Farnce, Nancy – Michael Stickland – 2005-2006
Here is my somewhat long report on life in Nancy, as you’ll probably notice I decided to be comprehensive in what I included rather than selective, I hope it answers lots of questions you may have about doing an Erasmus year.
Nancy, the home of Quiche Lorraine and Bergamotes (sweets that are made from an extract of the same plant as Earl Grey tea) is a city of about 300,000 people in the North East of France, west of Strasbourg and south of Luxembourg. It is a major student city, with around 50,000 students throughout all its universities. Nancy’s main tourist attraction is the magnificent Place Stanislas, described in some tourist information as unanimement reconnue comme l’une des plus belles places du monde (unanimously recognised as one of the most beautiful places in the world), this is perhaps going slightly over the top, but it was restored to its original 18th century design in 2005, and is particularly impressive at night. The Vieille Ville is also very pretty, and contains Nancy’s very own Arc de Triomphe. There are a number of nice parks, the Parc de la Pépinière contains a small free zoo, some small fairground rides (a few times a year a lot more appear), and a mini golf course. The Parc de la Cure d’Air (on top of a hill a bit west of the city centre) gives great views over the city. Place Carnot (next to the Faculté de Droit) hosts various events throughout the year including an excellent circus, and a travelling theme park that stays for about a month. A couple of evenings a year all the museums of the city are free for students, this ends up being a big party with art appreciation somewhat low down the list of priorities. There are 3 cinemas near the centre of Nancy, a UGC that shows everything dubbed into French, and 2 Cameos that always show films in their original language and subtitle them in French. You can see a film in the Cameo from as little as 4.40€ (£3).
The climate is continental, so colder than Britain in winter but hotter in summer. Although the winters are very cold (a couple of weeks can go by without the temperature going over freezing), it tends to be a lot sunnier so is nicer overall, and you are pretty much guaranteed a few good snows – go a couple of miles out of the city centre and it’ll be a lot deeper. Summers bring hot weather and sunshine, along with some thunderstorms. I say all this but the weather this year has been pretty bizarre, I’m writing this in the last week of May (the fact that it’s revision time helps explain why I’ve written so much) and the main story on the lunchtime news today was that it snowed not too far from Nancy today.
Being near to Germany and Luxembourg, and not too far from Switzerland and Belgium, Nancy is ideally situated for day trips and weekends away. Metz, Luxembourg and Strasbourg are all interesting cities to visit for a day, throughout December Strasbourg has a world renowned Christmas market. Paris is only a few hours away by train so can be a great weekend visit. Unfortunately I didn’t think of it in time, but you can get direct trains to Munich and go to the Oktoberfest beer festival. The Vosges mountains are a couple of hours away from Nancy and offer decent ski slopes (only a few black runs so a little limited if you are an expert skier) in the winter and great walks in the summer. I didn’t have tickets but I spent a great day in Cologne when England played Sweden in the World Cup.
The best way of getting to and from Nancy obviously depends on which part of Britain you are coming from. The nearest airports to Nancy (that do international flights) are Paris (Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais), Luxembourg, Basle (Switzerland) and Frankfurt-Haan (Germany). Depending on which airport you go to you’ll then need to take a mix of buses and trains to get to Nancy. In 2007 the TGV Est Européen should finally start going, which will reduce the time to get from Paris to Nancy to about a little over 2 hours. If you live in London you may find the Eurostar is cheaper, quicker and easier than flying, but you need to book a fair while in advance to get the cheapest tickets. If you can find a relative/friend willing to bring you at the beginning of the year and collect you at the end it’ll obviously greatly increase the amount of things you can bring with you, equally if you have your own car it’s fine to bring it. There seems to be a decent amount of parking space at most of the Cité Universitaires. Coach travel may also be an option, I’ve heard something about cheap coaches to London but haven’t investigated it. A Carte 12-25 saves you up to 50% on French train fares, you’ll easily save more than the initial cost of 50€ (£34) through the year.
Within Nancy I walked pretty much everywhere, but public transport is pretty widespread, reliable and cheap. If you buy a ticket for 20 journeys (works for either the bus or the tram, and multiple journeys within the same hour only count as 1) it works out as less than 1€ per journey. The centre of Nancy is flat, but becomes very hilly as you get out of the centre. It’s a lot more cyclist friendly than Exeter.
