EXCHANGE DIARY: LYON

April 24, 2016

EXCHANGE DIARY: LYON

Aidan is a 20-year old student at the University of Aberdeen. He studied French Law at the Université Lumière (Lyon II) in Lyon, France for a year.

When I was choosing where to study in France, I had 3 options: Lyon, Strasbourg or Grenoble. After doing some research I decided that Grenoble and Strasbourg were too small for me. I wanted to experience living in a big city with lots to do and Lyon seemed perfect!

ABOUT THE CITY
Lyon is an amazing city! In my opinion the 3 best things about Lyon are the architecture, the choice of restaurants and bars and the weather. (When I arrived in September there were about 2 weeks where it was 34 degrees - amazing!) 3 disadvantages of the city would be that it's quite unsafe at night (especially for girls), the size of the city can sometimes be quite daunting and lastly, that the Lyonnaise people are quite clique-y and can seem standoffish to foreigners. There are over 5 different Universities in Lyon so the city is very student-friendly! The main universities are Lyon II and Lyon III, but there is also Lyon I, Sciences Po, the Catholic University and various other specialised colleges and universities. 

My favourite part of the city has to be the view from Fourvière. The area of Fourvière is home to the Basilique de Notre-Dame, which stands overlooking the whole city. Next to the Basilique there are various terraces which all have a stunning view over the city - both during the daytime and at night. When it's a nice day I like to go walks up to the Basilique. I don't think I could ever get bored of it. 


One thing about Lyon that really impressed me is the inner-city transport. Compared to other cities i've visited/lived in, Lyon has the best transport. Lyon has buses, trams, a metro system, trains, city-wide bike rental, ferry boats, a funicular.. you name it, Lyon has it. They are also all included on the "Tecely" transport card. The transport in Lyon is actually quite cheap at €1,80 for a single ticket on the transport network. However, this isn't the case for general living in Lyon. Like most French cities Lyon is quite expensive: rent is generally upwards of €500 p/m; a normal food shop is about €30+; but eating out can be quite cheap if the restaurant has a "formule" which is deal that is usually around €12-20. 

The city attracts a lot of tourists as it is known as the second city of France. Although unless you're wandering the pretty streets of Vieux Lyon on a sunny Saturday afternoon, you won't really be affected by the tourists. 


ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY
I studied at the Université Lumière (Lyon II) which has 2 campuses in Lyon: Berges du Rhône and Porte des Alpes. The Porte des Alpes campus is in Bron, a small town outside of Lyon accessible by tram, but the Berges du Rhône campus is on the banks of the River Rhône on an attractive tree-lined street. 

The main differences I found between my University here and back home is the teaching. The lectures in France are 1 hour 45 minutes long and generally they don't use technology (no powerpoints, no recording, sometimes no microphone). Due to the nature of my course, I had to take Law classes which proved to be extremely difficult. The Law school at the University isn't the most organised so basic administration took even longer than what you'd expect of French administration. There is very little information about course content and exams so I would advise any future students to ask students who have studied there before for information or their lecture notes - it helps!

ACCOMMODATION
From around the April/May before I came to Lyon, I started looking for accommodation. I set off wanting to live in a flatshare with French or International students but after looking on various websites I couldn't find any. My flatmate and I eventually found a perfect two-bed private flat as we couldn't find any flatshares, but I don't regret it! I used websites such as appartager.fr, leboncoin.fr etc to look for flats and i'd recommend them to others (but beware of creepy old men who want young students to live with them..) 

My flat was in the Monplaisir area of the city in the 8th arrondissement. It has links to the Metro D line (which runs to the city centre and old town), Tramway T2 and T4 (which go to the two main train stations in the city) and has a lot of supermarkets and shops. It's quiet and safe as it is a family area but still it's not too far away from the main city centre. The only area I would avoid getting accommodation in would be Guillotière. Although it is close to the University campuses, it is really unsafe at night and even during the day. 

SOCIAL LIFE
Before I came on my year abroad I was warned by a lot of people not to surround myself with other English-speaking students but to make French friends instead. So, when I came to France, I was determined to not make any English-speaking friends and only find French people to befriend.. that quickly went down the drain. When you're in such an unusual situation, living in a foreign country, you are automatically drawn to others who speak the same language as you and it is almost impossible to resist. I also found that French students (not all, but most) aren't really interested in foreign students. That's not to say they dislike them, but they tend not to make an effort to befriend foreign students so I found it hard to find friends outside of my Erasmus group. 

In Lyon there are 2 main organisations that put on events for Erasmus and International students: ESN Lyon and iStudent Lyon. These organisations were a massive help at the beginning and it was through events organised by them that I met my friends. One of my favourite events and the one where I met most people was an "International Boat Party". It was a club night set on a boat where everyone got given a paper sailor's hat at the start of the night and you wrote your name and your country of origin on it. The whole night involved everyone going around and meeting people from different countries and chatting away like they'd known each other their whole lives - it was amazing!

I also went travelling a lot during my first semester in Lyon and also a bit during my second semester. Lyon has an international airport, 2 train stations and is really close to Switzerland and Italy so it is perfect to travel from. It is also right next to the Alps so if you like skiing I would recommend coming here. You can go on a ski day trip for only around €40 from Lyon!

OTHER INFO
Overall I loved living in Lyon. I know i'll definitely miss the beautiful sights of the Basilique de Notre-Dame overlooking the city and the pretty, colourful buildings along the banks of the Saône river when I go back home. If I could change anything about my time abroad it would be to say 'Yes' to more things. I wish I had said yes to every opportunity I was given to meet people, go for lunch, go out to a club etc.. but that's my only regret. You'll have an amazing time if you choose to do your exchange in Lyon. 

If you would like to ask me any questions about Lyon, don't hesitate to email me. Just comment below and I will contact you to give you my email address. :-)


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