Bachelor of Business Management/Bachelor of Laws, 6th year
Bachelor of Business Management/Bachelor of Laws, 6th year

Academic experiences

I studied a mixture of law and business courses while in France.
All courses were taught in English (thank-you Europe!).
The law courses were taken at University Catholique de Lille, while the business courses were taken at a separate school located on the same campus as the main university (IESEG).
The different approach to awarding credits in Europe meant that I could study up to 12 different courses rather than the typical four in Australia.
Each course has a much smaller work load than a course in Australia (because you’ll be studying three times as many courses).
The university system is also different in that the French don’t seem to use tutorials like we do in Australia, so you usually won’t have much homework to prepare before each class.
In a way, this made it harder to know how you were doing in a course during the semester, as tutorial questions usually tell you the level you’re at in the course.
However, it was great that there was much less study to be done at home each week compared to in Australia.
This is partly because you’ll be in class a lot more, but it makes relaxing at home/in a bar more enjoyable knowing you’re not expected to be studying each night (usually).

The main hall of the Universite Catholique de Lille

Personal experiences

First of all, it’s a lot of fun living in another country.
If you immerse yourself, you’re able to live like the locals do (after a month or two).
Travelling or backpacking doesn’t allow you to settle down in one location and properly explore a city or country in the same way.
For that reason, if you’re particularly interested in a city or country, spending five or six months in that place is perfect.
All the better if you’ve been learning a language and want to improve your level.
In fact, the university in Lille offers free, weekly French courses which cater to absolute beginners to those with a high level.
I loved living in Lille.
It’s a bit like Brisbane in some respects – it’s not particularly “touristy” and is better enjoyed when you’re living there.
There are endless bars, cafes, markets and shops to enjoy in a smaller, picturesque European city. Importantly, Lille is well-located for travelling to other European cities.
London, Paris and Brussels are all very short journeys away.
In particular, there is an airport in Charleroi (Belgium) which is about an hour away on the bus.
This airport only serves low-budget airlines, so you’ll be able to fly to anywhere in Europe cheaply and quite easily.
I met new friends from all over the world while studying in Lille.
There was plenty of time to spend with students – French or others on exchange – both in and outside class.
The university had a student-organisation dedicated solely to coordinating events designed to mix French and exchange students.
These included trips to other cities (and counties), balls, parties, dinners and pub-crawls.
I've now got plenty of friends to look up when travelling in the future.

Lille centre

Accommodation

I lived off-campus in an apartment booked via Airbnb.
It was such a good arrangement living in an apartment as opposed to on campus.
You are able to choose a great area to live in during the exchange - something that's not possible when living on campus.
I lived with my partner Cecelia (who also studied at the university) in Vieux Lille, which is the old part of city (really old – the streets were cobblestone).
The area in which all of the colleges are is not a good part of the city.
While it’s (obviously) closer to the university, there’s not much going on in that area, and (depending on the college), it can be a bit dodgy at night.
If you pick out your own accommodation, you can find much better areas.
I’d recommend finding a place in Vieux Lille.
If you’re coming over by yourself (as most people do), it’s easy to find accommodation in shared apartments that aren’t within the university colleges.
It just requires pre-planning and research.
If you can stay in an apartment you’ll be able to make it your ‘home’ for the five or so months, rather than just living in a single college room.
You’ll also be able to easily cook your own meals if you have a kitchen, which is a huge bonus given that it’s quite expensive to eat out in Lille and it’s nice to be able to cook at home when you want.

Clock Tower of Lille

Budget

Rent cost the two of us 1100 euro a month (so, 550 euro each).
That’s on the higher end of what you’d expect to pay, but we were staying in a large apartment in the old (therefore more expensive!) part of town.
Colleges aren’t that much cheaper though – between 300 and 500 a month - so if you can spend a bit extra to stay out of the colleges, it’s worth it.
I’d recommend budgeting between 300 and 400 a month for food (unless you plan to live on plain pasta, as some people I know did, in which case 200 euro will be fine).
The French are good to their students, and you can pick up a great sandwich (on French bread!) for lunch for 2-3 euro.
As for other budgeting amounts, that depends on how much you want to travel, drink or shop.
I probably spent an extra 400 euro a month on travel, shopping and going out.
You can get beers for between 2 and 5 euro.
There’s really good beer in Lille.
What I do recommend doing is downloading a budget app on your phone, just so you don’t get three months in and realise you’ve only got 30 euro to get you through the next three months.
I used “Goodbudget”.
Just add in things you spend and it’ll tell you whether you’re on track to survive the month, or else it will chastise you and tell you to stop spending money if you’re going overboard.

Twilight in Vieux Lille

Academic development and employability

Taking more courses is great in that you can study a more diverse range of topics than you will in Australia (in less depth though, of course).
It was refreshing being able to study so many distinct subjects.
I took courses ranging from European Integration to Human Rights, Comparative Law to International Relations, and Market Research to Negotiation.
It’s not really possible to become bored with university when the courses are so varying and the topics so interesting.
Adapting to the new system was challenging at times – compulsory attendance, being at university Monday-Friday and participating in a lot of group-based assessment – just some of the ways the French system differs from the Australian system.
I just had to adapt to these minor differences and everything went smoothly.
Students are always told that going on exchange improves chances of employability.
Not being an employer, I can’t confirm whether this is true.
Interestingly, I did manage to secure an internship in Australia after taking an early-morning interview whilst in France (via Skype), and the interviewers were very interested in hearing about how I was managing being in France and my experiences during my time living there.
The genuine interest in my exchange by the employer seemed to show that studying overseas is viewed very positively.

Highlight

Living like a local.
While I’ve travelled a lot over the last few years, I’ve only ever lived in one city before, so being able to settle down for six months in a foreign city was very rewarding.
I got to find a new set of favourite cafes, bars, restaurants, cinemas, bakeries (!) and markets.
As I said before, you won’t get to do this by merely travelling through Europe.
I was able to learn how much nicer the far-northern French people are compared to Parisians, enjoy the ridiculous number of public holidays the French insist on, and strike up new friendships with baristas, shopkeepers and of course many, many French and international students.

Top tips

Go on two exchanges.
I left my exchange until quite late in my degree.
If I’d (seriously) considered going on an exchange earlier in my degree I’m certain I’d have decided on spending a second semester in another country.
And, of course, you can get two OS-Help Loans, so keep that in mind if you enjoy the idea of living and studying overseas.
If you’re spending a semester in Europe, I'd recommend going in the spring semester (January to May), i.e. semester 1 in Australia.
I arrived in the cold of winter, but this quickly morphed into spring and summer.
Experiencing the weather getting warmer and the days getting ridiculously long (as in, sunrise at 5am and darkness at 11:30pm) was fantastic.
Not that going in the autumn semester would necessarily be a problem, I just enjoyed the seasons getting ‘better’ rather than ‘worse’ as the semester progressed.
 

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