Bonjour! I am currently spending the semester studying abroad in Paris, France. Two months in, and it is undoubtedly one of the best experiences I have ever had. As much fun as I may be having right now, the process of getting to this point was very long and complicated. Here is some advice for avoiding the stress of pre-departure. Although some of these tips are specific to Paris, you can use them for practically any exchange location!
Tip 1: I don’t want to bore you with all of the technical information because everything is all laid out very clearly on the French consulate’s website. Just make sure you are getting the visa that best suits your needs. Most students will get the basic student visa that will allow them to become temporary residents for a specific period of time. There is another visa that allow students to work and get paid as well as receive a housing subsidy from the French government. They are two different visas with different requirements, so check carefully.
Tip 2: The process of getting your visa is extremely fast and simple. The process of getting all of your documents for your visa can be a nightmare. Do not leave this to the last minute! Make sure you read over the visa requirements and get the necessary documents as soon as possible.
Tip 1: If you want a (relatively) hassle free way of finding a place to stay, just stay in the student residence that your host school offers. If the residence isn’t that great in terms of price, location, amenities, etc. you can find places to stay online. Websites like airbnb.com and lodgis.com are great because they’re catered specifically to foreigners. Fully furnished and cheap places are hard to come by and so are highly competitive. Search for places early and book as soon as you find one. Just be careful of any scams!
Tip 2: Make sure you research the neighbourhood of your potential new place very well. It may be cheap, but it’s not going to be worth it if it’s in a bad area. If you know the address, search it up on Google Maps and use the street view function to explore the neighbourhood. Look for nearby laundromats, grocery stores, metro stations, bus stops and restaurants.
Paris Tip: If you’re going to Paris and want to live in the “typical” Parisian apartment (the ones with a beige façade and on top of a boulangerie), you’re probably thinking of an apartment in a Haussmann building. Although not all of them are atop a bakery, they are everywhere in Paris. Just note that they can be expensive, especially considering the fact that a lot of them are very old. Some don’t have elevators and others don’t have toilets inside the rooms! The toilet may be outside of the room and shared with neighbours on the same floor.