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Tips for Studying in France

Learn French:

If you don’t know French, try to learn a few expressions in French, such as basic greetings and thanks. The French always say “Bonjour” before anything else from ordering a drink to entering a shop and “merci”, afterwards even if they do not buy anything. This is a fact which many English speaking people ignore and as a result they are considered uncouth or rude.

If you don’t already speak French, carry a translating book with you, or an electronic translator. They have them at many tourist spots there, if you need to but one. Just ask for a “calculatrice-tradudrice.” (Translating Calculator.)

Learn five key phrases:

  1. Bonjour – Hello. Always followed by the formal (by US standards) Monsieur (male), Madame (female), Mademoiselle (young female)
  2. Au Revoir – Goodbye
  3. S’il vous plait – please
  4. Merci – Thank you
  5. Je ne parle pas francais- En anglais, s’il vous plait – I don’t speak French. In English, please?

Learn French language from the following institutes and colleges, Delhi:

  • Alliance Francaise
    2, Aurangzeb Road – New Delhi – 110 001
  • Delhi University
    Arts Faculty Building
    University of Delhi
    Delhi 110 007
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University
    New Delhi-11006
  • École de Français, a leading French language institute in West Delhi, offers short term and regular courses.
    Contact : School of French, WZ-44, Meenakshi Garden, Near Subhash Ngr Metro Stn, New Delhi – 110018.

You can learn French language online too.

Practicing Religion:

France is a secular state with a Roman Catholic tradition. The many Roman and Gothic cathedrals, as well as churches and chapels found in the most out-of-the-way corners of the country, testify to that tradition. Individuals are free to practice the religion of their choice. Discrimination on the basis of religious practice or affiliation is prohibited by law.

The major faiths in France are Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and Judaism.
Churches, mosques, and temples coexist peacefully in a spirit of harmony and mutual respect.


University restaurants are central to student life in France. The prices are low, such as a complete meal costs just 2.85 Euros. Anyone with a valid student ID card can use any of the 450 university restaurants found throughout France. Some are open nights and on weekends.

You can also get a good meal in the many cafés and restaurants you’ll find in every French city. Prices for a complete meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) range from 10 Euros to astronomical sums in 3-star “temples of French gastronomy” such as Alain Ducasse, Paul Bocuse, and Bernard Loiseau. If your residence has cooking facilities, you should explore the food stores in your area. You’ll find small neighborhood shops, supermarkets, and open-air markets. And no matter where you live in France, you won’t be far from a bakery where you can buy baguettes and croissants.


You may need to arrange to take your exams early if you are taking classes directly from a French university. Typically, the French university calendar begins in October and ends in January or February. You will need to ask permission from your professors to take an early exam so you can be home by the end of December.

You must finish all of your coursework before leaving France. The final assessment will be worth the vast majority of your grade. Be sure that you give the assessment, whether it is a test or a paper, your  best effort. Save all of your coursework and material and bring it home with you.

Health care in France:

There are both private and public hospitals in France. Most private hospitals (cliniques privées) are accessible on broadly the same terms as a public hospital, with very few operating completely outside of the public sector.

Public hospitals may be a general or local hospital (CH), a regional hospital (CHR), a specialist hospital (CHS), or one linked to a university (CHU).

All hospitals have an emergency room that is open 24 hours a day. Physicians and pharmacies are on call nights and weekends.

The renowned French system of health insurance reimburses a portion of participants’ medical expenses in return for a mandatory annual contribution of 192 Euros. Student group health plans are available to cover all or part of that portion of your medical bills that is not covered by the basic national system. Premiums for such supplemental coverage start at 110 Euros per year.

The two largest plans are:

  • La Mutuelle des Étudiants active throughout France.
  • USEM, an association of 10 regional student health plans.

The French health-care system is one of the best in the world. The level of care in French hospitals is of very high quality, and universal insurance makes care available to everyone.Students, in particular, enjoy ready access to medical services and preventive care. To be eligible for the national student health plan, students must be under 28 and enrolled in a participating institution of higher education. Students 28 and older can obtain a special health insurance, the “CMU”.

Additional precautions:

  • Carefully read all health and safety guidelines issued by your adviser or program sponsor about your host country.
  • Inform your sponsor and/or health care professional of any potentially serious physical or mental health problems you have.
  • Give your family, close friends, or guardians your emergency contact information. Keep them fully informed of changes to your itinerary or residence.
  • Research insurance options and coverage- Will your insurer cover you? Contact your health insurer, study abroad program, and school study abroad office for more information. Make sure you have health insurance. (Health insurance is also available at many airport currency exchange counters.)
  • Learn how to get emergency medical and police assistance.

