Accommodation Awards: Harriet

As I said in my previous post, I had a traumatic time trying to find accommodation in Lyon, so it is a bit too soon for me to be writing this as I haven’t fully recovered. In the pre-departure stages of my exchange, I was blindly set on living in a flat with French people, and had a few Facebook groups and websites lined up that I was going to look through to find one. I messaged lots of people before I left New Zealand, but found it pretty hard to get anything settled as it seemed everyone preferred people who were able to come and have a look at the flat or have an interview. So I decided to book into a hostel for the first few days that I was going to be in Lyon and work hard to find one once I had arrived.

However, come my arrival in Lyon, most of the flatting options had been exhausted, and all those who were still looking wanted someone who was staying for at least a year. So I swallowed my pride and began looking at university residences, which seemed to have a few places still available, were reasonably priced and in good locations. But when I began emailing and ringing the residences, one by one I was turned down because they were all full up. I hit rock bottom, regretted ever leaving my cold, damp and overpriced Auckland flat, and slowly accepted my fate of having to live in a hostel for four months.

Fortunately however, my luck turned around after the first week of desperation, and, to cut a long story short, I ended up private boarding with a lovely family of a woman and her two sons, aged 17 and 19, in their gorgeous home, which is located in the most beautiful part of Lyon.


In hindsight, I don’t really know what I would advise to students thinking of coming to Lyon in the future in terms of accommodation. You can either play it safe and reserve a place in a university residence, which would put you in a one-bedroom apartment or studio. These are quite well-priced and give you great peace of mind knowing you have a place to move into straight away, but are quite isolating as you live alone and in a very cramped space. If you want to try your luck at waiting until you get there to find a flat or private boarding spot, I would say go for it as you can really end up with a fantastic result and fully immerse yourself in French culture with your flatmates.
However, just know that IT WILL BE STRESSFUL. Like bloody stressful. You will be stressed. But it will be worth it in the end.

So all’s well that ends well! And my lovely accommodation can now be awarded several accolades in the bi-annual 360 International Accommodation Awards including…

The IKEA Award for home comfort and hassle-free living
Moving into a family home gives you a lot of perks that wouldn’t have been there if I’d gone with (or even found) another option. I haven’t had to pay a bond or sign any unnecessary paperwork, and just give my semi-host-mum 500€ once a month, which works out to be about $190 a week. I didn’t need to buy any furniture, linen or cutlery, am welcome to eat dinners with the family, and I only pay from the day I move in until the day I move out. A dream situation really! What’s more, I have moved into a house which has been lived in and loved for years, meaning it feels much more like home than a small and white-walled studio apartment would have, and is much tidier and cosier than a flat being lived in by a bunch of poor students.




The Block NZ Award for location, location, location
The best part of Lyon is undoubtedly the arrondissements on the western side of the Rhône River, and undoubtedly NOT the arrondissements around the university, where most of the university residences and cheaper flats are. By some stroke of luck, I ended up in the most beautiful part of all, Vieux Lyon, which is the old part of town, and hugely Italian influenced from the city’s history in the Roman silk trade. I am so lucky to be able to walk over both the stunning rivers, through the narrow alleyways and colourful buildings, and past all the restaurants and churches and to get home everyday. I know I wouldn’t love Lyon half as much as I do if I was living closer to university, and private boarding is the easiest way to be in an affordable and nice apartment on this side of the
Saône River.


The Friends Award for always having someone there for you:
Living in a private boarding situation, or, as I usually refer to it, a semi-host family, means there is always going to be someone on hand to give you help, advice, or a well-cooked meal. I never imagined myself living in this kind of arrangement on my exchange, and even actively avoided looking into the idea, but it really has turned out to be the best option for me. The woman that I live with has been so warm and welcoming, and feels like a motherly figure away from home, while also giving me the space to live as an independent university student with my own schedule and privacy. My host brothers have adopted me into their family so lovingly, and are great at introducing me to more French people and helping me improve my French. It is such a nice feeling
leaving a stressful day at uni or a night out with friends and coming home to a cosy family home. I’m sure this kind of accommodation wouldn’t work for anyone, but it is so perfect for anyone who thinks they might need a bit of comfort and care every now and then!

