Katie - Université Catholique de Lille

B. Journalism / Arts
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

The French university system is credited differently therefore I had to take 9 different classes during the semester. This ended up being the equivalent of 3 courses at UQ as I felt like taking the equivalent of 4 would have been too stressful and time-consuming. Most exchange students in the Humanities faculty took 8-9 different classes. The structure of the classes was extremely different to UQ. There was not a separate lecture and tutorial, just a small classroom with the teacher talking at the front. The classes reminded me a lot of high school as there were about 20-30 people in each one and you generally had the same group of people in most of your classes. Depending on the class, you generally met for 1-2 hours a week, either in a 2-hour session or 2 one hour sessions. I took 5 classes taught in English including history, media and sociology classes.I also took 4 classes in French which were specifically designed for international students who were not native French speakers.

I enjoyed these classes as it provided an opportunity to improve my French skills and the teachers were understanding if you made mistakes or didn't understand something. The teaching style was very different to UQ. Most classes were basically just dictation where the teacher stood at the front and talked while students silently took notes. The students also rarely asked questions or interacted with teachers. There was often not a powerpoint or any visual aids so you had to completely rely on the teacher speaking. There was also not really an equivalent of blackboard so if you missed a class there was no way of accessing the material online. Because of this, it is important that you attended your classes. In general, the courses were much easier to pass than courses at UQ. For some classes, there was just one small exam or assignment that determined your result of the whole course. In the Humanities department, the pass mark was 8/20. In general, I much prefer the teaching style at UQ as I found the lack of tutorial activities and engagement with the teacher made it harder to enjoy and stay involved during classes. However, I did enjoy some classes and feel like I learned a lot. I am glad I took 4 classes in French as this was a great way to improve my French skills and would highly recommend this to anyone learning French.

Personal experience

I made lots of friends on the exchange who I have still kept in touch with and would love to visit one day. There were people from all over the world studying in Lille so I was able to experience and learn about lots of different cultures. It was very easy to make friends with other exchange students as everybody is in the same boat and are generally friendly and welcoming. I did not know anyone when I arrived in Lille but left with friends for life! In the January-May semester, we got 2 two week breaks which meant plenty of time to travel! I travelled with other exchange students and visited Barcelona, Nice, Amsterdam, Gent, Brussels, Paris, Budapest, Vienna, Berlin, Prague, Dublin and London. Travel within Europe is generally very cheap and I managed to get a few 10 euro flights. Busses are also a great way to travel around to different countries. Lille is conveniently situated for travel as there is a shuttle bus that takes you to Brussels airport in 40 minutes and Paris airport is a 40-minute train ride away.

There are also many cities accessible by bus from Lille.There is even the Eurostar that takes you straight from Lille to London. Travel was definitely one of the best things about my exchange. I got to experience so many amazing countries with new friends. Lille itself is also a great city for students, as it has lots of great nightlife and restaurants. It is not uncommon for people to stay out until 6 or 7 in the morning in Lille. My French skills improved a lot as I was immersed in it 24/7. It can be daunting at first using your French with French people but you eventually get used to it and people are understanding if you make mistakes. Some exchange students did not speak any French and managed to get by. In general, I think my exchange made me a more confident person as it taught me I can go to a completely new country alone and manage to have a great time.

Accommodation

Lille
Lille

I lived in Foyer International which is a student accommodation run by AEU. It was about a 7-minute walk from the university which was extremely convenient. I was lucky as I had my own shower but most people living in student accommodations had to use the communal showers and toilets which were not very nice. It was a great way to meet people and there were always friends around. There were often events at the accommodation such as parties and barbecue nights. Most exchange students lived in one of the various student accommodations around Lille. They were generally all pretty nice and most people seemed to enjoy living in them. I would recommend living in a student accommodation, especially if you are going to Lille alone as it's a great way to avoid feeling isolated and lonely.

Budget

My rent was about 470 euros a month. I had a 'large' room so mine was one of the most expensive ones. Groceries were generally the same price as in Australia but I found eating out to be much more expensive in Lille so I wouldn't recommend doing it often. Lille is a small city so you can generally walk everywhere, however, there is a metro system which is really good and quite cheap to use. If you plan to travel a lot I definitely recommend saving as much as you can as although flights and hostels are cheap it can still end up eating through lots of your money. If you plan to travel a lot like I did I would recommend aiming to take about $13,000-$15,000 on your exchange.

Professional development and employability

I have definitely gained confidence and improved my communication skills which are vital for a career in journalism. Being on exchange forces you to talk to people and put yourself out there, which I usually avoid due to being quite an introverted person.

Highlight

I  think the highlight was all the new friends I made. It was incredible to meet people I would've never had the chance to meet before. I also loved living in a brand new country where everything was different. It can be daunting at first but I learned to appreciate some things about Australia and some things about France.

Top tips

I would say to students thinking about going on exchange is definitely do it! It was the best thing I've ever done and I wouldn't change anything. Save up as much as you can and don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Say yes to everything and make the most of it as you might not have an opportunity to experience something like this again.

Katie - Université Catholique de Lille