Oct 18, 2022

My First days in Dijon as a UBFC International Masters Student

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8 min read

My name is Queen and I'm from Nigeria. Getting accepted into Université Bourgogne Franche Comte in Dijon for a first year Master program was an absolute dream come true for me. Now that I'm enrolled and fully engrossed in the program, I can only say it was well worth the search.

When I first decided to study in France, I made a list of criteria that had to tick all of my boxes. Among the schools I considered were Ecole Nationale Supérieure Des Mines de Saint-Etienne which is in, of course, Saint-Etienne. Second on my list was Universite de Pau et Pays de L'Adore which is in Pau. Thirdly, I considered Université Bourgogne Franche Comte, an association of higher institutions within the Franche Comte region of France. Lastly, I considered Paris-Saclay University. Besides Paris-Saclay University which gave me a resounding NO for the Erasmus program I applied to, all the other three gave me a place in the programs I wanted. I don't know if you have ever been in a situation where having too many options becomes a problem, but that was my situation in August 2022. Thus, it was time to revisit 'Le List' (my criteria list).

I recalled that I had wanted to experience life and education in France for two reasons: One, France is highly ranked globally in terms of education standards. As I was desperate to commence my journey to a PhD in molecular chemistry, the T2MC (Transition Metals In Molecular Chemistry) program offered by Université Bourgogne Franche Comte seemed like the surest option for me to begin, especially when I considered the fact that T2MC is a potentially lucrative course. I looked at alumni of the program who had moved on to successfully complete a PhD or who had secured employment in the industry. This further piqued my interest because I myself am driven by success. Hence, as far as France went, Dijon ticked all my boxes. Therefore, I was bound for UBFC, Dijon. Education standards aside, the second reason I chose this country is simply because... it's France. I've had the biggest crush on France ever since I was introduced to Jacques Brel's music at 18, so of course I would choose to come here. And boy was I right to have come! Reading about the Franche Comte area-- and about Dijon in particular-- and learning about the unique idiosyncrasies of this cobblestoned city also sealed it for me. I wanted to live and study in the City of Dukes. I wanted to enjoy fancy wine and eat the world famous Burgundy mustard in it's city of origin as often as I'd like. I wanted to live in close proximity to Monsieur Moutarde so I could brunch every Sunday and eat to my fill from an assorted variety of delicious meals and cheeses at twenty nine euros flat. This is my second, non academic reason for choosing this city.

The journey to France

My journey started, first and foremost (or as the French say, tout d'dabord :=) ), with Turkish airline. All thanks to the Livinfrance price comparator tool, I was able to find the best deal I could on Turkish airline. They offered the best flying rates at the time of my travel, the layover time between Istanbul and Paris was just an hour, and also their customer service agents were really attentive and patient in helping me choose the right itinerary and the most convenient means of payment. I highly recommend using the Livinfrance price comparing tool to find the best rates and travel conditions that suit you.

Armed with my boarding pass and vaccination record, alongside fellow France bound students from Nigeria, I headed to Istanbul where I would then take a connecting flight headed to my next destination, Paris. I also recommend finding a travel buddy or two if you're like me and need a little help with directions sometimes. Finding the boarding gate for the Istanbul to Paris flight was no joke and to be honest, being my first ever international flight, I don't know how I would have found it (in an airport where hardly anyone spoke English) if I were traveling alone. Istanbul International Airport is huge. It is one of the busiest airports in the world. I felt like we were walking forever to get to the right boarding gate. In fact, despite having enough layover time, we found ourselves jogging at some point because it seemed like the journey was taking forever and if care wasn't taken, we could start to run out of time. Thankfully, that didn't happen.

Another travel tip, it's better to be early than to be on time. You want to be at the airport an hour early to wait for your flight rather than to be scampering in at the very last minute, hauling your luggage behind you, trying to organise your travel documents, racking your memory for things you may have forgotten to bring and hoping to the sky that you make it to the plane on time. For me, this is pure mental stress which Is best avoided if possible.

After almost 14 hours from Nigeria to Istanbul and then to the City of Light, Paris, it was time for the third leg of my journey; Paris to Dijon. First, I had to find a hotel, drop my bags, take a shower and change into fresh clothes, and then hit the city. Everything they say about Paris? Believe it. The city is busy. The people are gorgeous. The streets are welcoming but terrifying at night. Standing atop the Pont D'léna, I had a splendid view of the quiet River Seine as it made it's way, ever so gently, from the winemaking region of Burgundy all the way through to Paris. It was my first time seeing it in person and despite all the videos and pictures I had seen in the past, I was not prepared to witness the beauty before me. I spent the day exploring Paris-- what parts of it I could explore in a day which, of course, included the Eiffel tower-- and by the next day, I was on the road again to continue my journey.

