As I mentioned in my first blog post, I am living in one of the many CROUS Residences of Lyon. When I first arrived, I was definitely taken aback at how small the space was and definitely questioned whether I had made the right decision. The room is small, but after living here for about three months, I have come to realize this is really all you need. It comes equipped with a single bed, a desk, a chair, a wardrobe, a mini fridge and plenty of shelving space. You also have your own bathroom, and while it is comparable to the size of one found on an airplane and your feet are technically in the shower when you sit on the toilet, it works just fine.
One part of the CROUS experience that has definitely taken some getting used to is the communal kitchen. There are 45 people in my corridor and we all share one kitchen. It comes equipped with 6 burners, a sink and a microwave so my meals here do not venture off into the imaginative. If the kitchens get “too messy,” they shut them down for 24 hours at a time. All I will say about that is be prepared. There are CROUS rooms available with your own kitchen but they come with a more expensive rent. It’s definitely an option I should have considered a little more but honestly, the communal kitchen is fine.
One thing to note is the rooms do not have Wi-Fi, so you need to buy an ethernet cable. I also had to buy an adapter because my laptop doesn’t have an ethernet port. I got both of those things at Boulanger in Bellecour for 25 Euros. I pay 267 Euros per month in rent which depending on the exchange rate of the day you pay (literally), has usually worked itself out to about $400 CAD. Rent is due between the first and the fifteenth of every month, so if your month over month travel budget is running a little tight, you have some breathing room. You can also set up auto pay on the CROUS website.
In terms of getting around the city, Lyon has one of the best metro systems I have ever seen! You can get basically anywhere in the city in under 20 minutes and there are metro stops everywhere. Each month I sign up for the “Campus” option with TCL, which is 30 Euros and gives you unlimited access to the metro and the tram which I have found, is all you really need to be able to get anywhere.
One major aspect of life here that definitely caught me by surprise was how relaxed the schooling here has been so far. I am in the SELF program for this semester, where all of your courses are taught in English and structured in a 50/50 manner. This means you have only two evaluations throughout the semester, each weighing 50 percent of your final mark. While this definitely allowed me to travel more and take a more relaxed approach towards school, it has left almost all of my final grades to be determined over the course of the next two and a half weeks, which is pretty terrifying.
So naturally, I decided to book a trip to Bordeaux for the weekend to quite literally run away from all of my problems. In terms of next semester, I am still in the midst of figuring out what to do regarding switching to DEUF or taking masters classes.
Cinq Tips from Cinq-Mars
- Do your OFII stuff early. All of the online forums say it and all of the online forums mean your visa process is not finished until you get the special stamp in your passport that certifies you as a temporary resident of France. If you leave the Schengen area after three months of being here without the stamp, there is a high probability you will not be allowed back in. I came embarrassingly close to not getting an early enough appointment to receive my stamp which meant I wouldn’t be allowed back into France after a trip to Copenhagen I have going on in mid-December (let alone after my trip back home for Christmas – that would have been a terribly expensive blunder).
- Book your trips early. I booked my trip to Copenhagen and Brussels about two months in advance and was able to get all my flights direct and for under 150 Euros.
- Specific to Lyon: There are “farmers markets” absolutely everywhere in this city, any day of the week, but especially on the weekends. Outside of the Jean Jaurès metro stop there is one just on the sidewalk near a small park that has everything you could need in terms of groceries. Fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, cheese, baked goods, and everything is ridiculously well priced. If you find a market and happen to find out when the hours are, go about 30 minutes before it is closing. Mel and I have done this a couple of times and managed to walk away with bags of fresh produce and only spent 20 Euros between the two of us. Definitely one of my favourite things about living here.
- Specific to Université Lyon III: I am still in the midst of figuring this one out, so this tip is more of a warning as it’s a work in progress. As a SELF student from the BIB program you pretty much have to switch to the DEUF program for second semester because you need 2 courses to be taught in your host culture language. The DEUF program runs until about halfway through May which is past the date of my Visa validity, so if I find a way to fill the two credits in French and finish on time I will report back.
- Specific to Université Lyon III: The best place to study is Patchwork Café just behind the school (the Wi-Fi at school is sub-par at best). It is a really cool atmosphere, has strong wifi and the hot chocolate is a dream. Plus if you buy something, they pretty much let you sit there for as long you like. Definitely comes in handy when you realize you have four exams in three days just two weeks away!