Joie de Vivre à la Champagne

Penthouse Girls' Exchange Journey in Troyes, France

Looking Back

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.

Getting There

  • 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.

Studying

  • 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..

 Useful Tips

  • 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! 🙂

Bisous,

– Lilli & Sofia –

Kommentit pois päältä artikkelissa Looking Back

Busy, busy May

The beginning of May was full of rainy and grey days, but happiness was still around because Lilli’s parents and sister visited the town. During the first days of their visit, our kitchen cabins were stocked with 36 litres of water, 12 litres of milk and PINK toilet paper among other things. Oh happy days, we wouldn’t need to carry those huge packages of bottles along the streets and the tiny corridors of our house up to the attic every week! 😀

We visited also the Outlets (Marques City and McArthurGlenn) with Lilli’s guests and this time the view was totally different. The outlet area was full of people, more shops were open and fresh green trees and other plants popped up here and there. Really different sight compared to the first visit in February. A lovely atmosphere!  After the Outlets we kept on shopping but we changed the place. We went to a Be Green shopping area in Saint Parres Aux Tertres. There we spend again few hours and, of course we didn’t go home empty-handed.

Because in France, Lilli also had to take her parents and sister out to eat some “Crêpes”, French pancakes. The dinner started with salty crêpes and ended with delicious sweet crêpes. We also visited the cute town of Epernay, which is famous for being the ”Mecca of champagne”. We did an interesting tour at the cellars (which are by the way over 27 km! :O ), and of course a dégustation, at Moët & Chandon.

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Kristin and Johanna’s lovely landlords had invited us to “Foire aux Vins” (a wine market), which took place this time in a village called Palis. The market seemed to be more a village party than an exact a wine market. We saw some local dance performances, heard local music etc. After champagne tasting, the landlords of girls’ offered us also a lunch. It wasn’t any small lunch! Lilli and Johanna had the possibility to have escargot, (snails) as an entrée. We thought it would only be a couple of them, just to have a taste, but both of us we got 12 snails per each!! Heaven! The main dish Lilli had was duck breast and Sofia had some chicken. After eating the wine tasting continued..

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In the evening we felt tired, but we wanted to still the day to continue. We agreed to prepare a dinner together with girls, Kristin and Johanna and to watch a movie. How relaxed taco and movie evening we had! That was really something we needed 🙂

May was one of the busiest months we had had while being here. Most of the courses are now luckily done, still one lesson and exam to go about Recruitment in Luxury Tourism. We had couple of exams in the ”Salle d’examens”, which turned out to be a classroom in the cellar/storage area. Not the greatest place to write an exam! 😀

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Our lovely Pippi Långstrump (Johanna) from Sweden had her 22nd birthday in May. We went out to have a celebration dinner at the Salsa Café in the city centre. During the evening we came up with the idea of going to spend the next day in Dijon to do some…. SHOPPING! And the next morning we headed to Dijon..

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The day in Dijon was the dream come true for us shopaholic girls! We went to a big shopping centre, “Toison d’Or” in the exterior of Dijon. There were many wonderful boutiques, but one has all the honour, the Primark. 😉

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The Sunday 18th of May we made a day trip to Paris. It was a sunny day, sometimes really warm in the sun, but we truly enjoyed it! In the morning we climbed up to Sacre-Coeur to see the breath-taking views over the Paris.  Up on the hill, we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the mass of tourists there..There were tourists in every corner of Sacre-Coeur even though it was Sunday and time when probably many of the tourists would leave home. Crowded, we would say so! 😀

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We also saw the Notre Dame, Louvre, Moulin Rouge and Jardin du Tuliers. Locals had come out to sunbathe to Jardin du Tuliers and were sitting and talking to each other in a cheerful way. Because of the heat we wanted to cool down by having ice cream. It wasn’t just an ice cream, but a flower made of it. Tasty design! 😀

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To the end, some random pictures from May 🙂

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Yep, winter returned to our ”fridge” 😀

P.S. We’re coming home in a week! Yikes!! 😀

Bisous

– Lilli & Sofia –

 

Kommentit pois päältä artikkelissa Busy, busy May

The Beauty of April

Wooow, it’s almost May! Time just flies, especially when you’re having fun (and A LOT of school work! :D) This is what we’ve been up to the past weeks..

