If you know anything about living in France, it’s that deciphering French bureaucracy is harder than figuring out when to use the imperfect subjunctive.
And if you don’t know much about France, and you’re moving here anyway, you’ll be in for a shock.
Your bank will tell you that you have to have a carte de séjour before you can open a bank account. Your landlord will tell you you need a French bank account to sign a lease. And the préfecture will tell you that you need a lease and proof of residence to get your carte de séjour.
You’ll feel like you’re spending all your time sorting out one administrative problem after another, just for the privilege of being a student in the City of Light.
But Paris Unraveled is here to help.
We help you understand everything you need to know about living in France, from which universities are the best for which fields of study, to how to get a job as an English speaking student, to how to renew your carte de séjour.
We answer your questions about your work contract and your exposé for your French university seminar.
If you stay in France for any length of time, you’ll start to think you’re going crazy.
We’ll reassure you that you’re not.
First things first.
If you’re thinking about coming to Paris or already living here, sign up for our newsletter. You’ll get a free copy of our ebook, The Study Abroad Workbook, and a weekly email with tips and tricks for living in Paris:
Studying Abroad in France
Studying in France can be a challenge, since understanding and integrating a new school system in a different culture and language isn’t always easy. Even if you speak French very well, the cultural differences between the independent, creative American methods and the more authoritarian French methods can seem insurmountable at times.
If you’re thinking about studying abroad in France, you’ll definitely want to read about the advantages and disadvantages of coming with a study abroad program, and about how to choose your study abroad program before you apply. Or, you can read about the different French universities and how to enroll directly in a public French school.
Determining Your Study Abroad Plan
- Before you study abroad, the first step is to determine whether you want to come during your junior year of college in an American program, or whether you’d consider doing your master’s degree in France for a considerably reduced price.
Here are some guidelines for choosing a program that’s the best fit for you. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to download your free copy of The Study Abroad Workbook.
Once you actually arrive in France, you’ll be surrounded by French students who likely had a very different educational experience than you did.
In the sections below, you’ll learn about the structure of the French school system from école maternelle (preschool) through doctorat, to help you understand where the other students in your university (fac) classes are coming from.
The French School System: Ecole Maternelle – Lycée
The French School System: LMD – Licence, Master, Doctorat
The French School System: Understanding the Grandes Ecoles
Succeeding in French University Classes
French university classes and assignments are totally unique to France, and unless you’ve previously studied in a French school, it’s difficult to grasp the particular structure and style of writing assignments. Unlike American-style “papers,” French university assignments adhere to very strict forms that French students learn from a very young age, that French professors don’t often explain for the benefit of foreign students.
Here, you’ll learn about the most common types of French assignments: what their purpose is and a recommended approach to completing the analysis and organization for your papers. You’ll also have at least one sample assignment, written by an American study-abroad student at the undergraduate or master’s level. In addition, you’ll learn the rules of the problématique (thesis statement), assignment formatting (no double spacing!) and bibliographies (not MLA!). Good luck!
French assignment type: The Explication de Texte
French assignment type: Commentaire Composé
French assignment type: Dossier
French assignment type: Dissertation
French assignment type: Exposés
Visas & Immigration
Since 2007, France has eliminated short-stay visas for students who wish to stay in France for fewer than 90 days. If you’re completing a summer study-abroad program, you will not have to go through the CampusFrance procedure or obtain a visa, provided that you have the right to enter the Schengen Space without one. Students planning to stay in France longer than 90 days still need to follow all of the administrative steps outlined in this section.
Before you leave for France, it’s important to know that any stay in France or Europe for longer than 3 months requires a significant amount of paperwork, because you’ll need a visa to study and (possibly) work. There are many steps to each process, and you’ll need lots of different documents in order for your visa and residency permit to be approved. This section will guide you through each step of the visa and carte de séjour process, identifying the documents you’ll need to get, the fees you’ll need to pay, and the appointments you’ll need to make. Because French immigration and extended-stay laws are constantly changing, you should also double-check information on official French government sites before making or going to any official appointments.
Since June 2009, France no longer requires students to obtain a Carte de Séjour for their first year in France. After completing the medical visit, the OFII puts a yellow sticker in your passport, which has the same dates of validity as your visa and serves as your first “titre de séjour.” If you want to stay in France and must apply for a CDS, what you’ll actually be doing is a “renouvellement.”
Finding Housing in Paris
Finding housing in Paris on your own can be quite a challenge, as I learned when I apartment-hunted for the first time in Paris. Since renting for under a year is illegal (supposedly to relieve the housing crunch), there aren’t nearly enough possibilities for student renters, and those who do rent short-term prefer to illegally rent to tourists, who will pay a month’s rent for a week-long stay. If you’re new to France, have never worked there, and don’t have family, it will be very difficult to rent a place without an agency or a connection of some kind. Individual rental requires some serious paperwork, and many landlords are unwilling to rent to foreign students who may decide to leave mid-year or who have foreign guarantors, who are more difficult to pursue in court if you don’t pay your rent.
But somehow students always manage to find housing by the beginning of the semester. Remember, the sooner you start, the better. Here’s our guide:
Different Types of Housing:
And here are our tips for figuring out where to live, negotiating your lease, and defending your rights:
Don’t forget to check out the Housing section on the Paris Unraveled blog for even more articles on finding a place to live in Paris.
Moving to a new country entails a lot of preparation, a lot of administrative work, and, unfortunately, a lot spending too much money because you have no idea what things are supposed to cost. For students on a budget, money is a valuable resource, and spending too much on groceries can mean the difference between a weekend in Prague and a day trip to the Louvre.
In these posts, I’ve tried to provide an idea of what things cost, as well as what you can expect to spend during your time in Paris. I’ve also tried to give you ideas on ways to manage your money and how to find the best exchange rates, so you can maximize your available cash even when the exchange rate is unfavorable.
It’s easier than ever to stay in touch with friends and family all over the world, and study abroad is no exception. Here’s our guide to using the most important means of communication in France and on getting the best deals for keeping in touch:
Not everything on Paris Unraveled fit neatly into one of the other categories. Here’s some more important stuff you should check out for your time in France!
Nightlife and Entertainment
Looking to have some fun in Paris? Here are some of the special events and activities going on throughout the year:
- Finding Events in Paris
- Museum Guide
- Movie Theaters
- Live Performances
- School Vacations
- National Holidays
- Special Events
- Club International des Jeunes de Paris