Michelle Hasbany
Oct 18, 2022

My first few days as an international student in Lille

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7 min read

This post covers my first few days as an international student arriving in France to pursue a degree. Sharing this experience may be beneficial to some and relatable to others who might have felt the same.  I really hope you enjoy it!

lille grand place in the city center

Get to know me!

I'll start off by introducing myself,  I'm Michelle, a 22-year-old Lebanese, and I'll be sharing my experience as an international free mover student in France. Ever since my senior year of high school, I have had the ambition of continuing my education in France as I have always been drawn to the country, whether because of the people, the food, the architecture, or the new areas to explore.First and foremost, the top level of education in France is what made me decide to pursue a degree there. After conducting extensive research, I learned that French universities are among the best in the world and have a strong national and international ranking, giving international students access to the same benefits as French students. Finally, the French educational system is not that dissimilar from the one in Lebanon, and after I graduate, I will have earned a diploma that will be recognized by recruiters and different countries, including my own, making it easier for me to enter the workforce.Secondly, as a free mover student, CampusFrance presented me with a list of different affiliated institutions and universities, public and private, in many cities all over France. Out of all of them, I was immediately drawn to the University of Lille, and spoiler alert, this is where I am currently pursuing my two-year master's degree! I learned how much the master's program i wanted to apply for, at Université de Lille, can help me to develop my competencies and to best meet the needs of the companies. What also caught my attention is that this university has trained many professionals in the Human Resources field who currently hold senior positions in large companies throughout France and abroad.Finally, the educational program, as well as the campus, and its high ranking among other Business faculties in France and abroad piqued my curiosity. As well as the fact that Lille, located in the North of France, is one of the largest student cities, where you can truly experience "la vie étudiante."

universite de lille international student

And let me tell you, the day I got the call from the French Embassy telling me to come pick up my passport was the most remarkable day. I was overwhelmed with a thousand mixed feelings at the time but then,  I was ecstatic to obtain my student visa. I at last understood that my dream was becoming a reality.

BEY-->CDG Flight

According to my research, Lille is one of the coldest places for about half the year, so I packed all of my winter clothing, including coats and boots, alongside all the paperwork I could need during the course of my entire stay in France. Then, waiting in the Beirut airport lounge, I was eagerly examining my ticket and imagining everything that is about to come.  I had never before left my home country, my parents, or my friends. It was a difficult day for me to board my airplane because it seemed like a trip of no return. With the guidance of LivinFrance, I was able to get the best flight deal through the Middle East airline associated with Air France for my trip from Beirut to Paris, France. After a 4-hour comfortable flight, with wonderful meals on board, and breathtaking sights from above, I arrived at the Paris airport. I could already sense the difference in the air as soon as I stepped out. Additionally, and again through LivinFrance, I learned about SNCF Connect, the application where we book train tickets, so before my flight, I purchased a train ticket directly from the Charles-de-Gaulle Airport in Paris to Gare Lille Flandres.

flying from beyrouth to paris

Arrived at Gare Lille Flandres, a friend that I am currently co-living with, picked me up and we took a metro to get home. On the way, she gave me a brief introduction to the Ilevia transportation company and the metro line I will be taking the most. Although Lille's transportation system is excellent, it takes a newcomer at least a week to become familiar with it. I was lucky enough to have my friend, who had lived here for two years, to explain it all to me. Despite being jet-lagged and in shock that I had actually left home and my comfort zone, I was eager to embark on this journey, looking out the windows and grasping the beauty of every moment.  Looking around, I felt that every one of the buildings, regardless of how they are built, has a story to tell.

