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An international student’s guide to living in France

Prodigy Finance Ambassador Riona Rooplal - April 21, 2020


I’m originally from South Africa, but today I live happily in Grenoble in southeast France. It has been an incredible experience so far, but a smooth landing doesn’t happen by chance. After a year of researching online about the country I was moving to, I was pretty well prepared for my new life as an international student. I had made a list of what I would need to buy before I left, as well as what needed to be done once I arrived in France. From my own journey, I highly recommend the following tips to the next potential student traveling overseas:

Top 3 Things to Pack Before You Leave Your Home Country

  • Study certificates - Ensure you have all the necessary paperwork with you. This includes all your study certificates prior to your overseas studies (one copy of each is needed; digital copies are preferred)

  • Personal ID - Your birth certificate (needed for getting registered in the country) and passport (needed for collecting deliveries, opening bank accounts, etc.) are both very important. Please look after these documents

  • Language lessons - If you took French classes at Alliance Française, pack those books. You will need them, no matter how good your French is

Top 3 Tips Once You Arrive in France

  • Buy local - specifically, a SIM card! You will have family waiting impatiently to see how you’re doing and whether you arrived safe and sound. Plus, you need a local phone number ASAP for administration purposes

  • Talk like a local - The French you learnt at Alliance Française is great, but the locals don’t speak that formally. Here is where “street smarts” comes into play, aka informal language. Some books on conversational (and even slang) French can be very helpful

  • Live like a local - In France and in smaller European towns, Sunday’s are a day of rest, or a family day. Going to the mall is a fun idea until you arrive, and everything is closed. From restaurants to retail, EVERYTHING is closed. There are a handful (literally) of small grocery stores that will be open, but only for take-away food. For us students, Sunday is the one day where you can catch-up on sleep. Just remember to ensure you have food to cook in the fridge that day, or leftovers!

Top 3 Tips for Making a New Home

  • See well - An adjustable desk lamp is a must have, especially when there are only two light fittings in the entire apartment (the other will be in the bathroom). The adjustable one is highly recommended as there are times when you need to work on your laptop, and to make online calls to family and friends

  • Sleep well - I’d recommend buying a mattress or mattress topper, as my apartment’s bed has a very thin mattress. It might not seem that important at the time BUT this will add that comfort which you will so desperately need. Especially as this bed could also be living and dining space, depending on the size of your apartment

  • Power up - Multiplugs are essential as there are often limited plug points, and you will have numerous devices that need to be charged all the time 

The journey you will embark on will be scary and fun. Tough but rewarding. Most importantly, it’ll be priceless. During the tough times, remind yourself why you decided to take the journey in the first place and what the outcomes will be at the end. During the fun times, make sure to look up from your smartphone and appreciate the moment. Like they say, “Enjoy the ride”.

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