast majority spoke minimal French. As an ex-United Nations building, the campus was vast and housed many conference rooms that no-doubt used to host many dignitaries and discussions.

Paris as a city takes your breath away every day. It is a city with no shortage of good food and beautiful architecture that can be found nowhere else. I would often spend my afternoons reading in Jardin du Luxembourg, just a ten minute walk from where I lived where you can spot the top of the Eiffel Tower. It is those moments that I have really missed since returning home. I’d recommend learning some basic French before embarking on a trip to Paris as the locals really appreciate it.

Paris was the perfect city for me and I would not change anything about my experience. I traveled to amazing places and met people I still keep in touch with. I could not recommend exchange more!

My Exchange Experience In France

Rosemary, K. Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Journalism

Catholic University of Lille (Semester 2, 2016)

Enjoying a cheese picnic during Lille’s fleeting summer

Lille is a great exchange city. It is small enough that I could walk everywhere. The university is about a twenty-minute walk to the main train station and beautiful old town or there is a very reasonable and user-friendly bus. The university is close to a string of student bars that are so well attended on Thursday evenings that the police close the surrounding streets down. There are also antique markets, the famous La Braderie, streets of gourmet food shops and wonderful fresh food markets in nearby Wazemme. Lille has its own soccer team in the national league, which is fun to spectate, and there is a beautiful opera building that sells cheap tickets to students. There are shopping malls and networks of beautiful little cobbled streets lined with lovely little stores. Being on the border with Belgium means that Lille can offer the best of both countries. Belgium chocolate mixed with French pastries, Belgium fries and French cheese as well as beautiful French wines and famous Belgium beers meant I never came close to hungry.

I studied in the second semester from late August to mid-December. I was concerned about the cold but soon came to love the winter and the lead up to Christmas. Lille (and all of Europe) comes alive at Christmas with markets in the square, mulled wine and a huge Ferris wheel. I had to buy a new wardrobe and my first winter coat but that was a fun novelty in itself.

Lille is well located for travel with Europe’s excellent bus and train network. Cities such as London, Brussels and Paris are each less than two hours away. Amsterdam and Cologne in Germany are easy day trips as are beautiful Ghent, Brugge and Antwerp. Flying out of the Brussels Charleroi airport is very cheap and easy with a Flixbus connecting the airport to the Lille Flanders train station. There is also the Brussels International Airport an hour and a half away on the train. I had the opportunity to take many trips including Edinburgh, Italy, Norway, Ireland and Germany. People in the north of France have a similar reputation to the Australians living in Tasmania but they are open hearted and friendly people who are always willing to help with whatever English they know. They are proud of their country and happy to share it with foreigners, often going out of their way to find someone to translate my questions. Living in a country where you don’t speak the language well can be difficult and it is important to be easy going because things get lost in translation and getting an extra drink or meal or something slightly different to what you ordered can happen so I learnt not to be fussy.

Enjoying a day of playing inflatable games organised by the AEU

Lille is a very affordable city when you are living on an Australian wage. Groceries, rent, meals, movies and clothes were all cheaper than Australia. In fact the only expensive service was trains. I had many concerns about budgeting during my time overseas but the cost of living was so cheap and I kept an eye on my finances so I had no issues. My only qualm with Lille was the lack of decent coffee but my Melbourne friends and I discovered Coffee Makers on Paris Street early in the semester. They have the best beans in Lille and often sell delicious winter salads, curries and homemade tarts alongside their decadent Malteaser coffees.

University in France is a very different experience to university in Australia. Firstly, everybody lives on campus or near campus and nobody lives at home with their parents. I prearranged my accommodation with an organisation run by the university called the AEU. I was placed in a tiny little residence called La Maison de l’étudiant that only had seven rooms and was across the road from the university. The residence was a large apartment on the third floor of a converted French chalet complete with stained glass windows, marble floors and ornate plaster ceilings. All bills, Internet, cleaning and breakfast was included in my very reasonable rent. We also got fresh croissants delivered every week. All my housemates were French and Mauritian students studying their whole degrees in France. They were extremely friendly and welcoming, excited to practice their (very good) English and well and truly made me feel at home, caring for me when I was sick, taking me to the doctors and translating anything I needed. Living in an AEU residence also meant I could participate in their organised sports, attend French zumba, join their gym for 10 euro a month, eat at the outrageously cheap cafeteria (three euro for three courses!) and attend their welcome and Christmas parties. I also had the very unfortunate experience of being robbed and the AEU were able to help me call the police, translate a statement and find a new place to live, all of which would have been extremely difficult on my own.

