Sophia A., Bachelor of Law/ Behavioural Science
Catholic University of Lille, France (Semester 1, 2017)
My name is Sophia Armitage and I am a 20 year old QUT student who just finished her semester abroad! At QUT, I study a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Behavioural Science; however, I used my free electives to do my exchange as it made it easier to pick classes. I went to the Catholic University of Lille (France) and I cannot recommend it enough!
The university was always happy to help me with any questions I had; there were even students who showed me around and to my residence (which was right across the street). The campus at the university was a bit Harry Potter like as it is an old set of buildings (mainly). The first thing I had to get used to was the million stairs around the building and the hectic security, but after I got the hang of that it wasn’t too dissimilar to QUT. My residence was very close which made my midday naps easy! But it was also right where all the student eating areas were (there are specific places where a whole meal is only 3.25 euros). I stayed at the Teilhard de Chardin and it was clean, quiet, but still lively. There are allocated study rooms in the building too, which were useful throughout the semester. The style of the classes was more similar to high school as it’s about 15 different subjects and one class each week of each. There was a lot less direction from the teachers and sometimes it was really hard to understand what I needed to do (even though all my classes were in English) but I soon realised that it was pretty simple if I just treated it like high school.
As I’ve never really travelled before, this was a fairly big culture shock. Six months in a different country is pretty insane, let alone somewhere that is all terrace buildings and cute cobble stone roads. The cost of living was very low; food and drink was inexpensive as was clothing and bedding. Lille is in a perfect spot because it’s cheaper to live than Paris but it is still very easy to travel from. There are buses and trains that go to major airports and that even go to the UK. The only thing that was very strange to me was that on Sunday everything is closed. Also, that after around 2:30pm all the cafes close their kitchens. Other than that, and other than the language barrier, the culture shock wasn’t too extreme.
Some of the best parts of my exchange were just the regular parts of the day. The only other QUT student and I made a friendship group very early on and we had regular catch-ups at a local pub (La Faluche) and went to restaurants regularly. I also had a group of French friends who showed me the local hang out spots. I also really enjoyed my subjects that I was studying in the FLCH faculty (mainly humanities and literature).
Adjusting, Homesickness and Budgets
I really didn’t expect to be so homesick at the start of the exchange, even though many people told me it would happen. Luckily, I made a friend who had been through a similar thing when she did her exchange and she helped me through it. I also didn’t expect to make such fantastic lifelong friends. We made a Facebook group chat that we all still use; I now have a place to stay in all of their home countries. My main tips for doing the semester abroad is to pack lightly clothes wise because there are loads of things you’ll want to buy. Pack a towel, pillow, and a blanket of some sort for when you first get there because you’ll be tired and just want to rest. Definitely make a budget for your expenses so that when the holidays come you have enough to travel around. Another thing that I wish I had done was to set up some realistic goals for how often I would communicate with people in Australia so that I wasn’t pushing them too much and they had a realistic idea of how often I would be able to contact them. The mentality the international students have is different to how we all are usually; this impacted the relationships I had in Australia and I wish I had had the foresight to plan around that.
I would 100% recommend a semester abroad to anyone, the experience was once in a lifetime and the things I learnt are invaluable. Where there is a will there is a way; there are so many things that QUT, the government, or your host university can help you with. I only wish I had more electives so I could go again!