Before you arrive
Obviously the better your French is before you arrive, the easier things will be when in France, so it might be an idea to work at it a bit over the summer before you come. You’ll have various forms to fill out for Exeter and for Erasmus, don’t worry too much about what courses you put down on the learning agreement, you can always change them later. You should be sent forms for the university halls, I sent them off but they got returned to me with a note saying I hadn’t signed them. I just highlighted where I had already signed them (where it said signature) and they accepted them the second time. If you want to live in halls it’s a lot easier to sort it out before you arrive. It’s a good idea to get together a folder with all the papers you’ll need for the French administrative formalities, include:
- Passport (and a couple of photocopies)
- Anything you’ve been sent from Exeter/Nancy universities or CROUS (French student accommodation company)
- Bank statements for the past few months
- ~8 passport size photos
- EHIC card (see Health section)
- Details of any insurance you have
When you arrive
If you live in halls you have to buy a certain type of insurance from MGEL (some of student insurance company). It’s known as an “attestation d’assurance ‘Risques locatifs’ et ‘Responsabilité civile'” They may refuse to give you your key until you’ve shown it to them. MGEL is on Cours Léopold. I don’t remember exactly how much it cost but think it was in the realm of 25€. They’ll try to sell you a pack that gives you discounts on various things, if you are organised and sign up for the discounts and use the vouchers it’s worth it, if not don’t bother.
Go see Mme. Marie-Christine Viry within the first couple of days in the Service Central des Relations Internationales, on the corner of Rue Baron Louis and Quai Claude le Lorrain. She’ll give you an information pack and will explain various things to you, if you look very blankly when she’s explaining things in French she’ll change to English.
Visit the Pôle Universitaire Européen, on the top floor (use the smaller entrance door) is the Accueil-Info Etudiants . They can help you with various problems and have a lot of information about things happening in Nancy for students. The building also houses the American Library in Nancy, basically a free English language library with fiction and non-fiction books. There is also ELANS which provide self study materials for language learning in about 25 languages (most importantly French) The website (www.europole.u-nancy.fr) provides various useful details about life as a student in Nancy.
Some older Erasmus reports talk about needing a Carte de Séjour to stay in France for longer than 3 months. You no longer need this as an Erasmus student.
Get your university card from the scolarité on the 1 st floor of building E in the Fac de Droit, you may have to queue for a while. Go to see M.Dieller (the Erasmus coordinator) to sort out your courses and do the fiche pedagogique (signs you up for exams).
There are free intensive French language courses available for 4 weeks before the beginning of term. I originally planned to do 2 weeks of them, but then 2 weeks before I was due to leave for France I was browsing the Nancy uni website, when I noticed they had moved the term start dates for my course 3 weeks forward from what they had previously told me. They didn’t bother to tell any of the Erasmus students, and I got the impression the French students didn’t get much notice as a couple of them disappeared on holidays in the 2 nd week of term. I managed to arrange to go to France a week earlier than originally planned, so was there for the start of lectures but missed the intensive French language course. From what other people told me it wasn’t very much use in improving your French skills, but was great for meeting other Erasmus students.
Accommodation – Halls
The easiest option is going into French halls. The CROUS Nancy-Metz website (www.crous-nancy-metz.fr) gives some details about each of the halls, and has a couple of pictures. All French halls are self catering in the sense that you aren’t prepaying for food, however, the cooking facilities suggest that they don’t expect you to cook there very much, but there are often adjoining Resto U’s (see the Eating section). The great advantage of halls is that they are so ridiculously cheap, with the CAF (see Money section) I paid 800€ (£550) for 10 months. My floor in halls had a complete mix of students from different universities, different years and different countries (although majority French). The French students are generally very friendly and helpful, but there is no expectation that you’ll know everyone on your corridor so you often have to initiate the first conversation. Using the kitchen can be helpful in getting to know more people. Weekends tend to be quiet as most of the French students go home. You may think that the people who work at reception in halls are there to help you, but you’ll soon find they are there to be awkward and generally unhelpful – just ignore them as much as you can.
There are 4 halls which are pretty conveniently placed for both the city centre and the Fac de Droit.
Think Duryard/Ransom Pickard with a lick of paint, but all rooms are single standard. There are long corridors with rooms on each side, around 40 to a floor. Each floor has 4 toilets and 4 showers, which seems to suffice, people seem to take showers at varying times throughout the day. You bring your own toilet roll (this sounds ridiculous but you get used to it). There is one small kitchen between the 40ish people that has 2 hob rings, 2 sinks and a large fridge. The fridge has 10 lockable compartments, you can rent them from reception on a first come first served basis. There are no communal cooking utensils. Quite a few French students bring microwaves, fridges or even electric hobs for their rooms. There is a laundry room with 2 washing machines and 2 tumble dryers, you buy the tokens from reception (3.50€ the pair). Doesn’t sound like enough but most people go home at weekends and take their washing with them. There is also a TV room, small library/work room, small computer room, couple of music rooms and a few public telephones. Your room will be 9m 2 (about 4m by 2.25m), and has a desk with chair and lamp, another more comfy chair, wash basin (with mirror), bidet and a big bookcase/wardrobe/storage in-built thing. There is more storage space attached to the wall above the bed (single). You are provided with a few blankets and a dodgy pillow (without pillow case), but no other bed linen. There are 3 plug sockets, all next to each other in one corner of the room, no phone/internet access. In the few rooms nearest to the Fac de Lettres you’ve got a decent chance of using their Wifi connection. You won’t be cold in winter, they have the radiators nearly all the time, so lots of people keep their windows open – a very environmentally friendly arrangement. On the whole halls are a bit quieter than in Exeter, someone walks around telling you to turn your music down or talk more quietly from 11pm onwards. There’s a bus stop nearby if you are too lazy to walk to the city centre/ Fac de Droit.