University is very different to university in Australia but if you embrace change and respect the differences you will learn a lot. For starters, twelve subjects is a normal load. There are subjects offered in many different languages and structures: some are taught in blocks, some are taught weekly and some are taught every couple of weeks. Nothing is recorded and it is necessary to attend all classes, it would be naïve to think you could pass without doing so. Getting together a timetable can be a bit hectic, especially if you study across two faculties but that may be necessary in order to cobble together enough English subjects to satisfy the 30 ECTS requirement. The faculties within the university may as well be totally different: they are manned by different staff, have different rules and sometimes slightly different grading systems. I studied within the ESPOL and FLSH faculties, favouring the latter as ESPOL only started in 2012. I studied a broad range of subjects from sociology in the media to medieval history, European politics, French language and literature and thoroughly enjoyed them all. I think there is a tendency for people to not worry about their subjects and focus on their ‘exchange experience’ but I would advise choosing subjects you like because you will spend a lot of time studying. The university is well respected and France and the curriculum is heavy on rote learning and memorisation (hence why you need to attend class and take good notes) and involves less analytical processes than at QUT. It is a different type of learning, but it is still learning and I felt like I got a lot out of my time in Lille.

Exchange students at a Lille soccer game

The university has a well-established program for international students. They have dedicated staff members and orientation events, buddy programs and parties designed solely for international students. This enabled me to meet so many people from around the world. I made friends with people from Germany, Lithuania, Afghanistan, America, Ireland, Japan, France, Mauritius and even Australia to count a few. Lille is a beautiful little city but it is truly the people I met that made my experience. Sometimes living in a foreign country can be exasperating but having people to share in that exasperation makes it feel a whole lot less stressful.

Overall I had an amazing time on Exchange. I met lifelong friends from all around the world and I am very lucky to have had such an experience. Exchange is the easiest way to live in another country, as there are so many people and services set up to help you. If you are considering taking the leap I cannot encourage you more, it is an amazing opportunity.

Immersed in Parisian life

Holly T, Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Creative Industries

IESEG School of Management (Semester 2, 2016) 

Returning from exchange, I still have to pinch myself that I spent a semester abroad in Paris (!!!!). It honestly still feels like a dream and was by far the best experience of my life.

Visiting the Eiffel Tower

I attended IESEG School of Management, at their Paris campus. I was the only QUT student to attend this campus (their other being in the north of France in Lille), and when I arrived found out I was also the only Australian at the whole university. Talk about culture shock! There is no sugar-coated way to put it, but at the start of this experience I was extremely overwhelmed. Not only did I underestimate the limited number of people who speak English in France, but also underestimated the cultural difference between my peers and I. I travelled around Europe for a month before arriving in Paris, and thought I had this European thing worked out… however Aussies will always be that little bit different. Fortunately, this grey period only lasted about 2 weeks and after this I felt more at home than ever. Meeting people from all over the world, and having a great group of friends all from the Nordic countries, exchange was nothing like I had ever expected… but even better.

IESEG has a completely different way of functioning to QUT, and I completed 14 subjects over the semester, both masters and bachelor courses, all ranging from 13 weeks to just one week long. It was a SUPER intensive study load, with non-attendance to classes meaning you fail, so the time spent at the campus was quite a lot. That being said, I learnt so much about so many different topics. Doing my QUT electives while I was there meant I had the freedom to pick almost anything from their wide range of courses. My favourites included Parisian contemporary society, retail marketing strategy, online global retail, trends in digital innovation, and market of art. For each class the mark would be based on attendance, an oral presentation and an exam or assignment.

The view from my bedroom window!

IESEG is located at La Defense, in the central business district of Paris, just outside the actual borders. However as the campus accommodation provided was a lot more expensive I sourced my own accommodation through Air BnB. I stayed in an apartment in the 6th arrondissement in Saint Germain that was absolutely incredible and only a 20 minute metro ride to uni. It allowed me to experience a lot more of the culture and environment of Paris, with bakeries on every corner and within walking distance of the Seine river and the Jardin De Luxembourg.  I would highly recommend this option if studying in Paris, as most other students did the same. It was easy to go to each other’s places and also meet up throughout the city. The cost of living in Paris is quite high. Transport with the metro is expensive compared to Australia. There are options for both low and high-priced food… but French food is delicious, and the city is flooding with restaurants and bars, you will eat out a lot more than you think.