Wine

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At the beginning of April we were invited to go to the wine market in Bréviandes, a village near to Troyes. Some of us walked to the market, while the majority of the group rented bikes for the day. In the end, we were a group of 30 exchange students and the locals were extremely interested and astonished when we entered the little exhibition hall all at once. Johanna’s and Kristin’s landlord had told the girls about the event and also gave them some entrance tickets for free. Since us students were apparently such a rare sight at these kinds of markets, we all ended up getting in free of charge. After touring the petite hall, we continued with a great picnic at the playground of a local school. The weather and especially the company were awesome! 🙂

We started a couple of new courses; Quality and Ethics in Luxury Tourism, Recruitment in the Luxury Sector, Luxury Event Management and Multicultural Team Management, which is the only course we selected from the business side, and so far is one of the best ones! 🙂 The teacher in Quality and Ethics reminded us of Cruella de Vil, and it ended up being a  strange course, even though we could not attend the half of the lessons due to overlapping of other courses.

It is strange how the course planning has been done so that almost all courses overlap at least at some point. Luckily, there has been no bigger problems with it, and we have been able to follow the lessons and pass all courses so far. Even though we almost lost our minds with the final group assignment in the Hotel Management in Business Tourism – course, which ended up being all about restaurant management and how to select menus so that they profit the most.. Say whaat, evidently we’re not going to have a restaurant any time soon.. 😀

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The weather has been so amazing (until now) and we’ve been enjoying the sun in Caro’s and Marina’s lovely garden. We had super yammy brunches, with Lilli’s special breads and strawberries, and sunbathed afterwards. Perfect, and lazy, since now all the workload of the courses just piled up 😀

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On Easter, after spending the ENTIRE Good Friday at school (oh come on, France, it’s a holiday!! 😀 ) we had planned great evenings at Caro’s and Marina’s, filled with looots of eating! 🙂 We invited people over on Saturday before going to a house party at the city center. We had such a great time, which can absolutely seen from the pictures, and our tummies were super full after the whole weekend of eating.

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Troyes is totally a beautiful city, especially now when everything is so green. They have really invested in the light and water elements all around the city center, which make it so cozy. We have walked around the city several times, mainly to go to visit Johanna and Kristin, who live sooo far 😀 We are really loving our whereabouts and enjoying the city more and more! 🙂

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Today we have been cleaning up the apartment, since Lilli’s parents and sister are coming to visit from tomorrow until Saturday, and we wanted our little home to be at its best (and clean, since Lilli’s sister is going to stay with us 🙂 Hopefully the weather would be great so that they could enjoy the city like we have! 🙂

Bisous

– Lilli & Sofia –

Kommentit pois päältä artikkelissa The Beauty of April

March

The idiom ”time flies” applies to our life here in Troyes so well at the moment, since March just seemed to go by in a second; WOOOOSH and it was gone 😀 Now we´re already in April and the spring (read: summer for us Finns :D) is showing all its glory.

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The view from our French balcony

In fact, our stay and exchange here has already reached the midway, since as it turned out to be, our last exam in ESC will be on the 3rd of June. We thought we would spend the entire June here and of course have informed that to all parties involved in the exchange, including KELA, the Erasmus money (wherever it comes from :D), our landlord as well as our employers back in Finland. To be honest, neither of us minds returning Finland a little earlier, but just the mentality behind all this is just unbelievable, maybe it’s just the French style 😀

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During the first couple of weeks of March we had just a couple of lessons per week, so we had quite a lot of free time, most of which we spent sitting in the sun in the garden of our German friends 🙂 We continued the luxury industry course, which turned our to be nothing but a disappointment. The teacher was so fixated just to the Palaces (the suuuuper expensive hotels :D) in Paris, since he seemed to be so WOWed about them and totally forgot what the course was supposed to be all about.. Now the course is over and the ongoing ones are way more interesting 🙂

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The other courses we’ve had so far are Upscale Travelling and Tour Operators, Hotel Management in the Luxury Industry, Brand Management, Luxury Hotel Management and Trend in Business Tourism. It’s mysterious how the names sound so fancy and interesting, but majority of them have included all the same things about luxury and some additional information, which was not mentioned in the course descriptions, and which we did not want to learn anything about 😀 Anyway, lots of groupwork, some of which were extremely interesting and innovative, especially the one in Brand Management, where we had to design our own luxury brand.

