STUDENT LIFE IN FRANCE
This section aims to help students acclimatize with various topics like living costs, accommodation, administrative procedures in France, things to purchase, information about social security and emergency services of France.
The very first thing that you would have to do once you have decided to start your studies in France and have received an admission confirmation would be to start your search for an accommodation. It is not easy to find affordable housing in big cities like Paris and it could take some time for you to find a place for yourself depending on
several factors, which also include your level of French proficiency. Therefore, it is advisable to start your search as early as possible.
Types of Accommodation
There are multiple housing options available in France. You can choose between a publicly owned building OR a private one, and between a student residence OR an apartment that you may occupy alone, with other students, or with a family or local resident.
Two basic forms of housing are available for students in France:
Student residences and hostels
These are housing designed specifically for students with furnished rooms, lower rents etc. They are generally single furnished rooms and the rents depend on the size of the room, which starts from 9m2.
In most cases, these rooms will also have a private bathroom. There are also rooms on a 2-person sharing basis with a shared bathroom. Kitchens are in general common for every floor.
Depending on the specific student residence that you are staying in, there may be rules as to the opening and closing times of these common kitchens. Usually they are open from about 6 AM till 11 PM. Bigger rooms (studios) with a private kitchen facility may also be available depending upon the specific location.
These residences are usually reserved only for students and usually have an age restriction. Some specific housing for PhD students and Post-doctoral researchers may also be available without age restrictions.
CROUS (Centres Régionaux des Oeuvres Universitaires et Scolaires/ Regional Centres for University Student Services) residences are the publicly owned and managed residences that are subsidized by the French government. They are the first choices for any new student coming to France since they are:
– The cheapest rooms available
– Closest to the university campus
– Plenty of opportunities for social interaction with other students through in-house student associations
In fact, the only real drawback of a CROUS residence is that they are hard to get, because demand far exceeds supply.
The application process for a CROUS residence depends on the type of program that you are enrolled in. International students can apply on the CROUS website directly from the first week of July onwards.
For students on an exchange program or students who hold a scholarship managed by Campus France, either the international relations service of the university or Campus France will take responsibility for taking care of the booking of the accommodation.
Certain higher education institutions (especially the Grandes Ecoles) have an agreement with CROUS for housing solutions and one could book you a room directly. Therefore, make sure to check with your institution for any help that can be extended in finding an accommodation.
Cité International Universitaire de Paris (CIUP)
If you are enrolled for a Master’s degree or higher at an institution in Paris, you can apply for housing in the Indian House (Maison de l’Inde) at the CIUP (International University Campus of Paris). The CIUP is a private foundation in public interest for International students and researchers. Each country has a house of its own, which gives priority to students of its nationality. If rooms are available, students can apply for accommodation in a house of a different country as well. More details and how to apply can be found in the website of the Maison de l’Inde.
Private Student Residences
If you are not able to find a room through CROUS or CIUP, then private student residences are a good alternative. They also offer almost all the services offered by CROUS residences albeit at a slightly higher price. The following are some of the well-known private student residence companies in France: Lokaviz,PARME, Suitétudes, Les Estudines, NEXITY Studéa, Fac-Habitat,Cardinal Campus, Néoresid, Kley,Student Factory.
Run by nonprofits (often-religious organizations), most hostels offer lodging for young people between the ages of 18 and 25. In the Paris area, Jeunes A Paris offers many accommodation options under the Catholic Church.
Rooms and Apartments rented on the local market
a) Private Apartments and Collocations
If you would like to have a bit more independence than in a student residence, you can opt for private apartments or shared rentals (colocation) either through an agency or directly with the owner. Se Loger, A vendre A louer and Lodgis are some of the websites where advertisements of apartments for rent through agencies may be found. To rent an apartment from an individual property owner (without going through an agency), check the listings on the sites Particulier à Particulier and Le Bon Coin. It is to be noted that in general (not always), rents for an apartment listed through an agency are lower than when directly renting from the owner. However, when renting through an agency, an agency fee of about a month’s rent needs to be paid to the agency at the time of signing the contract.
Colocations are another popular option with students. Several websites with propositions for colocations are available such as Appartager ,Roomlala, ImmoJeune, and La carte des colocs
b) Living with a French family or the Elderly
Living with a French family or the elderly is an economical solution to find accommodation. While living with a French family, you get your own room while taking part in other activities with the family.
It also comes with the added advantage of helping to improve your French conversational skills. Some families offer reduced rents or free accommodation in exchange for services such as babysitting, gardening, help with homework etc.
Intergenerational Housing is another way for students to reduce their accommodation expenses if they have a good level of French. In this case, you will be offered a room in a care-home or the houses of elderly in return for your presence and stay.
You are expected to spend some time with the elderly, talking to them and being an emergency contact, especially at night.
Room rents are typically very low or in some cases free.
The list of documents needed will depend on the type of housing chosen and the owner, but in general, copies of the following documents are needed.
2. Visa or residence card
3. Proof of enrolment at the university
4. Salary slips of the last 3 months if you have a part-time job
5. Home Insurance (Assurance Multi-Risques Habitation)
6. Documents of the guarantor (ID proof, 3 months’ salary slips, Address proof and undertaking letter)
A guarantor is someone who provides security on your behalf, that is, someone who agrees to pay your rent in the event you can no longer do so. In France, nearly everyone seeking to rent an apartment, whether French or foreign, is asked to name a guarantor.
