Living in France
In France the academic year begins in September and ends in June. The exact starting and ending dates vary from institution to institution and from program to program.
There are several breaks during the year:
- 2 weeks in December-January for Christmas and the New Year
- 1 week in February for winter break
- 2 weeks in late March-early April for the spring break
Quite a few holidays fall in May: May 1 (Labor Day), May 8 (Victory Day, marking the end of the Second World War in Europe), Ascension Thursday.
Summer vacation may stretche over months of July and August, and sometimes includes parts of June and September as well.
Campus accommodation costs from 130 to 400 euro per month, depending on the location and type of flat. A privately rented bed-sit can cost from 450 to 650 euro per month. Accommodation is usually more expensive in Paris than elsewhere.
A minimum monthly food budget will be somewhere between 150 and 250 euro.
A cinema ticket costs 9 euro on average (though there is often a student rate at 7 euro), a soft drink in a café costs about 3.50 euro, and a meal in a restaurant costs at least 10 euro (more often around 14 to 17 euro).
Health and health insurance
All hospitals have an emergency room that is open 24 hours a day. Physicians and pharmacies are on call nights and weekends.
The French health-care system is one of the best in the world. The level of care in French hospitals is of a very high quality, and universal insurance makes care available to everyone. Students, in particular, enjoy ready access to medical services and preventive care.
Social Security is compulsory for all persons over the age of 18 years. Private insurance companies (mutuelles) manage social cover for students. When you enrol at the university, you should choose an insurance company, either La Mutuelle des Etudiants (LMDE) or la Société Mutualiste des Etudiants de la Région Parisienne (SMEREP), to whom you will send all your health care forms and reimbursement requests. Once you have taken out an insurance policy, you will receive a definitive social security number.
Student social security covers you from 1st October to 30th September of the following year. It costs a minimum of 170 euros per year. You don’t need to pay the social security fee if you receive a grant from the French government.
To move around in Paris or go to the university, you will probably need to use public transport.
Be sure to enquire about the available pricing offers which range from a single one-way ticket, through weekly, monthly or annual travel cards (“Imagine’R” card in Paris ) according to your needs. A monthly transport pass in Paris will cost from 50 to 140 euro.
Visa and carte de séjour
Foreigners which come to France to study must obtain a long stay student visa.
Generally speaking a “long stay” visa is granted to foreigners who come to settle in France or to live here for a long period of time, which is the case for most students.
Indeed, students from outside France must obtain a long-term visa marked “étudiant” if they intend to study in France for more than 6 months.
Moreover, you will have to apply for a “Carte de Séjour”, for which you will be required to fill in a form and supply a number of documents (many of which will be the same as those you supplied for your visa application). The application is to send to the Maison des Etudes in Orsay. Once the application has been processed, you will be invited to come and collect your Carte de Séjour in person at the Préfecture. The application processing time normally varies between several weeks and a few months.
The Service-Public.fr website is a one-stop source of information on administrative matters, with a very comprehensive directory of Internet sites and local public services, plus a guide to citizens’ rights, official procedures, administrative forms, etc.