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The timing of our trip to London was perfect after a mentally exhausting period we had had. It was a time to load our batteries and relax in the idyllic surroundings of lovely London. The time there went smoothly, but way too fast, even though we had time to do some sightseeing, shopping and just admiring the beautiful city. The weather was favorable for us, and we enjoyed the sunny skiee, apart from a mysterious thunder- and hale storm on Saturday evening.

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Our hostel was extremely cozy and the staff helpful and friendly, from the first moment we walked in. Our room was a tiny mixed dorm for six people, and we four shared it with a girl from Denmark and with a guy from the US. There were moments when the room was way too crowded, especially in the mornings, and the air too thick for all of us. Luckily the hostel was juts a place to sleep, and since it was in such a perfect location, we had easy access to the city by both walking and using the underground.

 

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On Friday we started our morning with a walk through the Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park and St. James’s Park. It was already a proper spring in London, and the cherry blossoms were blooming everywhere. Choosing to walk through all the four parks was a perfect idea just to get some fresh spring air and to get rid of our tiredness after the first, not so delightful night in the hostel bunk beds. We naturally saw all the main touristic destinations, such as the Buckingham Palace, the Big Ben, the Westminster Abbey and the London Eye. In addition, we took a tour in the area of Baker Street, just that Lilli would be able to find the house where Sherlock Holmes ”lives” and to go to the Madame Tussauds.

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We continued our tour around the city on Saturday, this time with the underground, cause our feet were dying from the previous day 😀 We went to see the Tower of London as well as the Tower Bridge, after which we stopped by on Twinings tea shop. After the tour around the important places was done, we decided to see what the Oxford Street had to offer. And boy, we were in heaven. With our little student budgets, we just fell in love with Primark, where we spent couple of hours 🙂

After the exhausting shopping spree we headed for dinner to the Hard Rock Cafe. It was packed with people but luckily we were able to get a table without waiting too long in the storm we mentioned above 😀 The dinner was a celebration of Sofia’s 23rd birthday, and the girls just happened to mention that to our waitress, and after the dinner the entire restaurant sang her a birthday song. We all got a complimentary ice cream to share, and it was delicious! 🙂

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The Sunday morning went pretty fast, since we had to leave early just to get to the Luton airport. Before, we had time to visit the famous Portobello Road, but unfortunately, the market was not yet open. Nevertheless, the houses were so cute and pretty and we all are going to move there some day 😀 The journey back to France was exhausting and disastrous, just the parts in France though 😀 cause apparently someone had jumped in the RER tracks and the trains were delayed and crowded. Luckily we were able to catch our train to Troyes from the Gade de l’Est and arrived home tired but happy 🙂

We promise not to have a silence this long again, and probably post again soon! 🙂

Bisous,

-L & S-

Kommentit pois päältä artikkelissa March

17.2.-2.3.

Last couple of weeks have just flown away! We haven’t had that much school, but our lives have been full of happenings.

Let´s start with Monday the 17th of February…The day was full of joy and enthusiasm! We had already bought the train tickets to Paris for next Saturday with our German friends Caro and Marina and a Finnish friend, Elina. Being here close to all amazing locations, we had already been planning a trip to London for a while with our little group.

On this cold Monday evening we finally decided to book the flights and accommodation and make our dreams come true! 🙂 At first, we thought that we could go there by train, because it’s easily accessible from Paris by train. Unfortunately, train tickets were too expensive, but luckily we found cheap flights with EasyJet. Flights cost around 85€ per person there and back. Lilli searched for the cheap accommodation from the calm area she knew before, called Bayswaters. We are going to stay three nights in six persons mixed dormitory in a hostel called Astoria Quest. Three nights cost around 75 € per person including bed linen, towel and even breakfast! So, London is calling us from 20th of March to 23rd. 🙂

On Wednesday evening the weekend had already started and the French Intensive course was finished! It was our friends, Marina’s birthday on the same day as well. In the afternoon we took her out to the centre to eat some French Crêpes and in the evening we surprised her with bottle of “Champagne” and beautiful flowers. We also went to have a nice dinner in the city centre to a restaurant called L’Odyssée. Evening was full of smile and laughter! 🙂