La Defense Christmas Markets on Campus – the second-biggest in Paris

 

During my exchange I travelled to many other countries, and having the ability to do so was definitely a highlight of my experience. Meeting with friends on exchange elsewhere in Europe to see their host-cities, and then exploring even more cities together has been the best way to travel for an extended period but also continue my studies. Another highlight of the experience would be exploring France, and seeing the diverse areas of this amazing country. It is by far my favourite place in the world. The people are not what every one says they are – they were friendly and always willing to have a laugh at my poor French or their poor English. The amount of ‘lost in translation’ moments I had were too funny to recount. The cheese and bread is better than what people say, and honestly you will be a foie gras connoisseur in no time at all.

I recommend to everyone to go on exchange. It is quite honestly the best thing I have ever done. Paris is an amazing city, and I felt so at home there.

Merci beaucoup

Study in charming Paris or the picturesque city of Lille, the choice is yours!

IESEG School of Management (Lille-Paris), France

Location: Lille, France & Paris (Puteaux), France

Why here?: Highly-regarded Business School, art and history scene, travel opportunities, food!

With two campuses to choose from, IESEG School of Management is an fantastic choice for anyone considering studying abroad in France. The Paris campus, currently being expanded, is located in the business district of La Defense. IESEG School of Management has more than 4800 students as of 2017, and welcomes 2090 international students with 98 different nationalities to their Lille and Paris campuses. Programs taught in English are offered at both campuses, and language courses are available for international students looking to learn a new language!

QUT student Holly exploring during her exchange to Paris

 

 

While nobody needs to be sold on the appeal of living near Paris (history, art, fashion, culture, food etc.), it is good to know that IESEG offers on-campus living and help finding accommodation. IESEG recommends having between 400 and 850 Euros per month for housing in Paris, and between 400 and 600 per month for housing in Lille. Given the fantastic travel opportunities and French cuisine available, the more you budget, the better!

The Lille campus lies in the heart of the city in France’s north. Close to the Belgium border, Brussels is a half hour away, Paris is 1 hour, London is 1.5 hours and Amsterdam and Luxembourg City are a mere 3 hours by car. IESEG offers students a number of support services, to assist with any questions students may have before and during their exchange.

Places to visit in Paris

Favourite hangouts (drink and food, going out)

  • Le Barav (practically lived there) – cute French wine bar – better to book the day before for drinks and food – great ambiance, cheap food (<15 euro) and cheap wine; buy a bottle at the neighbouring (linked) bottle shop and drink at the bar/restaurant
  • Max y Jeremy (practically lived there too) – Spanish/ south American wines and tapas – good value and great ambiance
  • La Candelaria – cheap Mexican food and awesome cocktails • VIP club – great for girls nights out and dancing, don’t buy drinks there – v. expensive
  • La Fee Verte – for food / hot drinks and study / or evening drinks

Favourite (less mainstream) landmarks/ places to visit

  • Viewing platform level 9 of Printemps (must) •
  • St Chapelle •
  • Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny •
  • Jardin des Plantes •
  • Chateau de Fontainebleau (40 min by train out of Paris)

Personal Food Favourites in Paris

Restaurants

  • La Cuisine de Philippe (6th arrondissement) – specialises in soufflé but all meals were incredible – ~31 euro per meal
  • Au Bon Coin (5tharrondissment, a little tucked away) – delicious French food – 24 euro for entrée + main
  • Chez Papa (9th arrondissement) – specialises in foie gras– about 25 euro per dinner excl. drink
  • Au Bougnat (on the Ile de la Cite, close to Notre Dame) – superb French fine dining for 24 euro (entrée + main)
  • Breizh café (3rd arrondissement) – delicious pancakes, galettes and french cider; cheap
  • Le Relais de l’Entrecote (6th arrondissement) – best steak/frites, but ONLY steak/frites and desserts on the menu

Coffee/Brunch

  • La coutume cafe (7th, coffee, brunch and lunch)
  • Ten belles (10th, coffee, light lunch, snacks)
  • Les enfants perdus (10th, delicious and filling brunch on weekends)

Ups and Downs in Paris

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.

