A student’s life is already stressful enough with assessments, presentations and internships, so if you decide to throw a move to a new city in there as well, it can all be a bit too overwhelming. Studying in a big foreign city like Paris is a fantastic opportunity, but the truth is it can be pretty hard acquainting yourself with the Parisian way of life trying to navigate stuff like French administration, visas, finding accommodation and getting set up with bank accounts, phones and all that jazz.
Here, I am hopefully going to try and clear some of the anxiety you might have about life in the City if Lights, and give a few tips along the way which will help you glide into the role of a Parisian.
This is a critical stage and it is more time consuming than you may think, so be proactive as early as you can. Contact your local French embassy to find out the process of applying for a visa, sometimes this process can take around a month and needs to be completed before you arrive in France. Ask your local embassy as many questions as you can, as you won’t get a lot of help from the French authorities once your here. Online forums such as here and here are great resources for information about visas and residency processes.
When it comes to finding somewhere to live, having local contacts is a great advantage, but if not there are numerous online booking agencies with short and long term rentals. Be careful to take things such as booking fees and utilities charges into your budget considerations. Housing in Paris can be extremely expensive, so also look at share-housing or living with a family if your budget is restrictive. The most common district for students is around the Latin Quater with great night scenes and cheaper food options, however the 18th – 20th districts are among the cheapest to live, so there are several student residences in these areas. Here is a neat article on how to find housing as a student in Paris.
Your college or school should issue their students an identification card with their photo and date of birth, this can really come in handy around the city as many restaurants, cafes and attractions offer discounts for students. For example, I have used my student card to get free entry for the Louvre, Versailles and climbing the Arc De Triumph. Many places offer free entry to French nationals or students, so save some money and keep your ID card close. It is best to also keep a photo or copy of your visa showing you are an étudiant as well.
Unlike other French administrative processes, gaining access to a mobile number or bank account can be relatively easy. It is best to first consult your school in France about any partnerships or associations they have with banks, phone companies, gyms and the like. Most schools have several partnerships with companies that provide great discounts and added extras even the public don’t have access to. If not, most phone companies can provide SIM cards for a few euros, and can then be cheaply topped up with credit and data from vouchers in tabac stores. When it comes to banks, check if your bank in your home country has partnerships with European banks, which may allow you to open an account free of charge or inexpensively. Make sure you always have a clear understanding of all terms and conditions, and make it clear you are a student to avoid most account fees.
Paris has some great public transport options for it’s commuters, and most of the trains, buses and metro lines can be used with one card issued by the RATP. It’s called a Navigo card which can be pre-loaded with weekly or monthly passes that grant unlimited travel on their services. Take note that the monthly passes expire at the end of the month, so even if you pay the €70 on 22nd of July, it still expires on the 1st August. Head to any metro station to ask for the closest office to apply. You will need a mailing address, your passport and a separate passport photo.
COPING WITH IT
Don’t underestimate how hard it can be studying in a city that speaks a different language, embraces a different culture and the fact your friends and family are on the other side of the world. In the first 6 months of my placement in Paris I would experience homesickness and the usual challenges of displacement, but the best way to fight it is to keep yourself busy; be social, exercise in the beautiful gardens, go to a random metro station and wonder around or simply read a magazine with an espresso. The great thing about Paris is that there is always something to see or do.
Hopefully these tips will ease your transition into the Parisian culture, as it takes a lot more than wearing a beret and eating baguettes. If you have any further concerns about living the étudiant life in Paris, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject ‘Student Life’ and we will try to point you in the right direction.