Hi guys! My name is Kelly and I’m in my third year studying International Business and French. I’m currently in France for my placement year and I’ve been here since July. For the first six months, I was in Paris doing a sales internship. This was my very first internship working in a professional environment, and I can honestly say it was extremely rewarding.
Since January I have been in Montpellier, which is in the south of France, studying at Paul Valéry University. I was able to choose a variety of subjects to study in French and I have really enjoyed the French student life so far. This whole experience has definitely been challenging but I’ve made some incredible memories and learned so much about the French culture. I’d love to give you some advice and tips on moving to a foreign country…
Preparing to move
The first thing I did as soon I knew what city I was going to be living in was looking for accommodation. I did a lot of research on average prices in and around Paris and looked for different accommodation websites. Once I found an area within my budget, I would look to see the amenities available. Whether it was close to a metro stop, a supermarket or a public space (e.g., a park) was really important for me.
Some accommodation sites:
- Le Bon Coin (kind of like Gumtree/Craigslist)
- Chez Nestor (house share)
- Spot a Home
- Health insurance – If you’re moving to France you can apply for the ‘Carte Vitale’ by sending an ‘Attestation de droits’
- CAF (housing aid in France)
Making friends before you arrive
- Facebook and WhatsApp groups – you will normally find a lot of Erasmus groups where you can get in touch with several people moving to your new city
- Other people from your university
- Connecting with your future colleagues on LinkedIn
It’s always nice to see a couple of familiar faces when going to a new place. All these options really helped me calm my nerves before moving.
Some necessities you can’t forget
- Identification: passport, driver’s license
- Power adapter
- A travel card (e.g. Monzo/ Revolut)
- Covid-19 documents
Being/ living in your chosen country
- Exploring your area
First things first, familiarising yourself with your new area. Explore different places you can food shop, chill in a park, a nice café etc…
- Making your new place a home – comfort
IKEA of course is a great affordable way to do this. Nice decoration/ posters, LED lights photos of your friends and family are also ways I made my basic room more homely.
- Keeping in touch with friends and family at home
It’s very important, especially to avoid feeling homesick. Keep them updated on your new life and the adventures you have been going on. I’m sure they will be interesting to know everything.
The main way to meet people is with Erasmus events, you’ll meet lots of people from mainly Europe. It’s also a great way to practice your new language together as well as learning theirs too.
It is harder to make friends with local people unless you’re working in a company. If you are, invite them for drinks or meals and ask them to invite their friends too, that way you can meet more people. If you’re studying, not working, try and make friends with your classmates and do the same.
Making the most of your experience
Explore (within and outside the city)
So many beautiful villages and cities in France
What I’d recommend:
- Near Paris: Mont St Michel, Saint-Malo
- Middle of France: Bordeaux, Annecy, Lyon
- South of France: Nice, Cannes, Monaco (rich and fancy cities), Sete, Nimes
Say yes to things out if your comfort zone
An example of this would be going to a party without knowing anyone… I did this a few times and it was very scary BUT it was so worth it. Trying new local foods and dishes is also worth it. You might find a new favourite food or be able to tell people you’ve tried something different. I tried snails and frog legs… It’s definitely not my new favourite but I’m glad I got to try it once.
Try and go out as much as possible
The easy option is to stay home and watch Netflix but it’s very important to make the most of your experience in your new country.
Solo adventures through the city by walk or transport was one of my favourite things to do in Paris when it was sunny because there was so much to see. Going out more will also allow you to speak the language as much as possible, and you’ll be surprised how much you learn in a short amount of time.
Hopefully my tips and advice help with your year abroad experience. The most important is to have fun and to dive straight into the culture!
Written by Kelly Moukoko-Kingue
Top photo by Elina Sazonova, Pexels.