Bronte - Université Lumière Lyon 2

B. Engineering (Civil) / Arts (French, Spanish)
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

While at Université Lumière Lyon 2, I took six courses: Culture - Espagne CM (a course about the culture and history of Spain, taught in Spanish), Lyon ville d'histoire (a course taught in French about the history of Lyon), Apprendre l'espagnol par l'art, le cinéma et la littérature (a course to improve your level of Spanish by studying different forms of art such as literary extracts, paintings, films), Atelier de conversation - Anglais (a series of conversation classes where you host the discussion and aid French students in improving their English), SLM (a class to improve your French and learn about how to complete the different styles of assessment in the French system), and Activités Sportives (where you select a sport and train/compete throughout the semester, taught in French). 

I would definitely recommend taking the SLM course - it wasn't the most informative class as compared to others; however, it was in this class where I met many other exchange students and made a lot of friends from all over the world. Also, I think it would be quite difficult not to pass it! 

The French system was fantastic to experience, and it is great to see that the students are able to receive a free university education. It was a lot more relaxed than the system at UQ, but you do have to put in effort to succeed, of course! 

The most challenging part of the exchange in an academic sense were the initial course sign-ons. This is no online sign-on system like at UQ and not all of the course information is available online either, which means attending the first session of any class you think you are interested in taking and asking permission from the professor to participate in it (all international students are provided with a form to be signed). In addition, it wasn't easy to find the location and times of the classes, so I ended up visiting the two campuses a few days before classes started and spending time finding the boards where the course codes/times/locations etc were displayed in order to plan my timetable!
The assessment itself wasn't too challenging, though it is fairly common to have to give a half hour oral presentation (in French, of course!) as a form of assessment, something that I had not encountered at UQ! The best advice I can offer is to make friends with as many people as possible in your courses, because they can help you with understanding the assessment and make your experience much more enjoyable. I found the French students were helpful if you made an effort, particularly in the TD classes (smaller interactive classes with approximately 30 students, as opposed to CM classes which are structured like a large lecture). Don't be afraid to ask for help!

Personal experience

I can't even fully explain what I gained from the exchange experience - it was honestly the best decision I have ever made, and the best experience I have had so far. It provides you with so many incredible opportunities to explore new places, countries, cultures, form amazing friendships with people from all over the world, try the academic experience in a different system and so much more. Being an international student, you are really given the opportunity to easily assimilate this new culture, as there are many fun opportunities for international students to meet each other and the French students through parties/events, weekends away, sporting clubs and other groups. If you simply went on a six month holiday to France, I don't think you would gain these same opportunities! 

It goes without saying that your language skills will improve enormously, even just through the everyday vocabulary that you take in without really noticing. The exchange also improved my world view, and the friends you make from other countries will heighten your interest in their history and culture also, which is fantastic. 

In terms of personal skills, I think this exchange has helped me to become more confident in my language abilities, but also in myself. It has made me more independent - you are responsible for yourself and what sort of experience you want to have. You will become much better at problem solving because often things don't go to plan, and that is okay! It is often through these situations that you make friends anyway. Additionally, I think all of these qualities enhance your employability upon your return, and you can use this to your advantage when explaining to future employers why you were interested in completing an exchange and what you have gained from it.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus in a student residence, Andre Allix, in the 5e arrondissement. The advantages of this were always having friends close by, and there were also events hosted by the student body at the residence to meet more people. It is a picturesque area, and you have Fourvière and the Roman ruins of a theater nearby. If you like running, it is easy to find a nice course to run around the area. However, it is up a hill, so is more difficult to access by public transport/by foot than some of the other student residences/share housing or flatting available in the 1e and 2e arrondissements, closer to the university. 

In the residence, I stayed in a six-person shared apartment. Unfortunately, the housemates I was put with were very messy and not very interested in socialising (as you can probably expect in this sort of arrangement), so our shared kitchen and bathroom area was filthy. However, I had friends in the residence who had great housemates and would cook and eat together once a week, so it is just luck of the draw. For a stay of six months though, it's not the end of the world if you end up with odd housemates! 

