CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

Planning a year abroad in France

PUBLISHED: 12:25 30 March 2015 | UPDATED: 12:25 30 March 2015

Student life in France © istockphoto.com

Student life in France © istockphoto.com

Archant

Spending a year in France as part of your university degree could be the start of a lifelong love affair with France and it will certainly improve your French. If you are starting to plan your own year in France or know someone who is then this basic guide will help you start planning

Place de la Comedie, Montpellier © Office de Tourisme de Montpellier / Céline EscolanoPlace de la Comedie, Montpellier © Office de Tourisme de Montpellier / Céline Escolano

WHY SPEND A YEAR ABROAD?

The most recent figures from UCAS (University and Colleges Admissions Service) show that in 2013, a total of 12,460 students accepted a place at university to study European Languages. Of these, 530 accepted a place at university to study French. The large part of these courses include the third academic year spent in a country where the language of study is spoken; the idea being for students to immerse themselves in the linguistic and cultural experience.

STARTING TO PLAN

The beginning of the second year at university sees tutors encouraging their students to start putting wheels in motion for their third year abroad. This can be rather alarming, given that for most students, the first year will have flown by, so the important thing is not to panic. Preparation is key, says Peter, who spent his year abroad working and studying in 2012: “Ensure that you start planning well in advance,” he says. “Many of the most interesting opportunities are snapped up very early on, and if you leave it too late, you can be left with undesirable placements.”

If planning a whole 12 months ahead is tricky to get your head around, consider breaking it down into manageable chunks.

CHOOSING A LOCATION

Start by selecting where you want to be. Use the opportunity to think carefully about what you want to achieve from your year abroad. Is there an area of France you have a particular interest in already? Or perhaps there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to explore, but have never had the opportunity? Now’s the time to do what you want to do, but take heed, says Zoë, who studied in Bordeaux in 2009. She learnt from others who went for the obvious choice: “The best-known places aren’t always the most suitable,” she explains. “Paris might have a romantic appeal, but in reality, the capital can be a challenging environment in which to make friends with locals. I’d recommend a smaller, student-heavy city or town – such as Bordeaux, or Montpellier, or Toulouse – that still offers plenty to do and has a lively atmosphere, but with a more inclusive community feel, which will allow you to integrate quickly into local life.”

WORKING OR STUDYING IN FRANCE

Once you’ve decided where you want to be, then you can really get going on sorting out what you want to do while you’re there. Broadly speaking, students can either opt to study, to teach, or to work, either in employment or in a stage (internship). Each university will have their own requirements as to how long students must spend in their location of choice, and what exactly they consider appropriate in terms of courses studied, or jobs undertaken, so check with your university department to get a clear idea before you start making firm plans.

1. The Erasmus scheme

Students who wish to study on their year abroad tend to do so via the Erasmus scheme, the EU student exchange programme known since January 2014 as Erasmus+. The programme is open to European students, is recognised by the 4,000+ institutions currently taking part, and ensures that students do not have to pay additional fees when abroad. Erasmus also offers traineeships which can be undertaken if you are interested in a particular profession. Taking part in a unified scheme can be great if you need structure and are happy to continue the student experience in a different environment. With a mix of many European nationalities, the common language tends to be English though, so be aware that you may have to work extra hard if bringing your French up to scratch is one of your aims.

2. The British Council

Students who wish to teach can do so as teaching assistants, by applying through the British Council. You must be a native-level English speaker, and more importantly, be willing to accept any post offered to you. You can register your geographical preferences and these will be taken into account, but be aware that if you have your heart set on a certain area, your dream may not become reality. Another important point to bear in mind is that you must complete the whole period of appointment. The deadline for applications is December, so if this is on your radar, be sure to have filled in all the paperwork and submitted the required information in time.

3. Finding employment yourself

Working on your year abroad, whether in paid employment, or by undertaking a stage, is a great way to foster your language skills and experience life beyond the typical student reference points. Natalie found a job through a family friend, as an assistant in a law firm: “Working in a well-known and well-respected company opened several doors for me, as it was solid experience on my CV. It taught me the true importance of deadlines when there is a commercial aspect involved, and it also meant that I had a little money saved for my final year at university.”

WHERE TO LIVE

Never mind finding your feet on your year abroad in France, finding somewhere to live can be a challenge in itself! Don’t leave it to the last minute. If you’re already one step ahead and you’ve organised where you want to be, and what you want to do, then use the remaining time in your second year wisely. “Do a recce before you go to live there,” suggests Laura, who worked as a teaching assistant. “Find out more about the area, so that you know a little bit more about what to expect when it comes to rents and how safe places are.” If this isn’t possible in person, then turn to the internet for listings websites that will help you get a feel for the accommodation on offer.

While your university may have links and can suggest places to check out, in Zoë’s experience, making the effort yourself can more than reap the rewards: “Make sure that you live with French people. It will make an amazing difference to your standard of French. A good website to use to find a colocation (a shared flat) is www.appartager.com. Going out a couple of weeks before term starts to look for somewhere will give you an advantage over other students. Persevere to find one that suits – it will pay off in the end.”

Article by Living France Living France

More from Living in France

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How does a jewellery designer, filmmaker and restaurateur who was born in Israel and grew up in New York come to turn a French château into an artists’ retreat? Ziggy Attias shares his life in Champagne-Ardenne

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

When Lin France and her husband Geoff moved to La Suisse Normande in Calvados they took on a major renovation project, turning a derelict building into a lovely home and a holiday accommodation business

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

France has helped launch a satellite to study the effects of global warming; but how do French attitudes towards climate change compare to those of other Europeans?

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

France has historically been on the leading edge of eco-friendly projects and regulations. While many argue that much more needs to be done to meet environmental goals in France and globally, here are 11 ways that French government, companies and people are striving to be green.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Seen a French property that would make fabulous food business but unsure of the paperwork and process? Read Tracy Leonetti’s at-a-glance guide to opening a restaurant or cafe in France

Read more
Running a business
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thinking of setting up a campsite in France? Here’s what you’ll need to consider when it comes to planning permission.

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

With its unbeatable wine and cheese and laissez-faire attitude, there’s nowhere better to retire than France. But which cities are best for growing old in? Here’s the top 10

Read more
Pays de la Loire
Thursday, January 25, 2018

If you are buying in or moving to France you will need a French bank account but before you open one make sure you read these 11 things you need to know to avoid making a costly mistake

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

France might be experiencing a shortage of general practitioners but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a GP willing to take on new patients. Here’s what you need to know about finding and registering with a doctor when you move to France

Read more
Expats in France
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The French pharmacy is so much more tham a place to pick up your prescriptions. Here are 11 things you might not know about pharmacies in France.

Read more
Healthcare in France
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now