Normally the guarantor should be a close friend or relative who is residing in France (or in some cases the EU). If you do not know anyone who can be your guarantor, there are free government systems such as the VISALE, which can act as your guarantor if you are renting an apartment or room. Certain renting agencies do not accept the VISALE as a guarantor. In such cases, Garant Me is a paid alternative that is available.
The home/room insurance is compulsory when renting a room/apartment in France. With this insurance, you will be insured against damage from fire, explosion, or water damage. However, in most cases (with the cheapest plans), your insurance only covers damage caused to the accommodation and/or the building and not to your personal belongings.
If you are willing to pay a slightly higher premium, there are options that cover your personal belongings also against theft, natural calamities etc.
Multiple agencies are available which offer housing insurance. Most banks do it as a complimentary offer for students for the first year. Other agencies such as GMF, MAAF, MMA etc offer cheap, tailor-made solutions for students. Another low-cost housing insurance provider is Luko.
In general, you are also required to pay a security deposit while renting an accommodation in France. Usually for a furnished apartment, the security deposit is equal to two months’ rent and for an unfurnished apartment; it is equal to one month’s rent. In CROUS residences, the security deposit is generally equal to one- month’s rent. This is a refundable deposit and will be paid back within 3 months of you leaving the apartment if no damage has been caused and the apartment has been left in a good condition.
When you first move into the apartment, the agency/owner/administration officials will make a checklist of the state of the apartment (état de lieu d’entrée). Pay close attention to this document and report any damages that you see immediately.
A similar checklist will be made when you leave the apartment as well (état de lieu de sortie). Any damages that are detected in the new checklist which are not present in the original checklist will be put against your account and you will be required to pay for those damages, either from the security deposit or from your pocket. If you do not pay for the damages, your guarantor will be liable to pay for the damages.
Please bear that there are many frauds that take place in the housing sector.
Many scammers exploit the dire circumstances of students and lack of their knowledge in French to fleece money from them.
– Under any circumstance, do not pay the security deposit/ rent before signing the lease agreement.
– If possible, use a cheque for paying the security deposit and the first month’s rent.
– If you are renting a private apartment and you do not speak French well, ask for assistance from someone who knows French well while signing the contract.
Typical rent for a student housing in France can vary between cities. Paris tends to be the most expensive. A rough comparison can be found in the table below:
Type of Accommodation
Around 450€ /month
min. 450 – 600€ /month
Private Student Residences, Studio Apartments
min. 500 – 900€ /month
Around 400€ / month
min. 250 – 400€ /month
Private Student Residences, Studio Apartments
min. 250 – 500€ /month
In addition to the rent, students staying in collocations and studio apartments would be required to pay extra for electricity, water, and internet. Typical electricity + water charges are about 20-40 €/month while internet charges are around 15-30 €/month.
For students staying in CROUS residences and private student apartments, rent is inclusive of these charges.
Most students in France qualify for the rent subsidy by the government through the CAF (Caisse d’Allocation Familiale). The rent subsidy can be up to 40% of your rent and is based on the type of accommodation that you have and your income. Applications for the CAF assistance can be made completely online. You will require having a bank account in France to apply for the CAF assistance. The CAF assistance will be paid to you from the month following the month in which you make your application for the assistance.
Step-by-step instructions on how to apply for the CAF assistance can be found here.
learning french language
Learning and being able to converse in French is a critical part of life in France. French people may understand English but would be unwilling to hold a conversation in English and hence, to survive in France, French language is an essential tool.
There are multiple ways for you to improve your French proficiency while in France as a student.
– Language classes at your university: Most public universities have a language department where French language courses are offered to the students for free or for a minimal fee. In some English taught programs, French language is offered as one subject in the curriculum.
Certain universities have implemented enhanced language training in French for refugees and people granted subsidiary protection, with the help of the AgenceUniversitaire de la Francophonie. These trainings are partly distance learning but always provide face-to-face mentoring as well.
– Private Language training centers: In most major cities, there exists private centers and even centers of Alliance Français that provide French language training. These private centers are generally more expensive than language centers at the universities.
– Online courses: There are multiple MOOC’s, especially the ones run by the digital French University (fun-mooc.fr), that maintain a pedagogical approach to learning. These MOOC’s correspond to different levels and there are courses catering to levels A1-C1
– Other Online resources: Other than online courses, there are hordes of digital resources available to help you improve your French language. Noteworthy among these are the resources made free of cost by TV5monde that is a French television network and the old language learning resource from BBC. Multiple YouTube channels are also available with subtitles and explanations of commonly used French idioms and expressions and life in France in general.
– Language cafés: If face-to-face interactions are what you need to improve your French, an easy and cheap option is to join a Language Café. A language café is an informal gathering where you take turns speaking to another person who is proficient in a different language over coffee or drinks.
For instance, if one person is proficient in French and the other person is proficient in English, the first ten minutes of the conversation would be in English and the next 10 minutes would be in French and so on.
There is generally no fee associated to it and you only pay for the coffee or drinks. Student associations like ESN (Erasmus Students Network) also organize language cafés and short trips for international students to help with their integration.