Now that we’ve been back in home for a while (a while which has just passed super fast! :D), it’s good to look back and list some things which the future exchange students might find useful.
- If you want to fly quite cheaply to Paris and you’re not annoyed by changing a plane once in a way, we recommend you to take flights from AirBaltic. AirBaltic departs from Helsinki and flights through Riga. There you change the plane to Paris, to Charles de Gaulle. The change time is only about 30-40minutes, so not bad at all J And nowadays you can earn those PINS-points also when flying with AirBaltic.
- Airport transportation is organized cleverly, since the RER (local train) operates from CDG and also Orly, in case you choose an airline which lands there, and it goes straight to the Gare du Nord station. A single RER ticket costs around 10€.
- The train to Troyes departs from Gare de l’Est station, which is within a short walking distance from Gare du Nord. There is also a metro line passing the two stations, but the distance is truly short, even with your super heavy luggage for four months 😀
Useful Tips for Train Transportation
- As soon as you arrive in France, buy the Carte Jeune from SNCF, the French railway company. It costs 50€, suitable for people under 28 years and is valid for a year from the purchase. Even if you’re staying just half a year, the card will soon pay itself back, especially if you fancy to see the surroundings of Troyes by train, trust us! J With the Carte Jeune you’ll get discount from train tickets from 10%-50% depending on time you travel and how early in advance you buy the tickets. The ticket office at the Paris Gare de l’Est was perfect for us to buy the discount cards, since Nord was way more busy and the lines to the ticket sales longer.
- When travelling by train, always remember to STAMP the ticket before going to the platform or to the train. If you haven’t stamped your ticket, you’ll get a fine to pay. The stamp machines are little yellow boxes situated usually just before the platforms.
- We recommend you to buy the train tickets online and print them out. (This will work only later when you get the opportunity to print, so go to the ticket office on the first ride :D) When you have bought the ticket online and you have just a basic A4-paper ticket, you don’t need to stamp the ticket before going to the train. The printing is simple (ok, simple after trying if for a couple of times, and asking help from the technical support :D) at school, so the tickets are easily available. The internet booking site can be used both in French and in English.
Arriving to Troyes
- The ride from Paris to Troyes will take approximately 1,5 hours, depending on the train and whether it stops on all the little stations on the way. You’ll know when to get off of the train, since even though you would be in shock not to understand any of the announcements, you cannot miss the word Troyes. 😀
- There will be students greeting you on the platform with a Groupe ESC sign. The school organizes the pick-up service, so that all the exchange students will be taken by car first to the school to pick up the survival package (check our post ”Finally Here” to check what it included) and then to the apartments. The students will help you when meeting the landlord to sign the rental contracts.
Accommodation and Daily Life
- In Troyes select accommodation near the school or quite next to city center. Good apartments which school offered located in for example Rue Henri Lémasson, Rue Etienne Dupont and Avenue Pierre Brosolette. Don’t take an apartment from old town of Troyes, since sometimes there were homeless people and drug dealers walking and sleeping in the streets during the evenings and nights.
- Choose an “all-inclusive” apartment which has already water, electricity and internet included in the rent. We noticed that especially the French electricity company, EDF (almost in a monopolist position in France) has really expensive electricity at least compared to Finnish prices. Our dear friends Kristin and Johanna had about 70m2 apartment and their electricity bill was over 300€ per two months. Add to that water, internet and sometimes also a gas bill and it’s going to be a lot!
- You will need to buy a French home insurance during your arrival in France, which costs 60€. The insurance is organized by the school, so basically you just need to sign and pay 😀 Before leaving to France, make sure whether you Finnish home insurance covers also in abroad. At least, Lilli had a home insurance from If and If’s home insurance covers temporarily also home abroad for maximum time of one year.
- There are couple of great supermarkets next to the school; Leader Price and Lidl. Also Cansino, Carrefour and Intermarché can be found around the city. We did our groceries in Leader Price and Lidl, since they were the cheapest and closest ones to our apartment. The food is relatively cheap compared to Finland, but some products, for example fish or tinned tuna fish, were a little too pricey for us. The selection and prices of fruits is remarkable, you can have strawberries in February! 🙂
- The drinking water is said to be drinkable, but at least for us it tasted horrible (thanks to the delicious water in Jyväskylä we were used to :D) The water in France has a high calcium content, which makes the taste funny, the dishes dirty after washing, the coffee machines blocked and your hair never feeling fresh and clean. You get used to it fast, and can also try drinking it like some of our friends did. The bottled water is not expensive, since you get 6 litres of it for just an euro.
- Compared to Finland, French do not recycle at all! 😀 There are only two different sections of garbage; bottles, glass and tins to one and all the rest to the other one. You’ll find the trash cans on the streets, and the landlords tell more about the location when arriving.
- Here in Finland, all the teachers and actually the entire school systems emphasizes on the creativity, innovation and invention of something new and unforeseen. In Groupe ESC Troyes, some of the teachers (especially the ”old-school” ones) did not appreciate our way of doing at all, and obviously did not understand our ideas as we would have liked. This led to some disappointing grades in some courses. So don’t panic if your grades are not as good as in Finland. Neither of us have ever been this lousy students, according to the grades at least 😀
- In general, the methods of teaching were quite similar between teachers in Groupe ESC and in JAMK, PowerPoint and presentations, followed by group works or a written exam. The course materials were mostly in the Intranet, we got only a couple of printouts.