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A French Crêpe with chocolate and apples and a Croque Madame

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In France, we are allowed to apply for housing benefit from CAF. We had filled our papers and got everything we needed for the application (landlords signature, bank informations..) and it was time to take the papers to CAF. During our visit, we could again see the French disorder and non-existent of consistency. We visited there with Elina, and all three of us got totally different kind of service. Some customer servants wanted Elina and Sofia to have more papers filled or some school certificates added to application. At the same time, the customer servant serving Lilli was happy enough with the papers Lilli gave to her, even though the papers we had matched precisely!  Typical for France.. 😀

After our visit to CAF, we headed to the Outlet area in Troyes, which is popular tourist attraction especially during the summertime. It’s a huge area full of brand famous boutiques and their outlets, ones like Pepe Jeans London, Mango, SuperDry, Haribo, Puma, Nike… This time of the year the outlets were quite disappointing, though, because many of them were just putting their businesses running again after winter and the high season was still ahead. Have to visit there closer to the summer!’

The Haribo shop

The Haribo shop

We left the outlets behind and headed to other mall area. We had a lunch in an American style restaurant where we got so good and so eager service that we couldn’t believe our eyes, possibly cause we were the only foreigners in the entire restaurant. 😀 Food was nicely presented and it was soo tasty. With our tummies full, we wondered to the next shops and made few cheap findings.

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We went for Marilyn!

We went for Marilyn! 🙂

On early Saturday morning we backed our bags and walked through the sleeping city of Troyes to the train station. We jumped on a train heading to Paris. We were still quite sleepy when arriving in Paris and straight away we headed to some café to have a little breakfast. The day in Paris passed in total tranquillity. We didn’t want to rush anywhere and we sat for a coffee every time we felt like it. We saw the sights we had time to see and the others were left for some other time. And there will be more times, believe us! 🙂

 

Champs-Élysées

Champs-Élysées

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A perfect dinner at Vapiano, thanks to Kristin for a great tip! :)

A perfect dinner at Vapiano, thanks to Kristin for a great tip! 🙂

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Germany and FInland

Germany and Finland

On a sunny Sunday we slept long after our trip to Paris. We had a totally coach potato-day, but in the evening Marina kept us a cooking lesson to prepare proper vegan dinner. SO yammy! 🙂

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Last week the Tivoli arrived in town for three whole weeks. We were totally allured to the area due to the amazing smell that floated around the Tivoli area, which by the way was huge! And there were dozens of the little stalls selling cotton candy, churros with chocolate dip, candied apples as well as waffles and  Crêpes.

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Last Wednesday our second ”real” course started. The course title Economic and Environmental Approach to the Luxury Industry tells nothing about the the real subject of the course, but it sounds really interesting so far. The majority of our courses are situated into just couple of days, full days though, since some of the Master´s teachers come from other universities just to have those courses. This one is no exception, and we only have four days of contact lessons and an exam.

The rest of the week went rather slowly, just relaxing and baking and cooking with friends! 🙂

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Saturday night´s pizza!

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Bisous,

– Lilli & Sofia –

 

Kommentit pois päältä artikkelissa 17.2.-2.3.

Our Week in Pictures

The first whole week is almost over and a lot has happened since our last post 🙂

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The French Intensive Course began already last week, and it continues until next Wednesday. Our days have been completely full and exhausting (especially since we have only had french!) but the course has been extremely useful. There are couple of different French course groups, according to our existing language skills (which were tested by a multiple choice exam before arriving to France). We are in different groups and learning with various methods, such as watching the movie Asterix and Obelix with french subtitles 😀

 

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Last Sunday we went for a walk around the city. It was the only sunny day during the entire week so we had to make the best of it 🙂 The city is full of lovely houses and the little alleys are totally cute. Even though the town is pretty small, we still have a lot more to discover.

