Living in Lyon: A Guide for Students Planning their Year Abroad
Taking the leap and moving to a city as beautiful and exciting as Lyon can be both daunting and exciting at the same time. Here is a complete guide to help you plan your year in the Food Capital of France!
What was the university experience like?
I’m not sure if the same can be said for all universities in Lyon but at Lyon 2, international students have the freedom to craft their own timetable. You can choose any modules from any subject and any year of the degree (all the way through to Masters). Whilst this is, in principle, a good thing as it means there is a lot to choose from, I personally found it a very overwhelming experience… There is no such thing as an easy life when it comes to putting together your timetable: you have to actively scout out the schedule for each of the modules which means physically going to both campuses and trying to find admin offices for each subject (the only place where these are available to view). Luckily you have 2 weeks at the start of term to get all of this sorted, (although I personally could have done with longer…). The format of exams varies per module – it’s worth asking in the first session what format it will take.
Recommendations for other students?
Join the Erasmus & International Students group on Facebook & make an effort to go along to meetings they put on – they’re a great way to not only meet other Erasmus students who are learning the language, but to also find natives that you can practise with. Take a look at the language courses that your university offers. Lyon 2 offers a free French language course (FEMI) which I found incredibly beneficial considering I hadn’t properly spoken French since March (thanks Corona…). Don’t expect to find settling into uni life easy. It can be really overwhelming for the first few weeks & you might think that you’ll never survive but it gets easier with time!
How did you find accommodation?
Finding accommodation in Lyon is actually really difficult so I would 100% recommend getting it sorted well in advance of your trip. I opted for an Airbnb apartment for the first month of my stay with the intention of finding a more permanent place to live while I was actually out there. Needless to say, this was a terrible option – after weeks of searching for apartments and sending hundreds of messages to renters, I found a lovely apartment with Chez Nestor with two days to spare! I loved being with Chez Nestor: everything is included in the price; the process of renting with them is simple and stress-free and any problems are resolved efficiently. The only downside is that it is incredibly expensive renting with them! Yes, the apartments are gorgeous but I think having to pay a €680 admin fee on top of a hefty deposit and your first month’s rent all in one go is a little bit cheeky. While I don’t regret my decision of renting with them, I would suggest that you look at all your options prior to making a decision.
Any tips for other students looking for a place to stay?
Start looking for accommodation 2-3 months prior to moving abroad just so you can seek out all of your options. Seriously consider Crous accommodation if you get offered it – it might not be the nicest but it is so cheap & there is a huge Erasmus community in them so it’s easy to make friends. Avoid sites that make you pay before viewing apartments – there are plenty of free sites out there such as La Carte des Colocs & Le Bon Coin.
Parc de la Tete D’or, Notre Dame de Fourviere, Parc des curiosites (best views of Lyon), Place Bellecour, Mur des Canuts and Vieux Lyon. Grenoble is an amazing place to spend a day; it’s located just under 1 1/2 hours away by train and there are so many amazing things to do there. My favourite thing to do there is taking the funicular up to La Bastille and admiring the views over the city from there. Annecy, Vienne & Perouges are also all in close proximity to Lyon & make good day trips. There’s always something going on in Lyon! To keep up-to-date with things, I would recommend following Ville de Lyon on Instagram as this is how I found out about all of the cool art festivals taking place during my stay.
How were the nightlife and food?
Being abroad during the pandemic meant that I didn’t quite get the same experience as normal (reason being the majority of pubs and bars were forced to shut down during the first few weeks of being there). However, there were a few that I got to try out before that I would recommend:
– BBC Cafe (during Happy Hour cocktails are just €5)
– MOS – Maker of Stories (insta-worthy interior & cheap drinks)
– Le Bieristan (beer hall with good food & a great atmosphere)
Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France so you absolutely cannot say you’ve done Lyon if you haven’t tried the cuisine! Bouchons – restaurants serving traditional Lyonnais dishes – aren’t to be missed and while some are more expensive than others, all of them have a variety of set menus with varying prices. Aside from bouchons, there are plenty of other great restaurants. Here are some of my faves:
– La Gâche (French)
– Aux Trois Maries (French)
– Chez Grand-Mère (French)
– Carmelo (Italian)
– Heat (Street Food Venue)
Any money advice or practical tips?
I personally took enough money in euros to last me for a month and then used my debit card for the remainder of my stay. I don’t get charged for using it abroad (I’m with Santander) but I would recommend checking whether or not this is the same for yours as I know this is not always the case. Take a month’s worth of euros to get you by – this way you don’t have to worry about setting up a French bank account (if this is what you want to do) straight away. If you want to apply for CAF (Caisse des Allocations Familiales), you will need to open a French bank account first (and this isn’t easy to do). Consider setting up a Monzo account as this could save you a lot of money.
Purchase an abonnement from TCL as this will save you so much money on taking the tram and buses. Bear in mind though that on a Sunday, bus and tram services don’t run as often and stop a lot earlier. If you are travelling out of Lyon, look at Blablabus and Flixibus before deciding on taking the train as these are often a lot cheaper.
One song to encapsulate your time abroad?
It sounds very cliché but La Vie en Rose by Edith Piaf just because I appreciated life much more in Lyon – living in a beautiful city and having the time and freedom to do whatever you want is truly empowering.