Leaps of Faith in Lyon: Lucy’s Blog
It’s such a cliché but I’d say that my top tip is to just “put yourself out there” as soon as you arrive. For me it meant just starting up conversations with people. Everyone is in the same boat and you’ll all be as glad as each other at the end of the day that you had someone to navigate through all that paperwork with. The people I struck up conversations with ended up becoming some of my best friends and we still laugh today about the weird and wonderful ways we all met.
Why were you there?
I lived in Lyon from January until June taking part in the DEUF study abroad programme at Université Jean Moulin Lyon III. The term only lasted from January until the end of April, which was perfect because it meant that I could spend the summer months there really enjoying living in the city. The study schedule had fewer hours than my usual university schedule at home, with two compulsory units on French language and culture and my chosen units making up the rest of the week. It’s great because you can study things you might never come across on your course at home- I never thought I’d be studying the history of the Ottoman Empire or Roman theatre, let alone all through French without a word of English, but it was great!
I’d say that the most frustrating challenge you’ll face when studying abroad at the start isn’t necessarily the language barrier, but the bureaucratic one- be prepared for what will seem like endless amounts of paperwork. A month had passed before I could even take in the fact that I’d moved to a whole new country on my own, because I’d been so busy with filling out forms and organising my class timetable – yes, they make you make your own and yes, it’s very stressful. But things soon settle once you’ve handed everything in and got into the swing of things – paperwork will seem like a distant memory once you’ve started enjoying the perks of life as an Erasmus student.
Where did you live?
I rented a room in a shared apartment in Cordeliers, in the second arrondissement. I used a company called Chez Nestor to find my apartment. It’s a really popular company for international students arriving in France as, unlike most rentals in the country, a guarantor is not required, which is a big plus (any excuse to face less paperwork). Their apartments are a bit on the expensive side with an additional fee to pay at the start, but everything is already set up for you (furniture, wifi, electric etc). All you need to do is pick up the key and move in!
Although slightly on the more expensive side, I would recommend Chez Nestor to students looking to move to Lyon as it beats the stress of staying in a hotel for a week whilst booking viewings and searching for an apartment. It’s also worth noting that Lyon has a massive student population, and so it might be risky to show up, suitcase in hand, in the hope that the perfect room will just appear. There’s a lot of competition for rooms so I’d try to organise something beforehand, if you can.
Where were the best places to go?
The first event I went to was a language tandem event I’d heard about through the university organised by ESN. It was at Red House, a pub/bar next to the uni and it was absolutely packed with international students from all over the world. This was the perfect place to start because it allowed me to meet so many new people. In terms of making a social life for yourself, I’d definitely recommend looking into what uni events are going on, especially at the start of your placement when everyone is in the same boat.
For nightlife, Hopper is a great place to start if you want a cider and some great pizza. It’s also close to the Quais with a few wine shops en route if sitting and watching the sunset on the river is more your thing. I’d definitely recommend going and checking out what’s going on along the river if you’re in Lyon in the summertime, as restaurants and bars on boats line the river during that time of year and are always full and buzzing!
When you’ve had enough of the Quais, I’d recommend moving on to take advantage of the many fun bars Hotel de Ville has to offer that stay open until the morning. One of the most scenic being the penthouse bar at l’Opéra de Lyon (look for the easy-to-miss lift at the front of the building that takes you right up to the rooftop bar). Another really pretty bar that I can’t recommend enough is Le Broc Bar on Rue Lanterne, not far from the river and with beautiful fairy lights all in the trees above the outdoor seating.
Croix-Rousse also has some nice bars and pubs, although slightly out of the way from the centre, as well as Vieux Lyon, although be prepared to pay more for drinks there. In terms of cafés, some of my favourites for studying or just meeting up with friends included Le Perko Café in Hotel de Ville, or Slake near Place des Jacobins.
What were the best things to do?
Make sure you visit all the obvious attractions such as Bellecour, Vieux Lyon, the Roman ruins at Fourviere Hill (the music festival here which takes place at the end of June every year and attracts some pretty big names all performing in an ancient Roman amphitheatre are not to be missed), the Basilica, Musée des Confluences and Musée des Beaux-Arts etc. If you’re still stuck for ways to fill your days, try Parc de la Tete d’Or, Part Dieu for shopping or brunch in Croix Rousse (I’d recommend Le Desjeuneur).
Beyond Lyon, I spent a weekend visiting a friend in Paris. Lyon is great because it’s also really close to Geneva – I used to get there using Flixbus which, I’m sure most study abroad students will agree, is a godsend for getting around. This is also a plus because I often found that flights into Geneva were way cheaper than flights directly to Lyon, so it’s an easy way of saving some money on flights home. One of my highlights in terms of weekend trips was when I went skiing with friends in Val Thorens. It was so easy to get there from Lyon. So if you like skiing, I can’t recommend taking advantage of its proximity enough for a few days on the slopes. Also, if you don’t mind a bit more of a trek, I got an overnight bus from Lyon to Barcelona for a weekend with friends, which was really cheap and worth the journey!
How did you get around?
During my time in Lyon I got the metro to university every day. Fun fact: the university stop is ironically named Sans Souci (I wish I was joking). I got a metrocard for my time in Lyon, for which I paid 32 euros monthly and it works for the transport services under and over ground. When you’re not using the metro, there are plenty of Ubers around the city and bikes to hire, or Lime bikes, if that’s more your style. For beyond Lyon, I got myself an SNCF Carte Jeune as soon as I arrived to save on train journeys around France. My top transport tip would be to get a metro card as soon as you can once you’ve arrived. It just makes life so much easier!
What about money?
Although I set up a French bank account with BNP Paribas when I arrived (which you need to do for insurance reasons), I ended up using a Caxton card to pay for everything during my year abroad. It’s so useful because you can monitor your spending using the app, and you can quickly change the currency of your money through the app as well. I’d recommend using this instead of a bank account, if you can. As for my phone, I got a contract with Free mobile in my first week. Just be warned that if you set up a French bank account or phone contract, you can only cancel these in person or via a written letter (they really do love their paperwork over there). So just make sure you have everything sorted and in order before you leave the country, unlike myself and so many others I know!