Post-Departure, Arrival and Getting Settled
Almost half a year has gone by since I arrived in Montpellier, France and it’s been filled with so many emotions and not knowing what to expect. Time has flown by at lightning speed, but let’s rewind and take a look back to where it all began.
It was Saturday, August 25 and just 16 hours after my last day at work, I moved from Ottawa back to my hometown of Mississauga. I had four days to pack and say “see you later” to my friends and family before I was to move 6,409 kilometres away. Those days were a blur, and before I knew it my travel day had arrived. I was lucky to have my mom come with me to help settle in and relieve some of the stress! We flew from Toronto to Marseille with a quick stop over in Montreal. Upon landing in Marseille, I was faced with my first obstacle; one of my bags had been lost. Although this added to my stress, it ended up being a blessing in disguise as I didn’t have to lug around two big bags! Thankfully, my bag arrived a couple days later in Montpellier. The time spent in Marseille was short; less than 24 hours. While I was there I bought my new French SIM card and got a glimpse into what my next 11 months in France would look like. Early the next day we headed to my new home: the sunny city of Montpellier!
Although there were many options available in terms of housing, such as a home stay or renting a room in an apartment or a house, I opted for a student residence. Having lived in residence during my first two years at Carleton and enjoying those experiences, I thought it would be a good fit for me. It’s a bit more expensive, but the French government gives us money each month to help with the high cost of housing, which is really useful!
The residences here in Montpellier are quite different from those at Carleton. To start, the residence isn’t located on my school’s campus, and isn’t affiliated with my school whatsoever. Rather, it is available to any student living in Montpellier, no matter what school they attend. Essentially, it is similar to an apartment, except for all the people living there are students! This is a feature that really drew me to choosing a student residence as it made me feel more safe and comfortable.
In terms of the layout, it is fairly small. However, I have a bathroom, kitchen area and bedroom to myself which is really nice. As well, I am really close to two grocery stores, which is extra convenient when I buy heavier items!
When it came to choosing which school I wanted to study at, I had a tough time as there were SO many great options. In the end, it was down to Montpellier Business School (MBS), Burgundy School of Business (Dijon), Science-Po (Reims) and Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management (Brussels). I am the type of person who will spend hours listing out pros and cons for each option, and after doing just that there was a city that stood out above the rest: Montpellier Business School!!
To begin, MBS has a good reputation as a private business school. Also, I really liked that the student body is very small; only around 2,600 students for both the Bachelor and Master programs. It is also very international, making it a great environment to meet people from around the world.
I also really liked that Montpellier was a small city! Coming from a city that is fairly large, I wanted to live in a smaller place where I was able to truly get to know the city that I was living in. I was really drawn to the fact that one third of Montpellier’s population are students! That, coupled with the fact that it is close to the Mediterranean Sea and has much warmer weather than in Canada (the coldest it got was around -3 degrees) made it the perfect choice!
Tips & Tricks
- SIM Card: If you’re going to France, I would highly recommend buying your SIM card from Free mobile. You only pay 19.99 Euros a month and get 100 GB of data and free calls going to Canada and some other countries!
- Curbing homesickness- food edition: Bring food from back home! Coming to a new country where the brands are different and the stores have a different layout from back home, grocery shopping can initially be stressful. I found it useful to bring a couple food items from back home, specifically peanut butter and maple syrup, to make the transition a bit easier.
- Buying food: In France (and in many other countries) there is a grocery store called Lidl that sells items at a cheap price. Since the food (and many other things) in France is expensive, shopping here will help you save money! Also, take advantage of the fresh fruit and vegetable markets. The produce is sold at a reasonable price and is so fresh compared to what you can buy at a grocery store.
In the coming weeks and months I’ll describe my various experiences relating to topics such as school, travelling, French administration and more!
Marissa is a third-year Bachelor of International Business (BIB) studying abroad in France.
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