- 5 mins from Resto U at Monbois (all times are for walking – fast)
- 10 mins from Fac de Droit
- 15 mins from city centre
Very similar to Boudonville in most ways, but has some nicer rooms as well. I’ve never been inside but assume most of the same facilities are on offer. There’s a bus stop nearby.
- Has its own Resto U.
- 15 mins from Fac de Droit
- 20 mins from city centre
The rooms are slightly nicer than Boudonville/Monbois, and they have bigger (yet less) kitchens, this makes it a bit more friendly as more than one person can cook at a time. Is generally a bit less dingy as it has been refurbished more recently. Some rooms have their own fridges. Near to the tram line. I’ve heard that Wifi was installed for 2006/2007, I assume other halls will follow suit reasonably soon or already have done so.
- Has its own Resto U.
- 10 mins from city centre
- 15 mins from Fac de Droit
Medr é ville
These halls are a lot nicer than the other 3, and only cost about 40€ more a month. I think all rooms have their own fridges, and the halls have a cool double helix staircase. Near to a bus stop.
- Has it’s own Resto U.
- 20 mins from city centre
- 25 mins from Fac de Droit
If you really want to be able to cook for yourself then you are better off finding private accommodation. Most French students who don’t live in halls or at home have their own little flat. Known as studios they normally have 2 rooms, a bedroom-living room-kitchen, and a bathroom. Once you’ve received the CAF they end up costing from about 200-350€ a month. I wouldn’t advise this as it would make it pretty hard to meet people at first, although if you are lucky you may end up living in a block of flats with quite a lot of other students.
Another option is sharing a flat with some other people, if the others are French then this will probably improve your language skills the most. There are some websites that can help you organise this, search for “colocation” on google.fr and you should find them. Alternatively MGEL and Pôle Europ éen will have adverts. Another way to find flatmates would be to speak to the students from Nancy currently studying in Exeter.
The Resto Us offer you a large meal for 2.70€ (£1.85), you get a bread roll, starter, main course, cheese, dessert/fruit and water for your money. You can substitute some things to have more of another. There are normally 2 main courses on offer, but it’s a rare occurrence that either is suitable for vegetarians. On the whole the food is pretty good, and the menus vary enough to stop it being too repetitive. Some Resto U’s require you to use their payment card system, there is a little kiosk in each Resto U where you can get one.
French supermarkets are slightly cheaper than British ones for the same quality of food. Nancy has a Match and a Monoprix near the centre, but if you can get to Lidl, Auchan, Cora etc. if you get the bus. The cheaper prices will probably more than cover the cost of the bus ticket. Being France, there is bound to be a boulangerie within 5 minutes walk of wherever you may live, most students I know seem to eat an awful lot of baguettes. Alcohol is a lot cheaper in French supermarkets than in Britain, particularly wine.
Eating out tends to work out slightly cheaper than in Britain, the Vielle Ville is where you’ll find most of the restaurants. There is an excellent sandwich shop called Made in France near the Porte de la Craffe.
An Erasmus year will almost certainly be your cheapest year of university, despite the increased cost of travelling between home and university. You receive a non means tested grant from the EU for the year, which worked out as about £2100 for 2005/2006, but I believe this was dramatically more than normal so maybe we just got lucky. You don’t pay tuition fees to either Exeter or Nancy, and accommodation is massively cheaper. Whatever type of accommodation you choose you can apply for the CAF (Caisse Allocation Familiales), this is a subsidy for students and low income families that gives you about about 1/3 off your accommodation, again non means tested. Go to the Pôle Européen to get the forms and for help filling them out, and persist if they tell you your application was incomplete the first time, I sent off an identical application 3 times and they accepted it the 3 rd time.
Life seems easier if you have a French bank account, but I do know people who managed without one. The only bank that has branches both in Exeter and Nancy is HSBC, but it’s not as easy as you would expect to transfer your account, so even if you use HSBC in Britain it may be easier to just find which bank offers the best deal when you get here. Banks don’t throw money at students like they do in Britain, in fact they charge you a few euros a month just to have an account with a debit card. I wouldn’t recommend using travellers’ cheques unless you have a sadistic side that likes confusing post office staff. I took some out and found that banks wouldn’t change them for you unless you were a customer, and my own bank asked me if I could take them to the post office as they didn’t know how to deal with them, and didn’t want to mess it up. Each time I went to the post office I got staff who had to go looking for forms for 5 mins, or ask a friend how to deal with them.