I think the easiest accommodation option to organise is the student residence. Some of my friends had great flatshares near the university, but it was very difficult for them to find accommodation initially, and many ended up in AirBnBs for the first month. Other friends stayed with a host family, and sometimes this was a great match, but sometimes personalities clashed and made things difficult - again, luck of the draw. Bear in mind though that the residence is not like college in Australia at all, and is not located close to the university.

Budget

Rent at the student residence was often about half of what people with flatshares and host families paid, so if you are looking to save this is a good option. It is very basic though, and you will have to add into your budget things like bed linen, towels, cooking and cleaning apparatus etc. 

Public transport is very good in Lyon. I would recommend purchasing the TCL card as soon as possible, which as a student you pay 30.20 euros for each month and receive unlimited use of the transport. As a comparison, a normal ticket (duration of 1hr) costs 1.80 euros, and when you are attending uni you will most likely catch the public transport at least twice a day, depending on where you live (1.8 x 2 x 30 = 108 euros, not including if you go out at night/meeting up with friends). 

For food, I would recommend going to any of the markets (they are everywhere!) for fresh fruit and veg. Your budget for food will depend on how much you want to cook and eat out etc. I found in general that I spent more on groceries than what I do in Australia per week because of the dollar (approximately 0.60AUD = 1EURO at the time). 

Movies cost around 6-7 euros, admission to France's national monuments is free for EU students under 26 (so you can use your French student card to visit le Louvre for free, for example), entry to other museums is normally only a few euros, a ticket to a concert can be 20-30 euros. 

A plane ticket within Europe can cost just 20-30 euros if you look for deals and book early enough (look at momondo.com and skyscanner.com). I would recommend bringing a decent size carry-on bag with you, as if you want to travel with budget airlines, you have to pay extra for check-in luggage and it can double your ticket price!
I would also recommend purchasing the Carte Jeune 18-25 ans if you are planning on travelling within France on the train - this can halve your ticket prices. It costs about 50 euros and lasts for a year. Buses are also a good option and are always cheaper than the train (look at flixbus, ouibus, Megabus, eurobus etc) - again, if you book early enough you can get a bus ticket for as little as 5 euros from Lyon to Paris (the journey takes about 6 hours). Another good option is car sharing (look at Blablacar) - this is also cheap, and is great to practice your speaking skills!

Professional development and employability

Le Carnaval de Nice
Le Carnaval de Nice

As aforementioned, I think you develop as a person through having to adjust to a new environment and through all of the experiences and challenges that form part of the exchange experience. Whether it be increased self-confidence, better problem-solving skills, a better understanding of other cultures, improved language skills or anything else - I can guarantee that this experience will contribute to your professional development.

Highlight

I don't think there is a singular highlight of the exchange for me - it was the whole experience that was the highlight. Some of the best moments I spent with the friends I made were in the cafeteria, in class or in-between classes, not just the travelling or social events we did together. 

Having said this, a key experience for me was a weekend away in Nice organised by one of the Erasmus student clubs early on in the exchange. We saw the flower carnival, parades, partied together, spent some time in Monaco and so much more! Through this trip, I met some of my closest friends with whom I continued to enjoy the exchange.

Top tips

  • Say yes to every opportunity you are presented with!
  • Get involved, have a good attitude, and you will have an amazing experience.
  • Make as many friends as you can, be considerate of others and the differences between cultures, and just be open to the whole experience. 
  • When things don't go as planned, take it in your stride - it will all work out, and there are probably other students in your shoes too. 
  • My only regret is that I went on exchange for six months and not a year! 
  •  
  • If you are thinking about going on exchange: don't hesitate, just do it! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity you don't want to miss - I promise you won't be disappointed!
Bronte - Université Lumière Lyon 2