France (or as the French call it: France) is the fourth most popular study destination in the world. It’s not really hard to see why, is it?
It’s beautiful, it’s very cool, you can ski and you can sunbathe, the wine flows freely, and the food, well, any country that looks at snails and goes “yep, I can make that delicious,” and succeed… they’re ok by us.
12% of the student population in France hail from abroad, with many of those hailing from across the Channel as part of the popular Erasmus programme. But, despite all the support, arriving in France, especially if you’re studying without the support of the Erasmus programme, can be a little daunting. Particularly when it comes to your finances.
So, we called up Elizabeth, a Biochemistry student, who spent a year abroad at Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse as part of the Erasmus programme, to get some insider tips.
What do you study?
I study Biochemistry, but my official degree title is Biochemistry with a Year in Continental Europe.
Where did you study?
On my year abroad I studied at Université Paul Sabatier – Toulouse III. Toulouse is a beautiful city found in the southern region of Occitanie.
What money arrangements did you make before you go?
I was entitled to an Erasmus grant, meaning you’re given €3,300 and you don’t need to pay it back, as long as you complete your year abroad. When you arrive at your host university you have to complete certain documentation such as a Certificate of arrival. Once you have completed the required documentation, you will receive 70% of your Erasmus grant. This initial money is very useful, as setting up a new life abroad can be very expensive. Just buying the essentials for your accommodation can amount to a lot of money. When you have completed your year abroad you will receive the last 30% of your grant.
I also applied for my loan with Student Finance England. I received the same amount of money as I would in England and with this extra money, I paid my rent.
Once there how long did it take to set up a bank account?
It didn’t take me long to set up a bank account. First you need proof of address, so once you have accommodation, you can set up your bank account. In France you have to be very organised. Ensuring that you have the necessary documentation is key, because otherwise the process can take a lot longer than needed. A passport and proof of accommodation are the most essential documents for setting up a bank account.
If you didn’t set up a bank account what was your main way to make purchases?
Before I had set up my bank account, I used a Travel Money Card. I could just transfer money from my English bank account onto this card. I was able to use it in any shop or restaurant in France.
Are there any extra loans/help you received from the local council/government in your area?
If you are going to live in France, I would strongly recommend getting CAF. CAF is the government body that provides many different services, but for students the main one is housing benefits. CAF reduces the amount you have to pay for your rent. In order to claim CAF you will need to set up a French bank account.
Top financial tips for someone going to study in France:
- Try and save up some money before (if possible). Buying essentials for your accommodation can be expensive.
- Look for cheaper shops. HEMA is a great shop which has a large range of homeware and kitchen stuff for very affordable prices. Also, instead of shopping for food at Monoprix (a Waitrose equivalent shop) go to Carrefour.
- If you are going to be studying in Toulouse then getting a Carte Pastel Tisseo is maybe one of the best decisions you can make. This card is like an Oyster card in London, except if you are a student under the age of 25, then it just costs €10 a month for any of the buses, the subway and the tram.
- Lastly, but not least, if you are going to be drinking alcohol on your year abroad, wine is always the cheapest option in France.
Studying Abroad in France: Key Facts
How do I apply to study in France?
You’ll need to apply to the universities individually or have the year arranged by your UK university as part of the Erasmus programme.
What are the student visa requirements?
There aren’t any. Well, not if you’re an EU resident anyway.
How much will I be looking to spend on fees?
Most unis in France are public and have much lower tuition fees than the UK, around €200-€400 per year, depending on what you’re studying.
Also, for the especially brainy, there are grandes écoles. These are semi-private, highly selective and will charge you much, much, much more.
Are there any language requirements?
If you’re going to be studying in English, then no (or non). But, if you’re taking a course in French, then yes (or oui). You will need at least an intermediate level, provable with a Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française. For others, you’ll need an advance level, provable with a Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française.
Do I need health insurance?
Again, nope. Not if you’re from the EU (or Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, for that matter). If you have a European Health Insurance Card, you’re covered when it comes to healthcare.
Can I work in France while studying?
Sure, but only for up to 964 hours during the year, that’s between 18 and 19 hours a week, or 60% of the legal work year.