You can still receive your student loan, just let the Student Loans Company know that you are on a 4 year course and it should be fairly easy to sort out.
It’s perfectly feasible to get a part time job while on your Erasmus year. If you’ve got previous bar or waitering experience you’ll probably be able to find something along those lines. One of my friends saw an advert (in the Pôle Européen) for someone who wanted an English teacher for their kids. He ended up being paid (and sometimes fed too) for playing with a couple of young kids for one morning a week, and speaking English to them, their mum was still there so he didn’t even have any responsibility for looking after them.
It will almost certainly be prohibitively expensive to use your British mobile phone in France so I suggest you get a French mobile phone. You can buy a Pay as you go mobile from about 60€ (£45), but a little warning, in France credit expires after a certain amount of time. My parents found a phone deal that let them phone my French mobile for about 5p a minute from a UK landline.
There is a shop on Rue St. Dizier that sells lots of British and Irish products, so you needn’t go without Marmite while in France. Also on Rue St. Dizier is a shop that sells a decent selection of British newspapers.
The Université Nancy 2 is the social sciences, arts and languages university in the city (Nancy 1 does sciences, medicine etc.). The 2 major campuses are the Fac de Lettres and the Fac de Droit, the latter housing Law, Economics and Management. The Fac de Droit is right in the heart of the city and has a building that would beat Streatham Court (not to mention the physics building) hands down in an architectural competition. There are also a few other smaller parts of the university scattered around the city.
My Erasmus coordinator was Mr. Bernard Dieller, a very nice man but pretty hard to track down. Your best bet for finding him is either turn up at his room (Room E306) 5 minutes after one of his lectures has finished, or Email him to arrange a meeting. He does his best to be help you, but I found the help he could offer me (particularly in the first semester) was limited by my level of French.
The university website does have some details of courses on it, but they are pretty limited and hard to find. To find lectures times look at the notice board that are all round the central area (outside bit) of the Fac de Droit. Lectures can start as early as 8am and end as late as 8pm (as you go out later this isn’t really a problem), you’ll probably have 20-25 hours of lectures and tutorials a week, but will have little work do outside them – and very few of the French students do it anyway. Check the notice board at least once a week, lectures are liable to be cancelled or moved without the lecturer telling you, and they never send you any information by Email.
The Fac de Droit has 2 computer rooms with internet access (ground floor, CR04 and CR05), but also has Wifi. The computer rooms are open from 8am-7pm weekdays, sometimes closing for lunch, and quite often tutorials use them. The printers are free but you have to provide your own paper. The Fac de Lettres has more computer rooms and they are open for longer hours, but you’ll need to borrow the username and password off someone who studies there.
You have the choice of following whatever courses you feel like, but I did all the courses of the 3 rd year of the Analyse économique degree. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed all my courses, but I did enjoy doing all my lectures with the same people, they were all very welcoming and willing to help me out. About half of my courses were with just with the people doing Analyse économique (about 20 people), and the other half also had people doing the Economie et gestion d’entreprise degree (about 60 more people). You normally get a 10-15 min break in the middle of 2 hour lectures, lectures regularly start 10 minutes late, and a lot of students in my courses ate lunch together at the nearby Resto U, so you’ll have plenty of time to chat with them. If you do 1 st year modules then the classes will be massive so it will be a lot harder to meet people, but of course the courses will be easier. I was the only Erasmus student in a couple of my modules, but there were up to 5 others in some others (from Poland, Germany and Spain), all those who went and sat with the French students and started chatting to them were readily accepted by them.
Lectures tend to be predominantly dictated, with very few handouts. The lecture theatre had a computer projector but I didn’t see anyone use it all year, although an OHP was used a couple of times in tutorials. Don’t worry if your notes seem to contain a few words then a lot of dots before a few more words for the earlier lectures, they will resemble something like what the lecturer said towards the end of the year. As my handwriting is rubbish anyway, I found it more useful to research which French student has the best handwriting and photocopied their notes, and even better than that found someone who typed up all his notes. Some courses will have a set text or reading list, but generally you’ll be examined on what the lecturer dictates to you. All modules are taught in French.
As an Erasmus student you get the choice of doing either a written or oral exam for each module, whereas the French students do all written exams. Whether or not the oral exam is any easier depends greatly on which lecturer did that module. Some modules have a separate exam for what you did in the tutorial. If you want to do an oral exam you’ll need to speak to the lecturer to arrange it.