I’ve been getting a few messages from prospective students around the world about studying at the Sorbonne. It’s exciting and terrifying to hear from people just starting their journey, and I can imagine all of the questions they have. Essentially my memory of starting at the Sorbonne in 2010 was one giant question mark over my head.
How will I make ends meet? Will I understand the professors? Will the work be too hard? Am I too old? Am I too experienced? Am I not experienced enough? What will I WEAR?
Here I am, over three years later, still making it, trudging away at my doctorate. For those just starting in the undergrad or masters programs, however, there is of course much advice I could give you. So I will. While I love to answer questions via email, I want to make some information instantly handy, so hopefully you’ll find some answers here regarding practical information for the Université de Paris system (note: I am no expert at all on the Grandes Ecoles, like ENS and Sciences Po, but a lot of the same info will apply).
If you have burning questions, or themes you’d like covered, let me know! But why not start with the most pressing: money. Students can work the equivalent of 20 hours a week, which doesn’t amount to much if you’re making 8-10 euros per hour. Don’t rule out other student jobs, like tour guiding for backpacker groups or looking for a paid internship (good luck!), but whatever the case may be, there are a few notes to keep in mind.
Student life can be rough in a city known as one of the most expensive in the world, but fear not. Money woes need not prohibit studying in Paris if you know what you’re doing…
1. Essentials: Housing can be had for as little as 450 euros if you’re OK with sleeping in a closet or sharing a flat with others. You'll have to dig to find a place, and beware of scams on Craigslist, but it is entirely possible! Affordable housing at the CitéUniversitaire are notoriously rare, but apply for them well in advance to try and secure a spot. After rent, the rest of Paris is doable. Cell service can be had for 20-30 euros a month while internet and landline boxes can be had for 15-30 euros a month depending on the service.
2. Getting Around: Student metro cards, called the Imagine R, are the best way to tackle the city. On the weekends, they will even let you go out to the airport or to Versailles even if you only have the zone 1-2 card that costs 35 euros a month (Versailles is in zone 4!). Otherwise, used bikes (available on leboincoin.fr or craigslist, for example) are another cheap and healthy way to get from home to campus. I got my most recent one for 90 euros, but the lock will set you back another 30-40. Call it an investment piece.
|Take a seat...it's cheap!|
3. Eating: Students don’t eat fabulously unless their parents are oil tycoons, but they eat just fine – if not more memorably than most visitors to Paris. For fewer than 4 euros, you can get a copious meal at any of the Resto-U, or university cafeterias, using your student card. Student “formules” abound around university locations, meaning a baguette sandwich, pastry, and drink could only set you back 5-7 euros. Lebanese fast food, falafel, and Japanese food are also affordable favorites among students. For those with at least a hotplate, outdoor markets offer literally kilos of food for mere euros, while the Asian supermarkets (in Belleville, for example) are the best for stocking up on the essentials like rice and canned goods (and in my case, peanut butter).
4. Socializing: Student discounts galore! Movies, museums (if you’re 26 years old and younger), Erasmus parties, tourist attractions, etc. – being a student in Paris has its perks. It may be one of, if not the best city to be a student. In the spring and summer, outdoor festivals, open air cinemas, and dancing along the Seine are all free and great ways to meet locals. In the autumn and fall, you can walk around the see the window displays and lights at Christmas, spend an all-nighter exploring art installations city-wide during the Nuit Blanche, or visit undiscovered monuments for free at the Journée de la Patrimoine. The city is your oyster (note: oysters are typically expensive…).
5. Tuition: The best part? School costs next to nothing. Non-EU students have to pay a supplementary fee for social security, but plan on allotting 500 euros to educational costs – for the year! That means every euro you have left can go to experiencing all that the city has to offer.