See ya!

Adobe Spark (11)

First Impressions: Harriet

Hey everyone! It’s been a long time coming, but I have finally made it to Lyon, France and am starting my new life in the gastronomical capital of the world. The first few weeks have been full of many ups and downs, but as soon as I entered the gates to the annual Street Food Festival last weekend, my heart was sealed. I knew I was in the right place.

Before arriving in Lyon, I made the most of my three months off by doing some travelling on the way. I visited Bahrain, Dubai, Paris, Angers, Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon over five weeks, soaking up the European sun and sweltering in the Middle Eastern heat. I had the best time of my life, but it was such a nice feeling arriving in Lyon after so many weeks of hostel-hopping and living out of a suitcase.


I hadn’t organised permanent accommodation before I arrived in Lyon, and am still suffering from PTSD from the frustrating days I spent trying to find a flat or apartment. I was so determined to find a flat with French students so I could improve my French with them, but this proved impossible so I ended up finding a private boarding situation with a semi-host family. This option has definitely turned out for the best, as I am living reasonably cheaply in the most beautiful part of Lyon, with a family who will help me improve my French and get the most out of my experience.

There are two courses available for international students at Jean Moulin: the SELF course, taught fully in English, and the DEUF course, taught fully in French. I am doing the DEUF course, meaning I’m in for a semester of full immersion and full intensity.


The university offered an optional immersion programme for DEUF students in the week before classes started. This included ten hours of French classes, introduction seminars, pub events, and a trip to a (beautiful) nearby village. I signed up for this programme, and am so glad I did as it meant I was easily able to make friends with other exchange students who were nervous and friendless like me in their first week. It seems so scary approaching people to say hi at first, but if you remember that everyone else wants to make new friends just as much as you, it’s much less intimidating!

In terms of O-Week activities, the best idea is to join the Erasmus Students group on Facebook. The Lyon Erasmus Students Network hosts events most nights in the first few weeks of semester, including boat parties on the Rhône river, speed dating, information seminars and more. This is a great way to meet all the international students in Lyon, not just from Jean Moulin but also the other universities.


I have never appreciated the relaxed nature of New Zealand as much as I have since being in France, where the bureaucratic system makes every piece of administration a nightmare. Every document you need signed needs another signed before the first one can be signed, and it seems like every time I’ve tried to get a form handed in or a class changed or a bank account made, the required people have been on their lunch break. That said, the International Relations department at university has been extremely helpful and welcoming when it comes to helping exchange students navigate the administrative chaos. Speaking from experience, it pays to be as organised as you can
before arriving, to make your integration to the new way of life so much easier.

Jean Moulin has two campuses in Lyon, but most international students have all their classes at the Manufacture des Tabacs campus, which used to be a tobacco factory. You definitely get a sense of the building’s old use when you are on campus, as it seems a bit dark and uninviting. But it is very small, so you can feel a real sense of community when all the students are standing in the two courtyards, having a chat and a smoke in between classes. The campus McDonald’s also helps me feel very at home!


Classes have thus far been quite difficult; there’s nothing quite like learning a language for seven years, only to sit in your first lecture and understand absolutely nothing! Most of my classes are two hours long, without a break in the middle, so it takes a lot of brainpower to stay focused the whole time. I’m sure things will get easier over time, so for now I just have to sit there and hope that everything the lecturers are saying will miraculously come to my mind through osmosis. However, the assessments for internationals seem to be quite simple, with most classes having just a final exam, which can be either a written or oral exam, or a home-written essay.