At the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Source: Queen

Paris to Dijon

I had pre-booked my train ticket online from the SNCF website prior to my travel, so it was just a matter of getting to the train station and arriving in the quaint city of Dijon. You can book a trip online in advance on the SNCF website or you can book one in person at the station. I recommend doing it online ahead of your trip as the tickets are cheaper that way.

I arrived in Dijon on a Saturday, so I had enough time to see the city before the new week started in earnest and my classes began.

After getting picked up at the Dijon Ville train station by a representative from the program, I got to my room, dropped my bags and headed straight to the Darcy square where there's a beautiful park just within the city, near the Bell Hotel. There, I took a walk around the park, fed my eyes with the beautiful statues, ate some churros while I watched kids play on swings. Then I had a little bird 'steal' a recalcitrant piece of churro which wandered off of my table. I fell in love with Dijon almost instantly.

After spending the afternoon at the park, I entered the city centre and shopped at the H&M store. After that, I ate at the Burger King and then I got a French sim card from the Free mobile store just a few meters away from the clothes store... There really isn't much you can't find at Darcy square!

I decided to go get some food items and personal supplies at Aldi and then at Action Supermarket, respectively. Aldi because they stock the freshest foods and vegetables, Action because they stock the most affordable household items. These merchants were recommended by the Etudes en France platform and, so far, I've not been disappointed. Both Aldi and Action have outlets at Grande Marché, which is just one Tram stop from the Université.

Place Darcy, Dijon, France

Source: Queen


For me, the best option is usually the most convenient one. As an international student in a new country, you want an agent that accompanies you all through your house search. You need all the help you can get from the most reliable source therefore I would suggest using Livinfrance services for this.

I got a place not far from the Université.

Livinfrance offers great resources for international students to find accommodation, even without having a guarantor!

I settled in quite smoothly and began to unpack. The apartment was neat, eliminating the worry of organising things afresh from top to bottom when all I wanted to do was relax. At this point, the stressful parts of the journey were behind me and it was time to begin a new adventure in a new country.

Transportation in Dijon

Source: Queen

Divia Mobilités is your mobility solution in the Dijon Metropolitan. You can choose from a multimodal travel system of moving around the area either by bus, tram, bike or car. Simply download the Divia app from playstore or appstore, and you're on your way to smooth travels. You enter your current location and your destination, and the app tells you were to get the right bus or tram. You can also use the self service bicycles for short trips in the city, or the bike rental service with zero rules on location or duration. More importantly, you can get a Tram/Bus card which let's you go anywhere around Dijon with a monthly subscription.

Structure of the T2MC

The M1 (first year Master) of the Transition Metals in Molecular Chemistry is structured into two parts: the first semester is for semester courses, tutorials, practicals, tests and exams, and the second semester comprises of a few more courses and then a compulsory 3-6 month internship. As an international student, you can choose to do this internship in France, outside France, in the industry or in an academic laboratory.

International programs at UBFC are English taught, so there was no worry about understanding what would be taught in class.

The program aims to enrich participants with highly sort after skills in molecular chemistry and alumni of are capable of applying said skills in sectors such as SD (sustainable development) which is all the rave right now, the environment, the health sector, etc etc. Opportunities abound all over the industry for graduates of this program. If, like me, you want to pursue a doctoral research, you are welcome, even encouraged, to do so after a successful completion of the first and second year (M1 and M2) of the masters.

Life in UBFC

UBFC organized a handful of welcoming events for international students. In week two of the first month, the school hosted a dinner where all international students were treated to a nice meal and a warm welcome ceremony. I got to meet students from around the world, all of us united by our common interest in studying in France. I also got to learn more about the history of the university and the city.

The school also offers subsidised food services at the CROUS restaurant where you can eat a full meal (the entrée, main meal, and dessert) for three euros.

There are free sports activities to benefit from as well as other weekly social programs organized by the CROUS. Students can play basketball, volleyball, go swimming, engaging in sparring sports, go dancing, etc etc. All for free!

Being a lover of dance and music, I signed up for dancing lessons and I have enjoyed every minute since.

So far, I'm glad I made the choice to come here and I'm really excited to continue turning the pages.

I appreciate you taking the time to read my story. Kindly like, share, and subscribe because, in this adventure, there's more still to come!

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