Just having returned from a study abroad year in Nantes, I feel like I am in a position to give some rather sound advice to anyone thinking about or indeed, heading to France.
- Dress down.
If you love getting dressed up like I do, then please prepare for the heartbreak ahead. Conservative is the way forward in France and it’s actually quite refreshing (imagine a whole year rocking up to a bar or for a night out in jeans and Stan Smiths!) French starter pack includes: trainers, jeans and always a scarf. You will miss the freedom of English fashion but, you can go back in a year.
- Start every conversation in French and don’t speak English.
It’s true. If there’s one thing you can guarantee it’s that going out here alone, you’ll have no choice but to improve your French. Granted, this is mostly because they take the mick if you’re rubbish and it becomes highly embarrassing! However, this is one of the things I love about France! After all, why come here if you don’t want to bother learning their language? P.S. ‘The English’ is a phrase and no, it’s not good.
- Learn the difference between clubs and bars.
I’ll put it simply. In France, a club means you need to prepare yourself to be asked to ‘dance’ every five minutes, pay extortionate prices for a drink and go to the toilet in places that do not look like toilets. A bar means you’re probably going to have a better night. You can drink à la carte to your hearts content.
- Don’t expect to go out for dinner before 7pm.
Nowhere will serve you food, so don’t bother.
- You’re an ERASMUS student so it’s quite laid back.
Whatever worries you have – honestly, don’t worry about them. If there’s one thing I could tell myself pre-Nantes, it would be this. My university didn’t contact me a lot before my arrival and so naturally, I did panic a little bit. However, as soon as I arrived everything fell into place.
- Universities don’t tend to use PowerPoint.
You’re on the continent so of course everything will be as advanced as it is at your University in England: administration, timetabling, resources – the lot, right? How wrong you are. I’d also recommend buying yourself some printer credits – a lot of them – you’ll need them for all the forms you’ll be printing out.
- Companies love to send you post.
You’ll never receive everything you need in one letter. Everything comes separately with a bonus waiting time of 2 weeks and even then, you’ll probably get asked to fill out another form or send another copy of your birth certificate.
- You’ll have some of the best experiences of your life in a country with the best culture, values and lifestyle.
It’s just the best.
Written by Charlotte Smith – University of Nantes