What's it like Studying in Lyon, France?

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Lyon is full of history and culture, and remains a top choice among students for their year abroad. We chatted with a few of them, who gave their insights into the university, the city, what to expect and what to avoid.

"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."


How did you spend your study placement in Lyon?

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!

Look out for:

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.


How did you spend your placement?

I spent a year studying abroad in Lyon and gained a place to study on the SELF programme at Universite Jean Moulin Lyon 3. I had very limited French before I went and found that the English taught programme allowed me to just enjoy my time in France with as little educational confusion as possible. However, each lesson was 4 hours (quite the shock to the system when you’re used to 50 minute lectures) and it was unnecessarily long. However, it gave me the chance to be in France and although the lessons were at times arduous, the out of classroom work was minimal. 

What would you recommend?

I wish that I challenged myself more to learn the language as at times there was a barrier. If your French is limited like mine was, then really push yourself to go out there and learn as much as possible. It’s quite easy when studying abroad to not challenge yourself when you’re surrounded by lots of people that speak English fluently, but I really regret not taking the time to learn more French. 

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."


How did you spend your placement?

I lived and studied in Lyon for a year as part of my degree course at the University of Birmingham. Although I studied English and Drama, I had the opportunity to do a year abroad and wanted to improve my French I had left at A-Level! I applied through my school who had a partnership with Lyon 3 Université Jean Moulin, studying in English on an international course for my first semester and then going on to to study in French for my second. There was a language barrier at times but lots of people spoke some English and my French improved because, frankly, it had to! 

What would you recommend?

All I can say is go for it! Just Do it! It’s an amazing experience where you’ll meet so many people and try so many new things. It might be hard at times, but just throw yourself into it and you’ll be surprised what you get out of it. 


How did you spend your placement?

I spent 9 months (September – May)  in Lyon where I went to university, taking classes in Law (I study Law with french Law) as well as French history, French grammar with other Erasmus students and Geography. The year abroad was compulsory, and the only thing I had to really do in the application process was  write a letter to my personal tutor at my home university outlining why I would like to spend my third year in Lyon. 

What would you recommend?

My advice? Really just try and throw yourself into as much as you can! It may seem overwhelming and, of course, if you are not enjoying something – stop. But it’s the perfect way to see what your town or city has to offer. I joined a scheme which I heard about through my university (speak to the Erasmus co-ordinator at your host uni as they’ll be the person most in the know) which paired you up with a host family for an evening to over to theirs for a meal – often with some other exchange students. It is such a good way to practice a language and you get some delicious food out of it too!

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