 

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For Valentine´s Day we bought some lovely flowers to bright up our living room and strawberries to pamper ourselves. It´s amazing to be able to have sweet and tasty strawberries in FEBRUARY! 😀

 

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In order to get some housing benefits from the CAF (French counterpart to KELA) we were obliged to open French bank accounts. The school has a contract with the Societe Generale, so the paperwork was simple and the bank even donated 50 euros of ”start up” money for each of us. We received all the needed bank account information by mail within 10 days from signing the papers at school. We just need to stop by the office to get our C.B.s (Carte Bleu). It is the first time for both of us to be able to pay with a cheque, and to even have a cheque book! 😀 It it common  in France to pay with either cash or cheque, even in the grocery stores, so these might come in handy.. 🙂

 

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This evening we visited our lovely new friends and neighbors Caro and Marina from Germany, who live with a Finnish girl Elina. Since the ”oven” in our apartment isn´t really an oven, we decided to do some baking together at their place. The girls have been extremely friendly letting us use their washing machine, since we do not have one. In return, we either bake or bring something for them. Our personalities match really well and we always have nice conversations and fun when meeting! 🙂 This evening was no exception! 🙂

Bisous

– Lilli & Sofia –

 

Kommentit pois päältä artikkelissa Our Week in Pictures

Finally here!

On early Monday morning at 02:00 a.m. our journey started from Jyväskylä heading to Troyes. The bus took as to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport where our knees were shaken by the fear of over-weighted baggage. Luckily, everything was just under the limits and we sighted of relief!

First flight from Helsinki to Riga passed fast while both of us sleeping because of staying up whole day before the departure. Only when plane landed, we woke up drowsy and said to common voice: “Are we already here?” Connecting flight to Paris was already waiting us in Riga and change of planes happened easily.

We had set a meeting with one other exchange student coming from Finland to Charles de Gaulle airport. Elina, from Turku University of Applied Sciences joined us and we started to find our way from Paris to Troyes. Just when we had got to a train station underneath the airport, a young lady from Latvia asked if she could join us. She was going for exchange semester to northern part of France and didn’t know how to get to Gare de Nord (one of the Paris’ main train stations). Time flew while chatting and admiring the beautiful sunny landscapes.

From Gare de Nord we needed to walk to Gare de l’Est. At first, we were sure to find it, but when entering the busy streets of Paris the reliability was gone. It was time for Lilli to open her mouth and ask for help. A true French gentleman offered us help and he escorted us to Gare de l’Est. He turned out to be an employee of the SNCF (French train company) on his way to work. At the station we purchased the Carte 12-27, which is a discount card of SNCF offering well-priced tickets to youngsters, and the train tickets to Troyes.

Rest of the journey passed easily without any complications and we arrived in Troyes on time. Tutors of Groupe ESC Troyes were welcoming us at the station and accompanied us to our apartment. We also got small survival bag for first evening in Troyes with PINK toilet paper, pasta, tomato sauce, cereals, milk, water and a map. During the evening we met our landlord with who we signed our rent contracts and got the keys to our new home. When the sun had set, we were happy but exhausted. 🙂

After a well-slept night in our cozy little apartment we felt like exploring the city a little, and to get to know the two other Finnish girls a little better. With the maps we navigated ourselves to the city center, just admiring the architecture and the calm atmosphere of the city. It was surprising for us all to discover the weather to be just like our Finnish springtime, with warm breezes and sun shining 🙂

We were determined to get some French mobile subscriptions while in town, just to be able to communicate with cheaper prices and to get the internet to our phones. Since it was our first day and we had had no time to open any local bank accounts, we decided to leave that for later. A craving for coffee and a place to just sit and relax got us to a little cafeteria packed with locals on their lunch breaks, before heading to do the groceries to a local supermarket Leader Price just around the corner from our apartment.

Just to spend a little more time, and to avoid being bored on the first night, the four of us cooked together and spend a wonderful evening at our place. The food was amazing, a first proper meal for days, and the company just lovely, thanks girls! 🙂

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The first day at our new school Groupe ESC Troyes started today at nine with a French breakfast in the cafeteria operated by the student association.  After that we got loads of information of the international affairs team, the school premises as well as the course selections and basic student functions, such as the student intranet. All the new people, the other Erasmus students, tutors as well as the staff members of the school were really friendly and helpful, all fascinated by us newcomers! 🙂 The way of doing things is a little slow and unorganized compared to what we´ve used to in Finland, and there was a lot of waiting during the day. We´ll probably get used to this soon enough 😀

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After a few hard and tiring days of travelling and getting to know  the new home, city, people and way of doing things (and many cups of tea! :D) the life is slowly starting to feel like life again 🙂

Bisous

– Lilli & Sofia –

Kommentit pois päältä artikkelissa Finally here!

