There are three campuses of Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University, of which two are in Lyon and the other is in Bourg-en-Bresse, a small town about 70km north of Lyon. I was based at the Manufacture des Tabacs for all of my classes, which is the largest campus and hosts most of the administration offices. The ‘Manufacture’ used to be a tobacco factory, so it has a kind of institutional and unappealing vibe, especially the dark and unexciting classrooms and lecture theatres. However, it does have plenty of cool cafés and bakeries on and around the campus, including my personal favourite, L’Epicerie, which has a mouth-watering menu of tartines (which is like a toasted opensandwich, including a goat’s cheese, honey and walnut one – YUM). The Manufacture is kind of the heart of Jean Moulin university life, with the largest library, a gym, a Languages House and all the orientation activities and semester events.
Campus life at the Manufacture is similar to at the University of Auckland in the way that people don’t spend too much time at campus except for in between class and studying at the library, but it’s slightly different in that the campus is only about the size of the Engineering block, so there aren’t many nice spaces to hang out with friends other than the courtyard in the middle. This really put me off spending a lot of time on campus, as there are no green spaces or spots that you can go to get away from everyone else.
The Campus des Quais is the other campus in Lyon, which holds all the classes for the Arts and Law third-year and above students, so a lot of my friends had most or all of their classes there. It is a beautiful campus on the banks of the Rhône river, made up of several different buildings which are all very old and impressive. I never actually went to the ‘Quais’, so I’m not sure what the buildings are like on the inside, but again there doesn’t seem to be much outside space to hang out in. However, I think this is probably the reality for most universities in France, as their cities are planned in a way which doesn’t leave a lot of space for fields, lawns or any green outdoor space. I guess I’m just accustomed to the green and outdoorsy way of New Zealand!
There are only 29,000 students at Jean Moulin, of which almost 5,000 are exchange students, so there is a real close-knit and international feel to the campus. It was not uncommon to hear bunches of people speaking English, because the common language of all the international students was actually, much to my advantage, not French but English. But there was an unmistakable French atmosphere, with students having a smoke in the courtyard between classes, and the chic French street style everywhere you look. I definitely never saw the classic University of Auckland activewear strutting the halls!
In terms of my campus life, I didn’t really spend that much time at uni except for my classes and a bit of extra work at the library. I only had class Monday-Wednesday, and didn’t have any gaps in between my classes, so I was basically in and out without hanging around too much. But I think the general vibe at uni, especially for international students, was just to get in and out as quick as possible to leave as much time as possible for exploring the rest of the city and going on weekend adventures. In general, French students keep to themselves and their own friends without going too far out of their way to meet exchange students, so most international students kept their exchange life outside of uni. A huge generalisation, but from what I could tell it was pretty much the truth. The thing with Lyon is, the entire city is so beautiful and full of things to do, so it seemed a shame to spend too much time at uni in my opinion. C’s get degrees, right?