Natalie - Université Lumière Lyon 2

B Arts
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

At Université Lumière Lyon 2, I studied a full load of 30ECTS including; a course called SLM equivalent to FREN3114 at UQ which counted towards my minor in French, two courses which were exchange student specific and an art history course which didn’t count towards my major in art history, but was just an elective. For two weeks before official university classes started, I also took a course called PRUNe which is a course designed for exchange students and domestic students to brush up on their French language skills before they start university. This course was also worth a full 5 ECTS and counted for two units of level three French at UQ, towards my French minor. 

I would highly recommend the PRUNe course to any prospective exchange students because it was a good way to meet other exchange students before university started, helped with getting back into speaking French after the holidays and was worth the same amount of ECTS as a full semester course even though it was just two weeks. This allowed me to focus on only four courses during the semester. 

The courses I listed on my study plan for UQ changed many times before I arrived at my final choices. Before actually arriving in Lyon, it is very difficult to navigate the university website to find any compatible courses. During the orientation presentation in the first week of university, the international exchange team goes into more detail about courses available to exchange students which is when I finalised my courses and sent a new study plan back to UQ. One course I chose from this list was “Lyon, une métropole européenne?” which was a sort of geography based course about the city including many outings to various sites around the city. The other was called “Ateliers de conversation” which was my favourite course I did. For this course, I was a workshop leader for French students who wished to improve their English and had to prepare lessons each week for A2-B1 level English students, as well as B2-C1 level. If you are interested in this course, be sure to email the course coordinator as soon as you arrive in Lyon because it is quite competitive. 

I then also took an art history course called “Art et architecture contemporains” which was a ‘normal’ course offered to domestic students. One thing to note about their courses is that each one often has a ‘CM’ (lecture) and ‘TD’ (tutorial), but unlike at UQ, these are separate and are worth 5 ECTS each. Therefore, I ended up dropping the CM of this course and just did the TD.

Personal experience

As I mainly took exchange student specific courses, most of my friends were fellow exchange students from America, Spain, Italy etc. but I was also able to make some French friends through my ‘Ateliers de conversation’ course. 

I did most of my travelling before arriving in Lyon so as I said, I mainly stayed in Lyon and just took day trips out to surrounding towns including Annecy, Arles and Geneva. In the mid semester break I also took a trip to Milan and London. It is extremely easy getting around on public transport and trains both in Lyon and around Europe. I would highly recommend getting an SNCF ‘Carte Jeune’ which gives you 50% off train travel in France during off-peak times. 

While in Lyon, I definitely didn’t improve my French to the level I was hoping to, but my comprehension did improve greatly. I think this is because I didn’t make many French friends and lived by myself so therefore didn’t have much opportunity to speak French everyday.

Accommodation

While planning my exchange, I knew that I didn’t want to live in student accommodation arranged by the university due to bad reviews I had heard from previous students. As Lyon is very much a ‘student city’ I also knew that finding private accommodation would be quite competitive therefore I began looking on rental sites about one year out for a self-contained apartment close to university. I was very lucky and found a nice, 35m2 apartment two streets away from the university’s main campus on the river. Here is the link to the apartment I rented: https://www.urbansejour.com/en/appartement/lyon/lyon-7-saint-joseph-universite-appartement-meuble-avec-1-chambre-location-saisonniere/. I loved my apartment and it was a great opportunity to live independently for the first time. However, for future students I would recommend trying to find people to share an apartment with as I think I would have had a more enjoyable time living with other exchange students or French students to improve your French even more. Another option would be finding a host family to stay with which a lot of exchange students who I met did.

Costs

Living costs in France are very expensive in some respects but cheaper in other aspects. While I was there the euro was not very strong against the Australian dollar so I noticed food costs were much higher when converted back to dollars. It is also important to note that because Lyon is the gastronomic capital, meals at restaurants and cafes can be very expensive. However, I found food was a little less expensive at the markets on Saturdays. For transport, I got the TCL card at a student price which, from memory, is about 30 euros per month and that gives you unlimited travel on all the buses, trams and trains in Lyon. My biggest cost was definitely my accommodation since I opted to rent a private apartment. It ended up being approx. 1,000 euros a month. Another cost to factor in is your mobile plan. I went with ‘La poste mobile’ which was 18 euros a month for unlimited texts and calls, 60gb of data a month in France and 10gbs in select European countries a month. For food and leisure costs I budgeted myself 100-150 euros a week which I found was manageable.

Challenge

I think the biggest challenge I experienced was not feeling completely safe in France. The ‘Gilet Jaune’ and student protests were in full swing during my time there and everyday I would see riot police on the streets surrounding my apartment and as I mentioned, the university closed multiple times due to fears of further violent riots. Trams were also often cancelled or stopped due to strikes and streets in the city centre would often be filled with protestors who set fires and smashed shop fronts. 

This unfortunately lead to me being a bit more afraid of going outside and I was more nervous of my trains or planes being cancelled due to strikes. 

It was difficult to overcome this however I simply searched where and when the next protests will be and tried stayed away from those areas as best I could. I even left the city a few weekends just to feel a bit safer.

Professional Development

Although I didn’t gain as much professional development in terms of learning much more French or challenging myself at university, the skills I have developed personally I believe will contribute greatly to my professional development anyway. These skills include gaining an immense amount of independence as I was living alone and did all my travelling alone and also an improvement of my confidence while speaking French.

Highlight

I love exploring new places and experiencing different cities and cultures so I think the highlight for me was simply the fact that being in the middle of Europe meant that I could travel to another whole country in under two hours. I found this to be very rewarding and exciting. Despite all the protests, another highlight was the city of Lyon itself. Being there during the winter months was cold and gloomy sometimes but when the sun comes out it is a very beautiful city with so many things to do and discover.

Top tips

For administration purposes, I would suggest being very organised with all the documents and sheets of paper the international office and professors will give you. I also suggest finding a fellow exchange student friend within the first few days and remind each other of important dates and meetings you may need to go to. 

Another thing I found useful in Lyon for the days I had nothing on, was the events page on Facebook. Lyon has so many events on every weekend including concerts, markets or exhibitions and I found all of them by seeing them advertised on Facebook.  

If you can, I would also suggest getting an apartment close to the ‘Berges du Rhone’ campus, near the river as most of the classes will be there and not the other campus which is quite far out of the city centre. Being close to the river meant I could easily get from one side of Lyon to the other, in about 40 minutes on foot!

And finally, for any students who are thinking of choosing Lyon as your exchange university, you will get a true French experience in a beautiful city however university life is, in my opinion, not on par with Australian tertiary standards.