France, Chambéry – Harry Evans – 2007-2008
Located at the base of the Alps, Chambery is a gateway to a wealth of alpine activities. The university is quite small but very friendly and welcoming to foreign students. I spent the entire year there and would recommend it to anyone, even if you can’t ski!
- Lyon airport is a 45 min drive away and has a TGV station at the airport
- During the ski season Chambery and Grenoble both run flights to various cities including Exeter.
- Geneva airport is the main airport that students use, with most of the cheap airlines flying there. There is a train to Geneva and then a bus to the airport.
- Chambery train station is linked to all major cities in France and also has a TGV service that runs.
There is a variety of accommodation in Chambery, whether it be at the University, private residences or private flats
The best two, in my opinion, were Univercity Arpej and Comte Verte. Arpej is a private residence and you have a single room with kitchenette and bathroom. Comte Verte is the same sort of residence but you share your kitchen and bathroom with a French person, a good opportunity to improve your French.
A cheaper option is Foyer des Alps which was very popular with some international students.
A few students rented privately and shared with French students, enjoying it immensely
I set up my account with BNP Paribas. They all seem to be the same, but make sure you take a student account or you are charged for use of a debit card and chequebook. Firstly you need to make an appointment to open an account – this can be on the day or you may have to wait.
Take with you
- Passport + driving licence (you can’t have too much ID in France!)
- Student Card (either Exeter or Chambéry)
- Attestation – This is a proof of residence, as you won’t have any record of bills or previous bank statements to show them – ask at your reception when you move in.
I recommend that you make it clear that you want a cheque book with this account otherwise you have to wait another week or three for it to be made up for you.
On the day you open the account they hand you a sheet of RIBs (basically a copy of all your bank details until your card arrives, which you will need to set up any direct debits for electricity, accommodation etc).
Université de Savoie
The first thing to say is that there is going to be inequality between Erasmus students over the amount of work you have to do. Some students have to write 2 essays for their home university and do no exams whereas others have to do 60 credits and take all the exams. We are unfortunately the latter, but you just have to deal with it. At the end of the day you will get much more out of it, improve your French significantly more and will make some good friends on your course.
Lessons start at 8am and can go on until 6.30pm, a massive shock to the system for the first few weeks! You take a lot more courses than Exeter but because of this the content is slimmer, making it easier come exam time. I hardly ever received any homework and there were no essays or projects to hand in. There are two exam periods, one in January and one in May. When choosing courses it is a bit of a run around looking at boards, there is no online guide or handbook, you have to hunt around for notice boards and visit various departments.
Most of all, ask the teachers and French students for help, you’ll be surprised how many notes you can get!
There are various supermarkets around town. There are 2 Carrefour’s that can be reached by bus, an E.Clerc near Comte Verte and a Monoprix in the centre of town. However, as you are in France, why not shop like the French? There is a market every Saturday and there are boulangeries and patisseries galore.
Chambery isn’t the best for other shopping but Grenoble, Lyon and even Paris are a short train ride away.
Out and About
There are a variety of day and weekend trips around Chambery. By far the most popular was Lac du Bourget, a 15 min bus ride. A beautiful lake with a diving board, small beach and volleyball net.
If you are more cultural, Lyon, Annecy, Grenoble and even Chambery itself have some great tours and on certain weekend s everything is free.
You will find the French a lot more culturally aware than the British; there is generally an exhibition, show or parade every weekend.
The university also organises various trips to Vineyards, Cheese makers and historical sites. It runs hikes most weekends in the mountains, which I highly recommend.
You can’t help but notice the mountains when you arrive in Chambery and if you enjoy skiing you’ll be itching to get up there. The closest main ski resorts include les 3 vallees, les deux Alps and espace killy. The university runs a coach with very cheap ski passes most weekends, just make sure you sign up quickly. If you want to ski for an afternoon there are small ski areas dotted around the surrounding mountains that can be reached by bus. There is also a train to Bourg St Maurice where you can get a Funicular up to les Arcs.
For beginners and those without equipment there are ski sales all year round and you can pick up a decent pair of skis very cheaply
For quite a small city, Chambery has a surprising number of bars and clubs. The main haunts for Erasmus students were O’Pogues, O’ Cardinals, Charlys and Melodys, but there are plenty of other bars to visit. The main club is Opera but there are smaller ones, RDC and Cocktails the most notable. There are also a few clubs around the outskirts of Chambery with transport to and from organised by students.
There are also loads of restaurants for you to taste French cuisine, not to mention and unbelievable amount of kebab houses, bizarre!
Some people change their course because the thought of living in another country and leaving their uni friends is unbearable. Erasmus is a fantastic scheme; you make closer friends, you improve your language skills tenfold and you have a once in a lifetime experience, not to mention the fact that it looks good on your CV and the grant from the EU allows you to enjoy yourself without the strict constraints of your student loan.