It was with a heavy heart that I boarded the plane and waved goodbye to Lyon; a city that I had called home for a 20th of my life.
Erasmus in Lyon was interesting, in a good way. For me, the most memorable parts were the beginning and the end — the middle was a mixture of great fun, not much sleep, and a continuous, uphill struggle to become fluent in French.
Erasmus in Lyon: the beginning
My mum and I love any excuse for a road trip, so we jumped into the car, took a ferry from Dover to Calais, and then navigated our way through France. The journey wasn’t completely smooth — the first hiccup was when we accidentally waited in the lorry line for the ferry. I had to STAND on the car to give my passport to the security man, whose window was almost a metre above the top of our vehicle! Luckily we made it, and I spent the whole car journey peeking over suitcases and coughing over rude words on the Trainspotting audiotape.
Why did we drive?
If you’re from Europe, the chances are that driving to your destination is more practical than flying. My mum had an excuse for a short holiday, and I could take all my suitcases to Lyon without much difficulty — what was there to lose?
Where did I live?
Spotahome didn’t exist in September 2013, so I spent 2 weeks living in-and-out of hostels whilst searching for a room. Housing is so competitive in Lyon that visiting apartments is a full-time job that you don’t even get paid for. Eventually, I got incredibly lucky — despite having received over 200 responses to their advert in under 6 hours, my French housemates chose me!
Something I learned: Living in hostels for an extended amount of time has its ups and downs. I made lifelong friends in the Auberge de Jeunesse de Vieux Lyon, but others were not so lucky. One American girl was so scared of not finding an apartment that she cancelled her year abroad and went home. After 3 days.
Erasmus in Lyon: the Middle
Once I was fully settled, I found that I adjusted quite quickly to Erasmus in Lyon. I still had to go to university, which was certainly an experience in itself. For some reason, it was easy to familiarise myself with my new life — I would say that by December, I was probably 60% pain aux chocolat.
What I would recommend: Become as French as possible. Whilst it’s great to experience crazy Erasmus parties and make friends from your home country, the whole point of your year abroad is to learn a new language and get as freaked out as possible by a new culture. I did this by joining a volunteer group, working in a bar, teaching a few English lessons on the side, and volunteering for a few local festivals. Little things help, so why not listen to French music whilst getting ready to party with your English-speaking friends?
Learn about kissing:The French are known for their cheek kissing, which can take time for an English girl to adjust to. I heard that in the North, it’s just one kiss; in the middle, it’s two; in the South of France, it’s three. As Lyon is almost between the middle and the south, it can get quite confusing. One thing I’ll always remember was greeting and saying goodbye to my volunteer group — it’s not often that I can say I’ve kissed 40 people in one evening!
What I would do again:
– Travel every weekend. If you’re lucky enough to know someone who drives, pack your tent and go camping in the south of France. Every village is worth visiting, and you can stop off at major towns if you feel like a party.
– Look up French parties and festivals.France, almost like Spain, has several public holidays and local festivals. Look them up at the beginning and make sure to attend every single one.
– Enrol in interesting courses at university. For me, this was one of my only years of university when I could choose anything I wanted. My subjects ranged from Russian History to European Economy — why not?
What I would do differently:
– If I were to live this experience again, I would definitely organise my accommodationbefore I got there. Spending your first weeks filled with anxiety is not ideal, and detracts from any excitement that you may be feeling about Erasmus in Lyon. Check out Spotahome to see if you can find your ideal apartment in Lyon!
My favourite hang-outs:
L’Épicerie — I indulged in tasty tartine treats here every single week.
Le Sirius— This atmospheric peniche, or boat bar, stays open late and hosts plenty of live music.
Le Bec de Jazz — We’d always end up here on weekend nights. If you enjoy jazz music and feel like stepping back to the 1940’s, this is the place for you. One thing — look after your scarf, I lost three here!
Erasmus in Lyon: the End
When I say ‘the end’, I’m just referring to the end of my time at Lyon III University. What’s great about Erasmus, is that after the end of your school semesters you have about three months to do what you want. Personally, I did an internship, but travelling and working are great ways to make the most of your Erasmus year in France. Returning home doesn’t have to be the end, as hopefully your year abroad will give you a taste for travel — I moved to Madrid after I graduated, and I don’t think I would have done so if it wasn’t for Erasmus in Lyon!
The convergence of the Rhone and Saone. Paul Bocuse. The birthplace of cinema. Chateauneuf-du-Pape just a few miles down the road. It does not get much better than Lyon. — Leonard Slatkin
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