Thursday, 30 August 2012

First impressions

Copyright: Tamaryn de Kock

I have always been told first impressions are important. First impressions of French university life = complications, paper and offices.

But onwards and upwards! I have arrived in my new hometown and I am well on my way to sorting out my life here. I have an appartment (which is still a building site..), a pair of skis and an old bicycle so it is safe to say there are a fair amount of things to do and sort before I am anywhere near settled in Grenoble which will be my home for (at least!) the next 3 years.

I guess a normal start to any blog would be to describe what exactly I am attempting to do in this mountainous city. In the winter of 2011/2012 I spent 5 months in a ski resort called la Plagne, in the French Alps and unfortunately I fell in love. With everyone and everything I had the priviledge to share 5 months of my life with - with the snow, the mountains, the wine, the cheese, the culture and the way of life. Facing the £9000 UK university fees to study a degree in a language that I am basically fluent in didn't really float my boat and so there I happened upon the idea of staying in France to study.

Applying to French university is no easy feat. Just finding out how to apply, in my opinion, suggests you probably have the brain power to cope with a degree here but unfortunately you do also have to prove you have a qualification equivalent to the French baccalauréat, a level in French of B2 (which I will describe in more detail later) and various other documents to prove you are in fact a living human being.

So, first things first. As an EU student I applied through Admission Post Bac like any other French lycée student. You then fill out the various forms and wait. Simple. Finally in June time, you get the response you're looking for - yes you are allowed to study at Université Stendhal III please email the department for more information regarding registration. Easy? Yes I thought so too.
In terms of acceptance, all French universities must accept all students that apply to them - as long as they have the French bac. So that means that if you have the equivalent, you will be accepted. However, the headache for us foreigners does not stop there. If you have not been educated in French and/or do not live in country where French is the official language you must pass a test to show you have the required level of French.

This, for me, was where the headache began. As far as I can ascertain, there are only 2 tests which will be accepted by universities in France. The TCF and the DELF/DALF test. In these tests you must reach the level of French of B2, if you don't, you won't be allowed to register at the university. As with everything to do with France, research is the key! Taking these tests well in advance is always a good plan - I took just about the last possible test in the world for the academic year 2012 - 2013 which meant that everything rested on this one test - not great for the stress levels!!!

And once you've acquired B2? Congratulations, hurdle 1 jumped over, there's only another 100 or so to go!

So once you have B2, you are guaranteed a place at university, as long as you turn up for inscription. I am studying at Université Stendhal III and I'm doing the license in LEA (otherwise known as Langues Etrangères Appliquées) so that means that I must register sur place. Inscription was in July but I wasn't in France, so there is another round of inscriptions that is happening now - hence why I am in Grenoble! With inscription comes a long, long, long list of papers and documents that you must bring to the université so make sure you have 100s of copies of everything!

My rendez-vous for the completion of my inscription is on Monday morning, so I'll let you know how it goes then - hopefully I'll nail this inscription malarky in one! After that follows the application for CAF (housing benefit), social security numbers etc etc etc - we'll get there eventually!

Bisous xxx

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