Going abroad on exchange is one of the most amazing things you can do as a student. I lived in the north of France in a beautiful city called Lille for a semester and made some really good friends, met heaps of really interesting people, went to my “boulangerie” much too often for my favourite pastries and had some crazy adventures travelling around Europe.

I was doing a Bachelor’s of Commerce/Arts here at UQ and so in Lille (at IESEG School of Management and Université Catholique de Lille) I had both Business and French language courses. The first thing that shocked me was the fact that I had to do about 12 courses to get the full study load equivalent. But that’s just because there are only a couple of contact hours a week per course. What was also quite interesting, more so at IESEG, was the way the courses were taught and assessed – we had so many group presentations that speaking in front of a group of people is no longer that intimidating. The business courses were all taught in English, so language was never a real issue.

In terms of making friends in the classes though, I found it difficult to talk to the French students there because they generally stuck with other French students, and the international kids bunched up too. But there are many opportunities to practise the language, you just need to put yourself out there and not be too shy.

I was renting a self-contained room, sharing the building with 15 other students, French and International. My room was of a decent size, especially for the price, and it’s fun to have building-mates around, but I would recommend finding a share house, if possible. The residences are another option but what I found was that the rooms were tiny and the communal kitchens stank. The only good thing is that you always have friends around you.

Living only five minutes away from the campus was definitely a perk. The good thing about Lille is that you don’t need to travel too far to get what you need – I had a bakery, mini supermarkets, a Laundromat, a hairdresser, heaps of little restaurants all on my street. The V’Lille rent-a-bike system is also really convenient for you to get to places.

Here are a few things I would recommend:

  1. MUST TRY THE FOLLOWING: La Dunkerquoise (a type of waffle biscuit), the Merveilleux from Aux Merveilleux de Fred, Spéculoos biscuits, Spéculoos spread, Tripel Karmeliet (beer).
  2. Take every opportunity to see bits and pieces of Europe. Lille is in such a great location, so go explore a completely different city on the weekends! And then go somewhere further during the holidays.
  3. Bookmark ryanair.com, covoiturage.fr, couchsurfing.org. These will save you a lot of money.

Being a foreigner in a completely different country is such a fun thing to experience, so if you’ve got an opportunity to do an exchange, go for it!

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