Life and Study in Strasbourg

Ling Shao shares her life in Strasbourg, France, from what she recommends seeing in the city to how the education system is different, as she studies abroad on the Student Exchange Program.

Strasbourg is a really safe and quiet city close to Germany and Switzerland. You can always take a train to go anywhere you want outside of France. If you live downtown, you can go anywhere that might interests you by walking. There is a really famous Cathedral named “Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg”.

You can see the whole view of the city at the top of the cathedral. It has the same name as Paris’ famous cathedral but it is much bigger and less touristy than the Paris one. I am not able to see the famous light show, but if you come in August or Early September, you can enjoy the light show in the evening.  It is really nice.

Other than the Notre Dame Cathedrale, you can also enjoy the biggest Christmas Fair in Strasbourg. It is still November, but normal trees are ready to become Christmas trees.

The study here is really different than that in the US. We only have 5 or 6 classes per week, however, classes here are more intense. One period class might take about 3-4 hrs and in some special cases, you might have to take an 8 hr class on Saturday with breaks. So bring some snacks and water for the classes and check your schedules before you arrange some trips on weekends. There is less homework which also means the grades heavily depend on the exams. I suggest that listening to the classes on a daily bases will help, so  you will not be so stressed during finals. I haven’t experienced an exam yet, but I am pretty sure that there will be a really intense reviewing week before the exam.

French Social/Business Etiquettes

On the Students Exchange Program in Strasbourg, France, Ling Shao shares some of the social and business etiquettes she learned which you might want to be aware of if you are going to France!

I live downtown in Strasbourg and I love shopping. So you know what happened to me. I went out shopping every free day. Since I have been experiencing different shopping experiences in different countries, there are some differences that I found when people are out shopping.

People here value appearance heavily and is part of the country’s social etiquettes. This does not mean that you have to be “good-looking” but how you dress and present yourself. They value people being appropriately dressed. It is really important to bring business suits or dresses to survive in events in France and you can always buy it here. There are also a lot of dressing codes here in a lot of restaurants and bars. So if you want to enjoy and feel the real French life, be prepared for the dress code.

For formal restaurants and bars, the dress code could be at least nice shirts and trousers for boys and dresses for girls (like the dress below I am in). It is better to use a clutch or leather bag instead of canvas bags or backpacks. No sneakers, no jeans or sports pants. Overall business casual is good. There is no dress code for attending school classes. Dress codes for events are different for different events.

“La bise” is also a really important culture in France. People kiss each others’ cheek when they meet, especially for people who you already have a good relationship with. This is not only for friends though, but you might also need to do it when you had a really good business partner.

 

Trying to be a local in Strasbourg, France

Starting life in Strasbourg on the Student Exchange Program, Ling Shao shares how she tries to live like a local in her new city in France! Get her insight on her housing, shopping, and commute in the city.

After adjusting my jet-lag, landing in Starsbourg, France, I started an “adventure” in my neighborhood. I live in downtown Strasbourg and I found it through “housing anywhere”. Accommodation on this website might be a little expensive but acceptable compared to US housing prices. If you know someone who is good at understanding French, it may be better to look for accommodation through “leboncoin”. The places I have is a really cozy and good loft and I really enjoy it. Except that you will not have dryers, only drying stands for your laundry. However, if you really need to wash large stuff, you can go to the public laundry spots which might cost you about 7-8 euros depending on your quantity and sizes.

The architecture here combine French and German styles which is exactly what you might imagine how Europe would look like. There are so many fashion shops and restaurants near me and they all close really late, almost after 12 am, which is really different from the US. It is so convenient to live here except for Sundays. Nearly all of the shops and restaurants close on Sundays! So, Grocery shop should be done before or after Sundays. Popular Grocery brands are “Auchan”, “U express” and “Carrefour city”. They usually have many branches all over the city. Just google search the closet one. The outside marché is usually held on Tuesdays at the Station “Brogile” or Station “Homme de fer” area or just next to the universities academic buildings.

The major transportation of the city is the “tram” which you can get to a lot of places within 20 minutes. It is about 25 euros/per month to get a transportation card and you can access trams and buses.  You can get your tram card after you get a student card, so  you can enjoy the student discounts. You can get your transportation card from CTS commercial agency (I bought mine at the one located in downtown just next to the F Tram stop named “alt winmarik”) or you can buy the tickets at the stops. It is the major transportation for me to go to schools every day. Here is a photo I got from the tram station. Do not forget to swipe your card before you get on the train, because it is possible that CTS employee wants you to show them your card or ticket.

Strasbourg is a really safe city. But still be careful of your personal belongings. It is really easy to lose things in Europe!

Tips Before Arriving in Strasbourg

Ling Shao shares her tips and advise on pre-departure preparations for studying abroad on the Student Exchange Program to France. Covering topic on accommodation search, to visa process, to traveling!

This is not my first-time studying abroad but the only difference is that I am doing this independently this time. I used to go abroad with a friend and or have somebody picking me up at the destination, so I had concern and had to plan for all the circumstances that I might confront ahead of time. I have had two biggest challenges:

Finding Accommodations

Preparing the accommodation is very complex. Luckily, I was able to find my accommodation through the website my host institution gave me. For France, there are several websites that you can use: leboncoin / housing anywhere / airbnb. If you really cannot find a place before you arrive, an option may be to find a cheap hostel and try to communicate with your host institution. Strasbourg is a really safe place comparing to other places in Europe, but still be careful of the location of the hostels, and definitely do some researches on the destination that you are going to!

Visa Process

My visa process was really challenging and tough. I am an international student and I had to transfer my academic status from the US to my home country to get a French Student Visa. However, after all of the challenges that I dealt through this application, I now feel confident that I am able to deal with any visa application in the future. Just to start early and do not hesitate to ask questions to the embassy in your country.

Traveling 

I googled and searched a lot of tips about traveling to Europe (useful website can be TripAdvisor and youtube videos, and there is a channel that I really love named “DamonandJo”), but the one I stress is: PACK LESS! You can buy everything you need in Europe, especially in Strasbourg.

Safety

BE SMART! Just be aware of your surrounding and avoid going to higher risk places in the cities you visit. Ask! Most people in Europe can speak English, even if you cannot communicate with them in the local language.