Exchange Experience Report Yu Lydia Cao Faculty of Education

Exchange Experience Report
Yu Lydia Cao
Faculty of Education
My name is Lydia Cao. I am an U4 student from the Faculty of Education. I did one year exchange in the
Faculty of Life Science in University of Strasbourg during the 2013-2014 academic year. I had such a
terrific experience during my stay in France, and I would like to share it with you.
The city
Strasbourg is located in the east of France and it is
the official seat of the European Parliament. I found
Strasbourg very unique compared to the rest of
France. The city itself is a blending of French and
German culture. Strasbourg is separated from
Germany by the river Rhine, and it takes 15min from
my residence to Kehl by bike, the closest Germany
city. Strasbourg is 10 times smaller than Montreal.
You can easily get around the city by bike. The bike
lanes are well built, so you do not have to worry
about running into cars. With the river Ill flowing
through the city center, Strasbourg is very
picturesque in the summer. In the winter, it has the
largest Christmas market in Europe. The whole city
turns into an illuminated party to celebrate Christmas.
The university
University of Strasbourg is currently the second largest university of France, and has one of the best life
science faculties in France.
The faculty staffs are very supportive. In the beginning of the year, we had an orientation week for all
the exchange students. There were local French students helping us get our bank cards, insurance cards,
mobile phones and all the basics that we needed to get settled. The faculty also organized activities to
visit the city and meet people. I felt very much supported, and there was always someone there if I
needed help.
I came from faculty of education, my program is a little complicated which requires me to take science
classes from different faculties. The staff were extremely supportive in helping me finding classes across
different faculties to make sure I have the all the equivalent classes for my major.
The credit system in France is different from Canada. In Canada, normally each class is worth 3 credits,
however in France is only worth 1.5 credits each (which is called 3 ECTS in France). There are some
classes which are worth 3 credits (which is 6 ECTS), but they are quite rare. Therefore, instead having 5
classes as a normal course load, you usually have to take 8 to 10. You do less work in each class
compared to McGill, however you do have more subjects. I find it quite challenging in the beginning,
however I get used to it very fast. The work load does not really change, it is just that you have more
subjects to handle. In general, the professors are very understanding and reasonable when they mark
your exams. As long as you show them that you are putting an effort and you understand the material,
they are not picky with your French.
My experience
I took a French class for a year before I went abroad. When I first arrived in Strasbourg, I could not
communicate in French. However, my French has improved very fast while I was being immersed in the
French environment. The people there were usually very friendly and they appreciated your effort. After
one year of French immersion, I am now able to communicate in French. Even though I make mistakes
here and there, but I am able to understand and communicate.
The living cost is similar to Montreal. I stayed in a student residence. The rent is quite reasonable, which
is around 250-400 € per month depending on the type of room you choose. There is a monthly aid from
CAF (Caisse d'Allocations Familiales) to help you pay the rent. In the end, your rent will be around 150260 €. There are also multiple student cafeterias if you are feeling lazy to cook, which costs 3.15 € per
Making friends
I was very worried about meeting people and making friends
before I went abroad. I was concerned that I would not be able
to make friends because my French was not fluent. It turned out
that I met so many amazing people from different cultures over
the past year. It took courage to step out of my comfort zone,
but it was very rewarding.
It was very easy and cheap to travel around Europe once you are there. If you take the trains often in
France, it is probably worth getting “la carte jeune”, which costs 50 €, but it gives you a good discount
on your train tickets, and it is valid for a year. The bus system in Germany is very convenient and cheap.
You can take the bus almost anywhere in Germany for an extreme low cost. There are also cheap
airlines, such as EasyJet and Ryan air. You can fly almost everywhere within Europe for a reasonable
price. I have visited Athens, Thessaloniki in Greece, Rome in Italy, Prague in Czech Republic, Bratislava in
Slovakia, Vienna in Austria, Cologne, Bonn in Germany, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Canne, Paris in France,
London, Cambridge, Nottingham in England, JungfrauJoch in Switzerland, and many places in Alsace,
which is the region where I studied at. Most of the time, I did not have to spend money on
accommodation because all the friends I made.
It is quite easy to obtain a visa to France from Montreal. There is a bilateral exchange agreement
between France and Quebec. I received my visa in five days after I submitted my application.
If you are studying life science, you can contact Mr. Putz directly at [email protected] He is the director
of exchange program for the faculty of life science. If you are from other faculties, you can contact
Madame Hennebelle at [email protected] She is responsible for international exchange in
University of Strasbourg. You can also contact me at [email protected] if you have any question
regarding my exchange experience. Good luck!