Let me introduce myself before I tell you how my stay in France went. My name is Ania and I’m 19. I’m a communication and media student at the University of Wrocław. I’m from Poland but for the last two months I've been living in Nantes, France.
Why Nantes, you ask? What is even this place? This city’s name doesn’t ring a bell for you? Yeah, I was in the same situation a few months ago.
First of all, this city wasn’t even my choice. As a pastry chef and a french-lover, Paris was always my dream. I was planning on living my Emily in Paris fantasy, eating croissants in a beret while wandering on the streets of Montmartre every day. But the reality was a dash of cold water. My Erasmus coordinator told me that the only possible option is to go to Nantes. My dreams crashed in a span of seconds. I was really close to quitting, but my sister told me that everything happens for a reason. I decided to give it a try. Now take a seat, and let me take a few minutes of your day to tell you my story!
Looking for a place to stay wasn’t the easiest process ever. At one point, I was sending my applications everywhere because I was afraid that I wouldn't find a place to stay. One day, Alban, a consultant from Livinfrance contacted me and asked me if I needed some help. Honestly, I was surprised and a bit suspicious because I thought that it may be some kind of scam. Turns out, I was wrong. The same day I booked an amazing apartment in the center of Nantes, in my price range.
Tip: Start looking for an apartment as soon as possible. There are a lot of takers on the market and you need to meet the requirements of the owners. They aren’t really down to rent a place for less than a year, so try signing a lease and then breaking it after a few months. Make sure to read the lease carefully and check if breaking the lease is free.
To rent a place in France you need to have a guarantor - finding one was a problem for me because I didn’t know any French people. Thanks to Livinfrance I didn't have to worry about that because my consultant has helped me with all of the required bureaucracy. I ended up in a colocation with 4 other people. Two of them were from France and the other two - from Poland! We instantly became friends and every other day we meet in the living room and catch up on the latest gossip. This is why I would also recommend living in a shared apartment because you get to know people from different backgrounds, lifestyles and countries. You get to experience their culture, way of living and perhaps you can learn something from them!
When coming here, I was sure that my French level was quite good. How much of a surprise it was for me when I had my first conversation. The nervous laughter and the face of disappointment was a part of the majority of my french conversations here. With time, I became more comfortable with using the language. Of course, every day I mess up the adjectives and use le subjonctif badly. But every successful conversation here is like a milestone for me. Going to the doctor or ordering a meal in the restaurant and being understood is such a rewarding experience. One time, I was going back home from a party with my french friends. I decided to take an Uber. I was really sad because I had trouble with keeping a conversation with them. At that time I wasn’t so confident with my french. Out of nowhere, I started crying in the car and told the driver how annoying it is to not be able to fully express yourself in another language. In response, he told me how he’d moved from Brazil to France 10 years ago. His experience was exactly the same because at that time he knew only portuguese. But he told me that all of the suffering was worth it because now he can fully function in this country and sound like a native. He gave me so much motivation to keep learning French and I am so thankful for that experience!
Tip: Make sure to at least know some french. Life is easier that way, and I can guarantee you that all of the people here will be nothing but supportive of your language-learning journey!
France is a multicultural country and you will notice it right away. You can expect a mix of languages, religions, races and different accents on a daily basis. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about other cultures and broaden your horizons. Me and my friends here adore comparing how different our lives look like, because of our backgrounds.
When it comes to friends, it’s obvious that you will find some. Nothing connects people more than being in the same (stressful) situation. I met most of my friends in Audencia Business school-the one I’m following my media and communication program in. Of course, at first you will be anxious and shy. You will have tons of uncomfortable conversations. It’s hard to make friends while not speaking your mother language. But after you realize that everyone is in the same situation, it’ll be 100 times easier for you to make new friends.
When talking about France, it’s necessary to mention the exquisite cuisine that everyone adores. Of course for me as a pastry chef it’s undeniably the most important thing when it comes to living here. You can imagine my surprise when on the first day of my stay I wanted to go to the restaurant in the midday. Obviously everything was closed. The thing I didn’t know about France is that everything is closed at lunch time. At first I didn't get it at all. But one time, my roommate explained to me that it’s all about the french way of living. Food is not only for eating - it’s a form of spiritual ceremony that takes place every time when people meet for lunch. They take time in the middle of the day to gather, talk, eat something, have a cigarette and most importantly - to stop the rush. They relax while enjoying some delicious food.
Tip: If you are looking for a cheap option to eat, you can try using Too Good To Go. It’s an app where the owners of the bakeries and the restaurants sell the food that wasn’t sold during the day. You can get a package filled with delicious food basically for free!
Les boulangeries -the french legacy and the place where I spend most of my time. At the beginning of my stay here I was buying a baguette every morning. My friends were laughing at me that eventually, I will be sick of it. Turns out, they were wrong because I haven’t had a single day without a baguette yet. I don't think it will change anytime soon. But can you blame me?
France offers a lot of different ways in which you can profit from living here. Every first Sunday of the month the museums are free. In Nantes, on the weekends you don’t need to buy the tickets for the public transport and you won’t get fined! The organization called Crous offers a wide range of student dorms and cantines in which you can eat good meals for less than 5 euros!
As you can see - you can benefit from living in France in many different ways but you need to make an effort and actually look for the informations. They can be easily found on the official websites of the cities.
Being an expat in France is definitely not easy at all. You need to totally change your lifestyle, habits and way of living. I won’t sugar-coat it, the beginnings are rough. But if I had to go through it once again - I would. Because after you finally settle down and fit into the french way of living, there is only good that will come.
Moving here was the best decision in my life and now I'm happy that I got to experience all of this, surrounded by the smell of freshly-baked baguettes in the air.
If you want to ask me about my stay here, feel free to ask me any questions on my instagram: @acembro. You can also leave a comment below. I’ve been in your shoes and I know that moving abroad can be a hell of a challenge so don’t hesitate.
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