Finding medical assistance:
If you are searching for someone who has been hospitalized, contact the l’Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, an umbrella organization comprising more than 50 hospitals in the Paris region. For minor ailments such as headache, rash, or traveler’s diarrhea, the place to begin is at a pharmacy or chemist. French pharmacists play a active role in personal healthcare, they will listen to your complaints, recommend remedies and if necessary even suggest a local physician.

For more serious or persistent conditions, when a doctor or hospital is needed, consult a pharmacist, call the English-language crisis line SOS Help, or call SOS Médecins. If language is a problem and you need an English-speaking doctor, the American Hospital of Paris is an excellent facility, with some bilingual staff, that accepts U.S. dollars and major credit cards. It will feel familiar to Americans, but is expensive compared to French hospitals.

In case of a traumatic medical emergency, call the SAMU. The SAMU can be contacted by simply dialing the number ‘15’ on your fixed telephone line. If you are ringing from a mobile phone the number is 112. There are nearly 100 SAMU call centers in France each on run by the local major hospital. Many of those manning the centers will themselves be doctors, or at the least, trained medical staff.

Personal Safety:

To avoid problems, follow these simple suggestions:

  • Carry a minimum of cash.
  • Grasp a purse or bag hanging from your shoulder.
  • Carry your wallet and passport in a buttoned or zipped inside pocket.
  • Don’t put valuables in a backpack; it is easy to slit it and remove them.
  • Distribute cash and other valuables over several places.
  • When riding in a car, lock the doors.
  • When car windows are open, put valuables on the floor, out of reach.
  • Don’t leave valuables in parked cars.
  • Don’t travel alone late at night.
  • Carry a note giving your temporary address.
  • The law requires that you carry your identity papers on your person. Your papers may be requested while walking or driving. If you’ve committed a minor offence, the French police will no doubt be lenient with you as long as you show good faith. However, you will be subject to the same punishment as a French citizen for any offence. Remember that the usage of illegal drugs, including soft drugs, is strictly forbidden.
  • Report the theft of personal items or credit cards, missing vehicles, and lost or stolen identity papers to the nearest Préfecture de Police (police station). For missing identity papers, you will be given a special receipt to use in obtaining replacements; also contact your embassy or consulate. Lost or stolen credit cards must be reported to your credit card company.
    For lost personal items, contact the Paris lost property office:

    Préfecture de Police
    Lost Property Office 36, rue des Morillons 75015 Paris Métro Convention 08h30-17h Monday and Wednesday 08h30-20h Tuesday and Thursday 08h30-17h30 Friday

Complying with legal requirements once in France:

  • As soon as you arrive in France, take two important steps to comply with French immigration regulations:
    1. Report to your new university or school and register for classes.
    2. Apply for a student residency permit (if you will be staying for longer than 3 months)
  • Report to your new institution and register for classes.
  • All students must report and register each year. The procedure is the same in all universities. In non-university institutions of higher education it differs from institution to institution.
  • Registration at the universities has two parts: administrative registration and registration for classes.
  • Other institutions of higher education set their own registration procedures and typically inform students of those procedures before their departure for France.
  • Pay close attention to the documents that you will have to present. Originals are often required.

Residency permit:

An important thing you’ll have to do once you arrive is apply for your residency permit. All international students must obtain such a permit, even those who are entitled to reside in France without a visa.

International students who intend to study in France for more than 3 months must visit the préfecture (or government center) for their area to obtain a temporary residency permit showing their student status. The temporary residency permit is valid until the expiration date of the applicant’s passport or until the date of completion of the applicant’s academic program, whichever comes first. The permit must be renewed annually. You will need the residency permit in order to obtain housing assistance.

Banks and Banking:

There are seven Euro notes, identical in all twelve countries. They are denominated in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 Euros, each having a different color. All notes carry advanced security features. There are eight Euro coins denominated in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 Euros. Each coin has a European community face as well as a national face specific to one of the twelve countries of the Eurozone.

Banking hours:
Banks in Paris and most of northern France are open 09h to 16h30 or 17h, Monday through Friday. Provincial banks are usually open 08h to 16h30, Tuesday through Saturday. Some banks close from 13h to 15h, and some are open Saturday mornings. Note:  that banks may close earlier than usual on the day before a national holiday.

Currency exchange services:
Currency exchange is offered in all banks and post offices, and some hotels. You can also find exchanges in department stores, railway stations, and airports. Be warned that exchange rates are fixed, but commission rates are flexible. Banks and currency exchanges (bureaux de change) will usually have the lowest commissions. Hotels and airports usually have higher commissions.

