Many thousands of British students come to France to study every year, either in an exchange programme such as Erasmus, or independently.
For the vast majority, this will be an amazing and life-changing experience.
Every year, however, Consular staff are approached by students who are having a tough time. Unforeseen events happen all the time, of course, but prior planning can often make a real difference when problems crop up.
We’ve talked to UK Consular staff around France and used their experience with real-life difficulties and tragedies to put together tips for exchange students:
Our top tips
- Renting a flat? If you’re asked to pay a deposit by cash money transfer, be wary - does the flat actually exist? We talk to people every year who have been a victim of scams like this one.
- What about health cover? It’s not free in France. You’ll need your European Health Insurance Card to get a Carte Vitale, and you should get top-up insurance too. Talk to the French university about this. Don’t wait until you’re ill, as you may have to pay for your medical costs up front.
- If things go wrong, you may need to be repatriated back to the UK. Does your travel insurance cover that if you’re on an exchange programme?
- You’ll be meeting new people and making new friends, and that’s one of the reasons to study abroad. But stay safe when you go out! Back home, your friends will make sure you get home safely – is that the case here?
- Alcohol. We’re not going to tell you not to drink (that probably won’t work!) But do make sure that you drink sensibly.
- Watch out for misunderstandings – does that bloke (or girl) understand what you’re saying? Does he (or she) understand that you’ve said no?
- A big city is a big city, even when it’s “une grande ville”. Remain vigilant and use common sense, just as you would at home. Don’t carry your passport on you.
- Draw up a budget and stick to it. You may have more euros than pounds, but they’ll go just as fast.
- Learn some French! You’ll have more fun, and easily gain another skill too.
- If you run into trouble, talk to someone about it. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed.
Where can you find more?
- Tips for safety from the Paris Police force.
- Centre Régional des Oeuvres Universitaires et Sociales. The “Crous” is the first port of call for anything to do with student welfare, including accommodation and even student jobs.
- Caisse d’Allocations Familiales. If you’re entitled to housing benefit, you’ll need to get in touch with the local “CAF”.
- Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook – we publish all sorts of helpful tips for Brits in France.
- The British Community Committee website has details of all sorts of English-speaking associations that may be of assistance (or that you might like to join!)
- The French Embassy in London also has a page of advice and more information for you.
If things go wrong
If you do run into trouble, we’ve got consulates in Paris, Marseille and Bordeaux that cover the whole of France. Call us on +33 144 513 100 (24hrs a day, 7 days a week). We can’t help you pay your rent or find a job though!