Setting the Sails

After the short introduction post last time, we decided to write about something we´ve actually done during the journey. So, this is how our application process has been so far.. 🙂

After applying for exchange in Asio, we both got the first confirmation e-mail from the International Office of Groupe ESC Troyes. We received a document which included all the basic facts about the application process on their side, semester schedules as well as some preliminary accommodation and course info.

The first time we actually met, and got some useful info as well, was the pre-departure orientation help in Rajakatu in the beginning of October. We highly recommend this orientation (which is compulsory) since although all the info can be found in Elmo´s Student Intra, the things were clearer when an actual person explained them to you 🙂

The application process has been really simple, although we had heard some horror stories about it. We got loads of help from both JAMK´s and ESC´s International Offices, especially the contact person in France replied our e-mails fast, and gave us useful tips in several stages.  Another thing that made it so simple was the modern application platform which ESC provided us exchange students. All documents needed are added there in electronic form and the site is easy to access and to use, for us blondes as well 😀

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The documents and files we added to the platform:

  • Online application form (signed by all three parties)
  • Transcript of Records
  • Copies of passport, passport pictures and European Health card
  • Courses selection form
  • Accommodation selections (more info below 🙂 )
  • Arrival info and a French test
  • Birth certificate translated into French with official stamp, no more than 2 months before arrival ((NOTE! This had to be ordered from Helsinki Local Register Office (Maistraatti) since they do not have a French translator in Jyväskylä office))

Some traditional paperwork had to be done also, including the Learning Agreement, Grant Application and Kela´s documents. These papers required some signatures, which were rather easy to get.

Then there came the time to think how we would get to our destination, to Troyes. University advised us to first fly to Paris and then take a train from Paris to Troyes.  They also informed us that there would be a pick-up service from Troyes’ bus or rail station on certain dates, the 3rd and 4th of February.  We started to look for flights on 3rd of February to Paris. Soon we noticed that most of the flights’ depart-time was not until afternoon! And we would gladly have a morning flight, so we still had the whole day time to spend in Troyes.

There were two choices. Straight flight with Finnair from Helsinki to Paris, with one-way ticket costing more than 1000 euros or flight from Helsinki to Paris with one stop-over in Riga operated by AirBaltic. Latter alternative cost fewer than 100 euros per person and took just a bit longer in time wise than the straight flight. Guess which one we chose? Of course, the latter 😀

Next big challenge, essential one, was to find an apartment for us. Luckily again, university was very helpful! They had gathered together apartment alternatives from private market into our exchange intra website. In Troyes, school doesn’t provide any lodgement or there aren’t student accommodation houses, like KOAS in Jyväskylä. From student intra, we glanced trough different alternatives which varied a lot in terms of location or utilities. We had to choice three alternatives which we wanted to apply and getting the apartment was on a ’1st come – 1st served’ basis.

Luck was on our side, so we got the one we selected for our first opinion. Newly renovated penthouse with two bedrooms, combined kitchen and living room and a stylish bathroom is waiting for us! Our new home is located 200 meters from the university and under kilometre away from the city centre. Rent includes all the utilities, water, electricity and internet. So, easy choice for us!

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(All pictures from the Student Platform of Groupe ESC Troyes)

Now that all the official part is done (still waiting for the birth certificate, though 😀 ) we still need to fix some pre-departure things, such as insurances, phone subscriptions, mail delivery and of course packing, yikes! 🙂

Bisous

– Lilli & Sofia –

Kommentit pois päältä artikkelissa Setting the Sails

First steps towards the unknown

Salut tout le monde!

Welcome to follow our footsteps of the exchange journey to Troyes, France. We are two girls originally from eastern part of Finland, brought together by destiny. This is the very first time for both of us to write a blog. So here we go..

Due to our mutual interest in tourism and travelling (and with both of us having minor French skills), we are brave enough to head for studying in Groupe ESC Troyes.  Reasons for choosing France and this particular university, were the fascinating range of course selection, desire to learn French culture (including wine and food 😉 ) and language and meeting new people from all over the world.

We hope that you enjoy following our journey and let’s see how the adventure continues.. 🙂

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Bisous,

– Lilli & Sofia –

Kommentit pois päältä artikkelissa First steps towards the unknown

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