Bank cards and credit cards:
Bank debit and credit cards are accepted in most stores, hotels, restaurants, and service stations. Widely-honored brands are American Express, Visa, Mastercard-Eurocard, and Diners Club. There is often a minimum purchase requirement of 15 EURO. Depending on the card type, you can withdraw 100-500 EURO at automatic teller machines (ATMs) and banks. Cash obtained from ATMs is normally at a quite good rate of exchange. A disadvantage is that credit card companies will normally consider the transaction a “cash advance”, accruing interest from the date of the transaction. Debit cards do not incur this fee, of course. Both cards are likely to have small, fixed per-transaction fees.

If you lose your card, you must notify the issuing bank as soon as possible to avoid paying fraudulent charges. Please call the appropriate customer service number. Remember to record your credit card number and customer service number and store them in a safe place in case of theft or loss.

Traveler’s checks:
Whether issued in French Euros or another currency, traveler’s checks can be converted to Euros in banks, currency exchanges, and selected post offices. Although a fee is charged when you purchase them, their advantage is that you are insured in case of loss or theft. Eurocheques are similar to traveler’s checks. In addition to a booklet of checks, you are given a card which can be used to withdraw money at banks and pay for purchases. You will be required to show identification in order to cash checks in a bank.


France’s highways and roads are excellent.  Buses provide public transportation in all French cities. Some have tramways as well. The largest cities have underground rail systems. France has a comfortable and efficient rail network that includes many high-speed lines. Within France, the train is your best option. You can either book your trains online, at the train station, or at a SNCF boutique around town. It is recommended that you get a 12-25 card (une carte douze-vingt-cinq). This card will get you discounts on all of your train travel and it pays for itself mostly within the first round trip. The TGV (train à grande vitesse) is a high speed train that runs all over France, and there are other regional trains that travel shorter distances.  International and domestic air connections from all large French cities reach every spot on the globe.

Cultural Shock:

Culture shock strikes different people at different times. Some students are immediately affected by cultural and language differences. Others may not experience it for months. Preparation is the best defense against culture shock. You can get information from:

  • The Internet
  • Books and articles
  • Magazines
  • Campus advisers
  • Students who have been in the same program or country.

Here are some ideas for adjust to the culture shock:

  • Keep in regular contact with friends and family back home.
  • Keep a journal or blog. You can express your thoughts and feelings and provide a detailed account of your travels.
  • Make friends in your host country: natives as well as with international students. This will help you learn about your host country while sharing the experiences of people in the same situation.

Stay Connected :

  • Computers, Internet, and Email
    Computers help you complete projects and assignments, check email, and access the Internet.
  • Research what converters and adapters you’ll need so you can plug your computer into electrical outlets
  • Consider getting a security cable for your laptop. (It can be very useful if you stay in a hotel room without a safe.)
  • Consider an overseas Internet account or a pre-paid phone card. Long-distance calls can be complicated. Connecting to the Internet can be trickier.
  • See if your university has a computer lab with Internet and email access.
  • Shipping a PC or laptop can be expensive. It may be best to buy one while overseas (especially if the exchange rate is advantageous). You can sell it before you leave, and it will be configured for the local power supply.
  • Cell Phones – When in France, you will find it very handy to have a cell phone. There are multiple companies you can buy a phone with, the main ones being: Orange, SFR, and Bouygues. Buy a “pay as you go?? plan if you’re staying for a semester, and look into starting a contract if you’ll be there for the year. It’s your choice though. You will not need or use your French phone anywhere near as much as you do here. You can buy credit as often as you need to, and it can come in amounts ranging from 5 Euros to 25 or 30 Euros, but remember that it can add up quickly.
  • Calling to and from France -The calling code for France is +33 and phone numbers are 10 digits long. Most cell phone numbers will start 06.xx.xx.xx.xx. When calling anyone in France with a French phone, you will enter the number exactly as you see it. When you are calling from France back to the States, you will enter 001 + (area code) number. However, when you need to call from a French phone outside the country, you will enter 00 + calling code + number. If the number has a 0 in front, the 0 is left off.