After I left my luggage in the apartment, we returned to further explore this amazing city. We started off in Lille Grand' Place, also known as "place du Général de Gaulle" because he was born there. The Grand' Place, which dates back to the Middle Ages and is located where the major markets for the North and the South converge, is devoted to trading, with the Vieille Bourse continuing to serve as its sumptuous emblem.Facing the Vieille Bourse, the Grand Garde is the perfect example of classical architecture. I was absolutely stunned by the beauty and the class of this city.

lille vieille bourse
Vieille bourse in Lille
a street in vieux lille

I also had the opportunity to take a walk at La Citadelle de Lille and learn about its fascinating history. The Citadel of Lille is a pentagonal citadel that is part of the city wall of Lille.

It is one of Vauban's most famous citadel designs and is known as the "Queen of the Citadels" (Reine des Citadelles). For its size, the class of the building, and the current condition of preservation, it is exceptional.

la citadelle in lille france
La Citadelle

Finally, we headed to Vieux Lille, one of Lille's most lovely and charming neighborhoods with paved streets and small squares. It is a vibrant area with red-brick homes, stores, trendy cocktail bars, and classic diners with terraces. The Birthplace of Charles de Gaulle museum and the beautiful Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille Cathedral from the 19th century are also located there.

The first day was really long and exhausting, but I've never felt as free and happy before!

Administrative procedures

Arriving a week before classes begin has allowed me plenty of time to check out the campus and take care of important administrative tasks, such as picking up my student ID card, getting a metro pass, and opening a bank account...So the second day, and after getting to know this lovely city, I had to start taking things seriously and start with the formalities, and who better to assist me than Livinfrance?I discovered that this platform can assist you with everything from purchasing a plane or train ticket, to reserving accommodation, opening a bank account, and even registering for school administratively. I therefore used Livinfrance to compare the student deals from various banks, picked the one that spoke to me, checked the needed documents, made an appointment, and went to open a student bank account as quickly and easily as possible.

I was then able to find which documents I needed to bring to the university to complete my administrative registration, one of which was the CVEC, which I was also able to discover more about and purchase thanks to this platform, so I accomplished that as well as smoothly as it can be!

The Journey begins!

After these two exhausting days, I finally felt like I needed to rest, consider my next move, and soak in the changes I would be experiencing soon. I stayed at home, went to bed, and realized that the adventure had barely even started! Now It's time for me to show myself that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. I had left behind my comfortable surroundings, my family, my friends, and my life, and was eager to confront the world.

I wish it were that easy, but getting to the most beautiful destinations requires challenging drawn-out journeys. So, in order to reach my desired location, I must enjoy the journey in its entirety.

If you've always wanted to study in France, just go for it—you won't regret it!

The student experience here is fantastic. For example, every Thursday in Lille is a "soirée étudiante", where students from all over the world, cities, faculties, and educational backgrounds come together to enjoy a night of music, drinks, and dancing to the fullest. They are aware that the following day they must wake up and return to class, but no one seems to mind. Integration was not as difficult as I anticipated, French folks are generally friendly and courteous. I had made four friends by the end of my first day of classes at the university. Contrary to my expectations, communication with them was effortless and they were of the kindest people I've ever met. Although, there have been plenty of times when the teacher has cracked a joke in French that I mentally catch, translate and then laugh at about ten seconds later after everyone else has moved on. It's been a wonderful opportunity to occasionally get to experience their culture with them as we explore a new location or sample a new specialty food or drink. Although I went on this journey abroad with a self-sufficient, ambitious attitude, it doesn't have to be a single endeavor. Knowing that there are locals who can assist me and show me the ropes is quite comforting.I still consider myself a newcomer to France, particularly to Lille, so I still have a lot to learn and explore. I can't wait to learn everything I can and savor every moment of it. Every day has a different story to tell, and every night has a different experience.

Thank you!

Sharing this wonderful first experience with you makes me feel terrific! I sincerely hope that my brief blog was somewhat helpful. I thank you for reading, and I look forward to sharing additional information, insights, details, and advice concerning my student life in general, and in Lille. If you enjoyed my article, please feel free to like and share it. Your comment and feedback are greatly welcomed and appreciated!

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