Author: Eleanor Walker
Studying in Strasbourg has been one of the best experiences of my life so far. I have been in France for just over two months and am having an amazing time.
The Social Side
It has been really easy to meet Erasmus students and make friends which is due, in part, to the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). The ESN in Strasbourg is very active and planned a Welcome Month in September – a perfect opportunity to make friends from all over the world as well as experiencing local culture. There were also 2 induction days by the University – one in the Law School and another general one for all exchange students. Everyone was very on board to speak to other people and make friends. However, it is more difficult to meet and make friends with French students. I have met a few through the weekly ESN event “Café de Langue”, as some French people go to improve their foreign language skills. French students are also really willing to help Erasmus students with their lecture notes which has been extremely useful, especially as some professors talk very fast.
Strasbourg is on the border with Germany which makes it easy to travel from. There are lots of inexpensive buses and trains with returns often being under €20. Most of the other Erasmus and Exchange students I know have been travelling frequently, some as much as every weekend. So far, I have been to Colmar, Freiburg, Luxembourg and Amsterdam and plan to go to many more places.
In terms of the logistics of studying abroad, I have been very lucky. I took multiple suitcases with me and managed to get a flight to Strasbourg Airport by flying via Amsterdam. SAAS pay for one return flight, including luggage, if your year abroad is a compulsory part of your degree. As I am studying Law with French this applied to me, removing these costs. I am also lucky that I didn’t leave anything very important at home as I packed carefully with plenty of lists, something I would definitely recommend. Setting up a bank account in France can be difficult as specific documents are needed, including proof of address. However, I set mine up online before arrival with HSBC, so this was not an problem for me. The only issue that I had was the bank card was sent to my home address in Scotland and then had to be sent to France, which took some time. It is definitely worth taking some currency or a pre-paid card which you can use abroad as you don’t know what issues you might have with setting a bank account up.
Things I wish I knew before going
Some advice that I wish I knew or had paid more heed to before departure is to get everything sorted as far in advance as possible, for example completing the Online Learning Agreement for the Erasmus Grant early in the summer. I would also say how important it is to print off any documents you think you might need, including some extra identity photos.
Advice Specific to Strasbourg
In terms of advice specific to Strasbourg, I would definitely recommend trying to get a place in the CROUS accommodation Résidence Gallia. It is in a really central location compared to other University Halls – close to both the centre of town and the University. All rooms are en suite although kitchens are shared between around 25 people. It would be worth considering getting a more expensive studio apartment if you like cooking on your own. Rent is €350 per month which is good compared to Glasgow and this is reduced by applying for a housing grant called CAF. I have not made many French friends by living in student halls, although I have met lots of other people on Erasmus. As for travelling around Strasbourg, a bike is the way to go. Cycling is extremely popular and there are great cycle paths all over the city. There is also a tram which goes everywhere with a monthly pass is available for around €27. The tram goes to the neighbouring town of Kehl in Germany which is useful as it is cheaper to shop for food there than in France.
Law with French
Studying Law with French has definitely been challenging. Initially I really struggled with the language but now feel comfortable with the day to day interactions. It would definitely be beneficial to do a summer school to improve your language skills before coming. The lectures are all in French which sounds daunting but is surprisingly manageable. From the first day I understood a lot more than I thought I would.
In the first few weeks of term I went to many different classes to see which ones I liked and ended up choosing ones that I didn’t expect. I would definitely encourage people take their time in choosing classes and not commit too early as it took me a few weeks to find my bearings. Taking a few Masters courses is a great option, as in my experience so far, they are more interesting than the lower level courses and not necessarily more difficult to understand.
So far, my experience in France has been very positive although I have to credit the support of my fellow students for that. Prior to departure, I was in contact with some of the other students from Glasgow who were going to Strasbourg which was great to discuss any issues we were having or questions we had. However, if that isn’t an option, don’t worry as so many of my new friends came alone or with people they had never properly spoken to and they are feeling very settled now too. If I could turn back time I would definitely have tried to not worry so much, all of your family and friends are just a phone call away and home comforts can be found in surprising places – my local shop sells Digestive Biscuits.