Having fun in France:

  • Cultural life in France is intense. No matter what city you live in, you can watch recent film or play. Also, with your student ID card, you won’t pay as much for your ticket. Every city has at least one full-service library where you can borrow books, recordings, videos, and more for a very modest membership fee. Every city has bookstores. You’ll also find museums endowed with rich collections of art, from prehistory to the present. From the student associations that operate in all French educational institutions you can get inside information on contemporary cultural events.
  • Sports, culture, leisure, the possibilities are unlimited.  Most French institutions have athletic facilities for their students. Teams and leagues and clubs devoted to the practice of every sport can be found in and around every town. Membership fees are modest and often include insurance against injuries. Track, sailing, diving, golf, riding, martial arts, tennis, football (soccer), mountain climbing, rugby, squash, skiing, basketball, volleyball etc. If you want to compete, the national university athletics federation organizes games between student teams.
  • Other than the language, the French are known for their traditional cuisine, wine and champagne, and landmarks and museums. The Eiffel Tower, Disneyland Resort Paris, and Musée d’Orsay are home to the great artists of the nineteenth century. The Louvre is also considered to be one of the finest museums in the class of art, culture, and art history. This museum is also the home of the Mona Lisa.
  • France is filled with a wide variety of restaurants, bars and nightclubs that could also enchant and excite your senses. France is famous for romantic and fine dining. Restaurants create a beautiful ambience that food lovers can both appreciate and relax in.

Things to Pack:

  • Warm clothes and sweaters for layering as it can get windy and cold.
  • Lots of black and neutral clothes
  • An umbrella 
  • Nicer clothes for going out at night.
  • Consider bringing a backpack for weekend traveling.

Pre-departure Requirements:

Some tasks, such as obtaining passports or visas, may take considerable time, so begin preparations well before your travel date.

  •  Travelers from all other countries must carry a valid national passport and one other form of identification. To obtain the requirements for your locality, call your local French embassy or consulate, leaving sufficient time for processing and issuing documents. Minors traveling alone are required to carry a written authorization to exit their country, signed by their parents. As a precaution you should make two copies of your traveling documents. Leave one copy at home and take one with you, storing it separately from the originals. Then, if an original document is lost or stolen, obtaining a replacement will be easier.
  • Tourists are advised to contact their health insurance provider to verify that they are covered for illness or accident during their visit. If you will soon be due (or are overdue) for a regular checkup at your doctor or dentist, do it before you leave. If you wear eyeglasses or contacts, bring an extra pair of glasses and your prescription. Persons taking prescription medications should make sure they have an adequate supply for the trip, and/or bring their prescription, making sure it includes the medication trade name, manufacturer’s name, generic name, and dosage.
  • Some goods are forbidden or strictly regulated, including narcotics, illegal drugs, forgeries, weapons, live plants, ivory, etc. Cash or cash equivalents of 10,000 EURO or more must be declared to customs at entry and exit.
  • Theft and safety precautions- Write the numbers of all credit cards, driving permits, insurance cards, etc., on a separate paper to use in case of loss or theft. Also record the customer service telephone number for each credit card. Store this information separately from the cards.
  • Using credit cards- First, make sure that transactions are enabled for all destination countries. Some credit card companies set up new accounts with international transactions disabled to help reduce credit card fraud. Unless you call them and ask to have this feature enabled, you may find that your card is not accepted outside your home country.  Second, if you plan to use your credit card to obtain foreign currency from automatic teller machines (ATMs), you will need to have a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to confirm your identity. If you do not have a PIN, call your credit card company and request one. Some European ATM machines will not accept PINs longer than four digits, so ask for a four-digit PIN. Credit card companies need time to process your request, and will normally send PINs by first-class mail only, so be sure to call several weeks before leaving.

Upon Arrival:

  • To be allowed to enter French territory, all foreign nationals must present a travel document accepted by the French authorities (if a visa was affixed to your travel document by a French consular authority, this document is accepted by the French border police, unless it is damaged, modified, or forged after the visa is issued). A valid visa which corresponds to the reason and length of stay.
  • Paris has two international airports. The larger is Roissy Charles de Gaulle, which has airport code CDG. It is located about 25 kilometers (15 miles) northeast of Paris, near the town of Roissy. The second airport is Orly, airport code ORY, 14 kilometers (9 miles) south of Paris. A variety of public and private ground transportation is available to take you to Paris from either airport.
  • Public transportation includes Roissybus, Orlybus, Orlyval, and RER trains. All of them can be accessed by paying the fare in Euros, or with a 6-zone Paris Visite Metro Pass. Paris Visite passes may be purchased online and delivered to your Paris hotel or your home. Private transportation includes taxis, Air France coaches (Les Cars Air France), limousines, and shuttle services like Paris Shuttle. Be aware that public transportation can be inconvenient when carrying luggage.
  • Checking into your hotel- Paris hotels usually have a check-out time at 11h or 12h, and check-in times at 15h or 16h. Travelers who arrive in the morning may have to wait to check in.

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