Cecelia - Université Catholique de Lille

B. Arts / Laws
Semester 1, 2015

Academic experience

In Lille, I studied both law and arts courses. I took all of my law courses in English, and three of my arts courses were in French (including the mandatory French language course). I found the university to be very different in France. Attending classes was compulsory (miss more than 2 classes without a good excuse and you’d automatically fail). Classes seemed much less in-depth and intensive than classes at UQ. I had class every day of the week, except for some subjects, which were for a full day 6 times in the semester. There was a lot less certainty as to what was expected and assessment – their ‘blackboard’ equivalent was practically unusable. However, all the teachers were understanding of the difficulties faced by the exchange students, especially in my classes which were in French. My classes in French were the most difficult ones I took – all my law courses were much easier than what I’m used to, but this is likely because they were in English and all the French students were taking them with English being their second language.

Personal experience

My French definitely improved because of my exchange, mostly because I took classes in French – I would encourage anyone wanting to improve their language skills not only to go to a country where that language is spoken but to take classes in the language they’re learning! It was the best thing to help my language skills because we made a lot of friends, but they all spoke English (either as their first language or because they were French students wanting to practice their English). The great thing about Lille was how close it is to Paris, but also to Belgium – which is great because the discount airport in Belgium was only about an hour away from Lille by bus (and there was a bus that went directly from Lille to the airport). I did day trips to Paris and to Belgium, and longer trips to Manchester (in England) and Barcelona. There were two mid-semester breaks during the semester, so I had quite a bit of time to travel whilst I was at uni – and then I travelled for two months afterwards. I became much more comfortable with travelling around Europe (and doing all the booking that comes with that!) and I also became more confident in my myself – exchange will do that to you. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and there’s a lot of things you have to deal with that you would never have to deal with at home. It makes you into a better person.


I lived off campus in an Airbnb apartment, which was in the old town of Lille – the best part of the city! I loved where I was living, but the only downside was that it was a half an hour walk to uni. All the university accommodation was right next to the uni, and I had a lot of friends stay in those dorms, and they liked where they were living. The upside of living in an apartment is having a kitchen because eating out in Lille was expensive! I would recommend doing your research on all the different dorms that are available to make sure you’re staying in a dorm that works for you – they’re all quite different. If your budget can afford to stay in an apartment, it’s a good option too – and the best part of town is definitely Vieux Lille (the old town).


The happiest place on earth - Disney Land!
The happiest place on earth - Disney Land!

Eating out in Lille was expensive, but buying food from supermarkets was about the same as back home (though take into account the exchange rate!). The good thing about Lille is that it’s not very big, so everyone mostly walks everywhere – which is a good saving on public transport. Keep in mind that taxis don’t really exist, so I found myself hiring the bikes that are for public hire around the city a couple of times if I was out late. Movie tickets were cheaper than back home! Travelling was also cheap if you planned ahead – I bought a student card for the French train system, which was 50 euro for one year, but the savings are worthwhile. The budget airline airport is also close to Lille, so it’s easy to get around Europe for not much money.

Professional development and employability

I think that anyone who does an exchange is more employable than someone who hasn’t because there are so many challenges you face on exchange that you have to overcome – especially if you’re in a country whose language isn’t your first. Going on exchange shows that you’re open to new experiences, willing to interact with people that are different from you, and have a knowledge of the world outside of your own city and country. Being exposed to a different university and learning system really broadened my view on education and what different countries value in their education systems. An exchange will only improve your employability and academics.


A highlight would definitely be how much better my comprehension of French became. At first, it was very difficult to keep up with the teachers as they were speaking, but fairly quickly I found myself able to understand what they were saying – even if I didn’t understand every word. Now that I’m back doing French at UQ, I can notice a real improvement in my comprehension of French and it's something that has stuck with me even though I didn’t hear any French for almost 3 months after I left Lille.

Top tips

  • Firstly, I would encourage anyone learning a second language to go to a country where that language is spoken and take classes in that language – it really is the best way to improve.
  • Try and make some friends who are locals – they’re the best people to show you around the city you’re in, and it’ll mean your exchange is much more of an ‘immersive’ one.
  • Do your research on where you want to live, because once you’re there it’s hard to change.
  • Take enough money so that you can do trips around the country you’re in, or around the continent (there’s so much to see in Europe!).
  • And lastly, do an exchange! It’s been the highlight of my time at uni and there is no downside to doing one, especially because there are so many support systems that are there to help you.
Cecelia - Université Catholique de Lille