France, Chambéry – Jeannine Maghoo – 2008-2009

The Town

Chambery is small, quaint, and quite safe. Most supermarkets, restaurants and bars were all within 10-15 minutes walking distance from where I was living (ARPEJ). I preferred this smaller town, as you are more likely to bump into other ERASMUS and friends from University in the street, or in the supermarket. Also, as most of the other ERASMUS were within walking distance and many stayed in the same accommodation as us, we would see a lot more of each other than if you were spread out in a larger city such as Lyon. The town is very busy on weekends, especially when the weather is good and there is quite a bit to do: Chambery has an ice skating rink, indoor swimming pools and stables. In the same area as the pools there is a big hilly park with breathtaking views of the mountains – here we spent quite a few a sunny afternoons and evenings during the summer.

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Getting around

Within Chambery: I walked everywhere but a few students hired bicycles from the Velostation, which is next to the train station (a 5 minute walk from the Elephants Fountain in the centre of town). Rental is quite affordable for the year – you have to give a sizeable deposit but this may just be in the form of a cheque that they don’t cash. Most of us only really used public transport to go to the big hypermarkets which are 15/20 mins away by bus, from the bus station in the centre of town: 1.10 Eur (aller simple) 2.20 Eur return.

Bourget du Lac, is a lake not far chambery centre and an area in which another part of the Univeristy campus is situated. It is a 20 minute bus ride from the centre- we tended to go on warmer days. Cycling to Bourget from Chambery was also very popular.

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Chambery

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Bourget du Lac

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Chambery at 6am –

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Outside of Chambery: The town is well connected by train. You can get to Grenoble, Annecy, Lyon or Geneva for between 6-20 Euros return. Getting connecting trains that take you to the airport in Geneva or Lyon is equally as easy. Coaches are also available to take you from Chambery directly to Lyon or Geneva airport. As you are well placed to travel around Europe – take every opportunity! 

Université de Savoie

The campus (Jacob Balcombette) is pretty in the Summer, similar to Exeter but on a smaller scale. The buildings are older, circa 1970/80s, and also on a hill! Meaning that you’ll have at least 10-15 minutes of induced exercise at least once a day. Luckily I was only a 20 minute walk from Uni, 30 minute if I had a lecture at the top of campus. Although, when I first arrived I had decided that a car would be good investment, and quite necessary if I was to survive   – I managed quite well on foot. I only took the bus to campus twice in 9 months and you may even decide to rent a bicycle for the year. For the winter, I would definitely bring with you/invest in a good pair of winter boots – something that will take you through the rain/ snow/ slush and ice.  

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Choosing classes

You will have to go to the offices at the top of campus near to building 2. There is a long corridor with information on available classes posted on the notice boards as well as booklets available in the main LEA/LLSH department office, also on this corridor. You can choose classes from across the departments but we were advised to register with the  IMUS  department (building 22-23). As our Erasmus Co-ordinator was part of IMUS, all our exams and results would be processed through IMUS, this meant that our Co-ordinator would be able to deal with them directly. You will have to take 30 credits per month but with classes worth 1-4 credits each. This means that you will have approx. 10 exams each exam session. If you are an Economics student, the campus at Jacob Balcombette offers more Commerce/Business modules than Economics but you might be able to find one or two Economics modules. I would only take this class if you have previously studied Economics – otherwise I would have found it very hard to follow in French.

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Lectures

Lectures were quite daunting – to say the least – at the beginning of the year, but at the same time, it is amazing how quickly we adapted. The first few lectures were tough, I was definitely one of the most panicked as to whether or not I would make it to the second term but looking back from the second semester, it was amazing how quickly and easily we adapted and settled into the lectures – and the French system. The French are quite disorganised when it comes to the admin side of things so BE PREPARED. You might have last minute room changes- this is posted at the top of campus (the corridor by building 2). Quite frustrating when you have an 8am lecture- yes, you will probably have a few 8am lectures but you will get used to it. If you choose your classes carefully then you might be able to have Thursday and Friday free. It’s worth it because then you can use the long weekend to travel. The ERASMUS bubble also helps you along the way, with everyone in the same boat, sharing the same experience, you never have to feel alone or isolated – and seeing everyone else panicking about the challenge ahead was also reassuring. Our classes were quite manageable and when it comes down to Exams, revision was a straightforward memory exercise. As each class will be worth 1-4 credits, you will end up taking on average 10 exams each semester. This depends on whether or not you have “controle continu” (two class tests which will average out to give you a final grade) or as we are accustomed to- a final exam at the end of the semester. Make sure to take an English-French Dictionary & Business Eng-Fr Dictionary with you because you will be allowed to use them in most exams. (For exams from the DRI department, which are especially held for foreign students, you won’t be able to use them).

