Bachelor of International Studies
Bachelor of International Studies

As a Bachelor of International Studies student, going on exchange is a graduation requirement for me. Personally, I felt like this was more like a chance to live in the country I already adored. So, as a 3rd year student, I said goodbye to Australia and made Lyon, France, my adoptive city for 5 months.

At Lyon 2, I took 5 completely different courses: beginners Swedish, history of indo-european languages (Langues et cultures du monde), intro to print-media journalism (Lecture de l'actualité), Archaeology of the Celtes CM and TD. I also facilitated English conversation groups (Atelier de conversation), which were organised through the uni. Before the semester started, I also took the PRUNE course, which was a 2-week intensive French course designed to introduce incoming exchange students to the French way of teaching. I found this course very useful as it taught me about the different types of assessment and it helped me to start thinking and speaking in French.

There are several differences between the way UQ and Lyon 2 courses are organised. At Lyon 2, you need to take 30 ECTS to be a full-time student. However, not all courses are worth the same number of credits, so you need to do a bit of maths. For exchange students, a course of 21hrs is worth 5ECTS and a course of 30hrs+ is worth 10ECTS. Also, not only can you take courses from any of the Licence course lists, but you are also allowed to take EO (enseignement d'ouverture) courses – the Swedish class and the conversation group were from this massive list. The next difference is that you are not required to take the CM (cours magistral = lecture) AND the TD (travaux dirigés = tutorial). Of course, sometimes it makes sense to do both, but as an exchange student it's not compulsory. Taking 6 courses of 5ECTS is about normal, from what I experienced and heard from other exchange students.

Taking courses in French can be hard. And it pays to make friends with a French student in the first couple of weeks and kindly ask them to help out a poor exchange student and let you look at their notes. This seems to be quite common practice, even amongst French friends, so don't be too shy about asking – if on student says 'non', just ask another. I made some friends after simply asking for notes!

Student with friends at night

One of the best decisions I made was joining the indoor hockey team. It was a mixed social competition that took place on Wednesday nights. We'd play hockey for 2 hours and then go to the club house (BYO drink of choice) and socialise for a couple of hours. I happened to make some of my best friends this way, and I'd definitely recommend joining a team sport. It didn't really matter that I wasn't at all very good at playing because it wasn't a serious competition and I therefore had the chance to play for fun and make friends at the same time.

I think that joining social groups is important because the campus culture is next to non-existent, unfortunately. But don't let this put you off! There are other ways of meeting people than through clubs and societies (like we have at UQ), and sport (as I mentioned above) is a great way to do this. There are also lots of Erasmus (Europe exchange program) events that all students are welcome to attend. I also joined a Scout group, since I am already a scout in Australia. I was welcomed into the group as a new family member and everyone was so helpful and friendly. It was definitely a brilliant idea to continue doing this hobby in France, as I gained new friends and experiences different from the ones I have with scouts in Australia. Accommodation arrangements can also be a way to meet people.

Student holding plush koala with castle in background

My goal in living in France was to live with French people. After some hassles, I finally was able to find an apartment with a French friend of a friend. It was a classic student apartment (sparsely furnished, tacky kitchen and bathroom etc.) but to me it was a real French apartment with a real French 'coloc' (housemate) and all my dreams come true. I had some problems renting an apartment in my name because my financial guarantors (i.e. my parents) didn't have a French bank account. If your housemate is nice, like mine was, they will let you sub-lease a room instead of signing onto the official lease. I had friends staying at the university residence, André Allix, and although it wasn't too close to the uni campus at Bron, it was okay for getting to the Quai campus and the centre ville.

I also did quite a bit of travel whilst on exchange, as well as lost before and after. During the semester I went to Vienna, England, Düsseldorf/Essen, Geneva, Annecy (quaint lake village - definitely recommend), Amiens, the Loire Valley, a road-trip to Spain via Andorra, and the Jura region (for skiing). Don't forget to have a break, though! I think a lot of students plan to travel every weekend, but remember that sometimes it's nice to just have a weekend at home to explore and enjoy the lovely city you live in!

For me, I was adamant that I was not going to fall into the trap of spending all my time with other exchange students. I think sticking to this plan helped my French improve so much. Don't get me wrong – having other exchange student friends was important to me, but we all spoke English to each other and that doesn't really improve French language skills. Taking classes with French students or joining a sports team is a great way to force yourself to be immersed in the language. It might seem scary, but once you chat a little to the other students, they really are very friendly and interested in you and Australia – you just have to break the ice first.

 

Lyon sign

Returned exchange students always say what an amazing experience they had overseas. When reading testimonials from students that had already been to Lyon 2, it was hard to imagine that one day that would be me. But it came my turn to board the plane and leap into a different, amazing world. I've learnt several things during my time abroad. One thing I've realised is that I was forced to become independent. If I wanted something, I had to do it myself or ask someone for help – don't be even a little bit shy about asking for help (biggest pro-tip: if you want a photo in front of that famous monument to prove that you were there, just ask someone to take a photo for you! And don't be afraid to ask for another one if you don't like the first – it's not every day you're going to be able to get that photo taken!).


Tips:

  • Join a sports team (the uni has sign-on for all the teams in wk 1) or social group (if you can find one, since they aren't usually run through the uni).
  • Speak French!! This is the only way you'll improve. Did you really want to go to France to speak English all the time? (: It can be hard, but people are usually pretty nice if you look like you're giving the language a go.
  • Travel – but don't forget Lyon itself! There are so many interesting places to go in and around this gorgeous city.
  • Get the TCL card (like a GoCard) monthly subscription – unlimited public transport for around 30€ a month. You can also get a year Velov' (i.e. city cycle) subscription for 15€ and this is linked to your TCL card. Definitely worth it. Also, download the TCL app for your smartphone and iPhone for free.
  • And lastly, just choose to come and study in Lyon because you won't regret it – I promise!

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