- Be prepared for the course descriptions not to match the actual courses you attend to. We selected all the courses based on the syllabuses given, and were disappointed with some of the courses, as you might have read before.
- Even though the syllabus of a course might say that the course will be conducted entirely in English, the teachers tend to switch it into French. The French students also like to ask questions in French, and then obviously the teacher continued with the same language. Sometimes the groupworking was also a bit difficult due to the shyness (or reluctance) of the French students to speak English.
- Take the advantage of the Intensive French course offered at the beginning of the semester, and also later on at the follow-up course! It is a great addition to your studies and gives a lot more confidence with the language. The French test you need to make online before leaving was not the best way to determine the starting level of the skills, which led to many changes of groups. Don’t be too shy to ask for a group which suits better to you! 🙂
- The copying and printing can be done at school in several spots. The school has downloaded 5€ to your student account for printing; black&white prints cost 0,01€ and colour prints 0,1€. Neither of us spent the entire amount, even though we printed out quite many documents.
- The same method can also be used with the school cafeteria, but then you’ll need to download the money to your student card yourself. We did not eat at school too often, since we lived so close, and thus didn’t use the downloading thing. Cash is also accepted.
- During our semester in ESC Troyes, they were renovating the main campus a lot. The new side of the campus will be opened this autumn, so the future exchange students will enjoy the new facilities, not the construction site we studied in 😀
What to do in Troyes and in France
- In Troyes the public transportation works just fine! If you don’t need to travel by bus daily, you can buy Single and Triple tickets straight from the bus driver. Single ticket was 1.35€, so really cheap compared to the prices in Finland.
- The walking distances are not too long, at least for us Finns, and walking is a great way to move around. The walk from the school to the city centre was about 15mins, and 20 to the train station. Beware of the cars, since they tend not to respect the pedestrians and drive sometimes like crazy 😀
- As you are living in France, try all the tasty things France has to offer. There are a lot of tiny and cosy little restaurants and creperie in the city centre, and especially towards the summer they open up the terraces to the streets. The prices are affordable, and the food delicious. Try also the boulangeries (bakeries) where you can find freshly baked baguettes and different kinds of pastries.
- If you have the chance, go to local food and wine markets, where you can taste the wines and champagne from the local producers, and try the snails in the garlic and parsley sauce, like Lilli did! 🙂 The markets are also a great way to practice the language and see the French people. We attended the wine market in Bréviandes in April, truly recommended if there during the spring semester!
- If you’re planning a trip to other close by cities and you don’t want to travel by train, check out the BlaBlaCar.fr. It’s a service where French people offer you a lift and they’ll ask some money for it. Quite the same system than Kimppakyydit in Finland, but all the bookings and payments of rides are done online. We tried the BlaBla once, and had such a pleasant journey to Dijon, so we can truly recommend it J
- Visit store called ACTION, if you need anything for your apartment. There you can find mugs, cups, plates, blankets etc. with cheap prices. It’s also an amazing place to buy some souvenirs to bring home to friends. You can find Action from Saint Parres-aux-Tertres , and the adress is : Avenue du Général de Gaulle 103, 10410 Troyes. The easiest way to reach this heaven-on-earth store is to take the bus number 7 (grey line) towards Saint Parres-aux-Tertres next to the canal.
- If looking for some serious shopping, and the prices in Paris are too much for your student budget, we recommed Dijon, and the shopping centre of Toison d’Or. Dijon can be easily reached by train or BlaBla, and the tourism information will help with reaching the shopping centre.
- There is this beautiful lake, Lac d’Orient, about 30km from Troyes (and believe of not, it’s the nearest one, crazy huh? :D) Some of the exchange students rented bikes with fairly reasonable prices to go to the lake; we also did a trip there by our friend Ruben’s car.
- There are a lot of gatherings and theme parties organized by the student union, something happens every week (or more likely every day :D)! The students might also have home parties or bowling evenings, which are a lot of fun! 🙂 Usually the student organization also offers the exchange students a trip to Disneyland in Paris or a tour in the southern coast of France. This year they also planned some trips, but they were quite expensive and cancelled due to the lack of attendees..
- Take copies of your important papers, passport, birth certificate etc. ALWAYS keep the original with you and give only copies when asked.
- You’ll need a birth certificate to apply for French CAF –housing benefit for students. The birth certificate needs to be in French and at least in Jyväskylä the magistrate couldn’t help us. We got ours from Helsinki Magistrate.
- Have a good ballpoint pen with you! All the exams have to be written with one. Normal pencils are not allowed.
- The French phone number is not essential at all, at least for us. The WiFi worked at our home and at school, and nowadays everyone uses the apps to communicate via the internet, so we survived without is. And saved 20€ per month 😀
- Don’t hesitate to contact or visit the international office, Pauline is extremely kind and helpful in every case! 🙂
- Be patient! This is maybe the most important advice we can give you, especially for those first few weeks. Some things may not happen in time or at all, it might take a huge effort to even get to the point, and sometimes you need to wait a long time. You’ll get used to the French way of doing, which is not wring, but just different compared to the Finnish one. If facing problems or difficult situations, just smile and encounter them with excitement, this is a unique experience! 🙂
Hopefully these tips give some of you some idea of how the exchange life is in France and in Troyes. We thank you all for reading our blog and wish the future exchange students great semesters in Groupe ESC Troyes! 🙂
– Lilli & Sofia –