France loves bureaucracy

The school itself was located in the 11 arrondissement (fairly central) and close to numerous ‘hipster’ and trendy areas. I chose to live in the 5th arrondissement, and in retrospect the commute was a hassle. I chose the 5th as on paper, when researching Paris out of Australia, it sounded like a (possibly overly) safe and rather posh area, whilst still attracting the young.

I did love that area, but felt the distance to school (35 min by metro) was an effort. The school building was lovely on the outside but nothing special on the inside. It was completely functional, had a great community feel and it did hold some great parties. Another bonus was a subsidised cafeteria, where students could get a huge lunch (choice of main/ entre/ drink or dessert) for ~4 euro. Unheard of. It was also a great hangout for getting to know other students and socialising.

The teaching methods and quality of education at ESCP were solid. Just like anywhere there were some standout lecturers, who really impressed, and others who were pretty much what you would expect. None were a disappointment. Class engagement was good in most classes, case-based study methods were common (using cases sourced from Ivy League schools) – these are some of the things that appealed to me. I also enjoyed that class sizes were much smaller than at QUT (20 to 40 people was common). I would highly recommend this school to students interested in finance. I honestly enjoyed all of my classes.

My favourite classes were the Derivatives & risk management class (outstanding professor), and the Valuation class (great professor and particularly interesting and beneficial content). On the downside, grading of some professors seemed a little bit arbitrary to me, but overall I was content with my results. The only other frustrating thing was paperwork. There was a lot of it, and not just at school. France loves bureaucracy.

I took all my classes in English, however French classes were an option. The workload was heavy, I did 6 subjects each semester (two of which were half-units) and there were often weekly homework/assignments involved. To do well you had to attend to them. I felt there was a lot more ongoing assessment than at QUT, which I personally did not mind as it forced me to stay on top of the material covered.

Endless things to do

My tip to those aspiring to travel there is to do your best to start every conversation in (even the most basic) French. I quickly learned to respect the native tongue and ask in French whether the person dealing with me spoke English before continuing in English.

Acting as if you expect everyone to speak English and speaking it straight up does not seem to get you far. While on the topic, I will admit that my knowledge of the French language improved significantly over the year but nowhere near as much as it could have. I did not make the language my top priority – my grades and lifestyle were – and honestly I regret not attending every free (yes free) French lesson provided by the partner school.

Overall I must say that to me Paris was everything I imagined. I loved its history and felt it gave the city depth. I am sure I am biased, but I think the beauty of that city cannot be matched. There were endless things to do, and over time my favourites were the less-touristy pastimes (lazing around at the smaller parks in summer, frequenting tiny wine bars, studying in lesser-known cafes, or shopping at the markets and sharing the local delicacies with some friends).

The wining and dining there was superb. Rural France was very different to Paris but no less unique and charming. My personal favourites outside of Paris were the Loire Valley, the Burgundy region, the Champagne region and Villefranche-sur-mer, which just happened to be the most perfect little town in the south of France.

Consumed by Paris

When deciding what partner school to choose I had three main selection criteria. First of all I was after a school that offered a wide range of corporate finance units (don’t I sound fun?!). The truth is corporate finance just happened to be the field that my analytical mind enjoyed and the field that I wanted to specialise in. At the same time I wanted to pick a reputable school in terms of global rankings, something that I could use to ‘decorate’ my CV.

Lastly, of course, I had to pick a location and culture that appealed to me, and I was leaning towards some place with a native language other than English. Something less mainstream than the US / UK seemed more exciting. After researching my options, ESCP Paris was an easy choice. I had never been to Paris before but was convinced I would love it. I was not wrong.

Upon the completion of my first exchange semester, I was consumed by the city, the school and the whole experience. I was lucky enough to extend my stay to two semesters. Aside from the fact that I was not ready to leave – did not feel ‘done’ – after one semester, I saw a real benefit to my career prospects in staying. My decision paid off and ultimately I feel the experience helped me to land my dream job.

This may be unusual, and perhaps a product of my slightly ‘nomadic’ adolescence, but I did not feel the lows of the culture shock. I enjoyed the novelty of everything. I must mention that I had zero knowledge of the French language prior to the exchange, but got by just fine. Despite the popular belief, I found that most Parisians spoke English well enough and were willing to do so.