Food

The canteen food was reasonably priced but we tended to go home for lunch or bring lunch to campus as canteen food was hit and miss.

Accommodation

ARPEJ, Laureades and Foyer des Alpes were the most popular. A lot of ERASMUS stayed at Arpej. This was around 480 Euros per month (depending on room size) but with CAF (housing aid) this went down to around 280 Eur.

Arpej

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Laureades

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DO NOT STAY IN HOTEL CURIAL! This is the lodging suggested by the University.  Previous reports warned us of Curial and they were right  – rooms were grubby, depressing and overpriced. Also, the halls on campus aren’t particularly nice, they were often broken into and the walk back to halls after a night out in the town would not be advised.

Foyer des Alpes – cheaper than Arpej, especially with student housing aid; slightly further from University and town centre; there is a shared kitchen per floor.

Picture of LaureadesArpej & Laureades – Studio rooms with kitchenette, nearer to the town centre and Uni, opposite Charlys (one of the main places we used to go in the evening). I lived in Arpej. There is a lavette opposite which is very convenient but yes, you do have to pay to do your laundry. These two accomodations are a few minutes walk from O’Pogues, Opera and RDC and opposite to Charlys. Arpej and Laureades are also around the corner from the most popular restaurants in Chambery: La Savoyard, La Grange, Le 32, and many more. The food is very good and there is quite a variety of cuisine available – Vietnamese, Indian, Italian, Regional French, Mauritian, Tapas (around the corner from O’Cardinals), and plenty of Kebab shops.

Electricity: You will have to pay separately for your electricity; this needs to be connected by EDF. Try and arrange this before you arrive – maybe send them an email/ ask your place of accommodation to arrange this for you. If not, you can visit EDF when you arrive and they will connect it for you –  but you will need to make an appointment and this may take a few days.

Washing: You might also have to pay separately to do your washing at a lavette, as Arpej did not provide washing machines and Laureades only provided one for the whole building.

Nightlife

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There are two main clubs, Opera and RDC, which are next door to each other in Carre Curial. Our main nights out were RDC on a Wednesday & Opera on Thursday (student night) and Saturday. 

Corsaire was a definite favourite with cocktails and salsa every Wednesday.

Opera was also very popular in the first semester. It’s the biggest club (of the two!) in Chambery and tends to be packed with students on a Thursday night.

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(The Beaujolais Nouveau Festival @ O’Pogues) 

There are more Irish pubs in chambery than there are clubs and bars and this is where we started off most of our evenings. Charlys and O’Pogues were the most popular as they are closest to the main student lodgings and are on the same road as Arpej and Laureades.  O’Cardinals was also very popular in the evening with live music from time to time, it has great atmosphere in summer. Charlys also have a live music set on a Wednesday evening.

Skiing/Snowboarding

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This was the main reason that I chose Chambery.

During winter, the university runs ski trips (through their sports department SUAPS), on most weekends to Meribel/Mottaret. For 15Eur you get transport there and back and a ski pass for the day, however you do not have access to all 3 Valleys. It’s still great value for money. You then pay a further 13Eur to rent your ski equipment for the weekend – this you can get from Tigre Blanc in Chambery. When you return from skiing, the shop is usually open so you can return your equipment as soon as you get off of the coach. 

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SUAPS also organizes a weekend ski trip to Courcheval for beginner snowboarders/ skiers.

Picture of Skiing/SnowboardingOther day ski trips to Italy are available but not as often as the Meribel-Mottaret and you must put your name down in advance.

Outside of the university, during the winter, a coach service is available from the centre of town to take you to a nearby piste. The slopes are quite gentle and would be nice to visit once but there isn’t nearly as much variety as you would have in Meribel-Mottaret. 

Sports

The University sports centre (SUAPS) makes available a number of classes during the week from “stretching” (yoga) to break dancing, karate, ballroom and swing dancing. You need to sign up for classes at the beginning of the term as spaces fill up quickly and you will have to pay upfront. There is also a small gym on campus, in the SUAPS building.

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