I have been in Lyon for almost a month now, and it’s starting to feel like a nice little home away from home. It is such liveable city, with everything very close together and a friendly and relaxed vibe. That’s not to mention its close proximity to so many other European cities and landscapes, which I’m sure will make my bank account suffer this semester! The French social culture is so alluring; there are always so many people sitting on the banks of the Rhône enjoying a bottle of wine, or making the most of the good weather by dining in the outdoor areas of every restaurant. The city is so beautiful and historic, with a new cathedral or community square around every corner.
I can’t help but smile every time I walk home, I just can’t get used to how amazing it is everywhere you look.


For more on my adventures this semester, you can find me on Instagram at @harrietkeown or on my personal blog, Feel free to leave a comment on this post or email me at if you want to know more about studying abroad, especially any questions about Lyon or France!

Adobe Spark (11)


University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study at six partner universities in France: Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University (incl. Law), INSA Rennes (Sciences Only), Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris IV), Sciences Po, Paris, Toulouse Business School, University of La Rochelle

Let’s hear what our students have to say…

“Definitely go on exchange, but think about what you want to get out of it. For example, friends that went to American universities found it was a very intense academic experience, while my experience was more a mix of study, travel and experiencing French culture.” – Gabriella Garcia, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“On my first tour around the city I fell in love with its majestic grey buildings, historical monuments and the sound of Parisians chatting on the streets. I could understand why people call Paris one of the most beautiful cities in the world.” – Catherine Jang, Sciences Po, Paris

“The exchange was the first proper travelling that I have ever done and as such has broadened my opinions on the world and allowed me to get a better idea of our own, somewhat insignificant place in the world as New Zealanders.” – Daniel McDougall, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“My year in Paris flew by with many ups and downs but it was an incredible experience which I will cherish forever. I learnt so much, not just academically, and it broadened my horizon on the world. I’m also really grateful to have friends all over the world who understand what it’s like to live in Paris as a student.” – Catherine Jang, Sciences Po, Paris

France_EliseFranklin _JeanMoulinLyon3

On Culture
“Enjoy the fantastic food, wine and architecture that France has to offer!” – Elise Franklin, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“The city itself is very old, dating back to Antiquity, with ancient ruins dotted around the relatively younger buildings in the typical French style. Lyon is also lauded as the gastronomic capital of the world, and it is very easy to see (and taste!) why. The streets are dotted with bouchons – little bistros serving traditional food – and daily marchés where you can buy fresh produce, wine, and local delicacies. Everyone looks to Paris when they think of France, but for me, Lyon is a hidden gem! There is so much to do in the city, from the many musées and art galleries, to the beautiful Basilica of Our Lady of Fourvière on the hill, to Parc de la Tête d’Or, a giant park in the north of the city that holds the zoo, botanical gardens, and a large lake.” – Samantha Aramal, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“Many an afternoon, evening, and wee hours of the morning were spent relaxing along the edges of the Rhône and the Saône, enjoying fresh market fruits or a bottle of wine (or two). French life is very easy to assimilate to – even if you find yourself surrounded by a bevy of international students instead of French ones. Picnics were a staple of life there, with all the cheeses you could ever want and fresh baguette for 1 euro.” – Susy Neighbour, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“I loved Lyon and France. Lyon is beautiful, big enough to be exciting and have lots to see and do, but not massive so that it is daunting and expensive. Much more relaxed than Paris and much cheaper and cleaner. Highly recommended. So easy to get around with plenty of public transport options and unlimited use of them with your student transport card – around 30 euro a month. There is also a public bike system, which some of my friends used exclusively.” – Gabriella Garcia, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“French people love food and they really know how to enjoy every moment of their meal. There are cafes, restaurants, boulangeries and patisseries everywhere in the city and most of them are usually crowded. My favourite food was the baguette, anyone who visits France must try it! When you bite into it the crust crackles under your teeth and the bread inside is moist and chewy and it melts on your tongue.” – Catherine Jang, Sciences Po Paris

France_Emma Jobe_SciencesPo

On Orientation
“Sciences Po offers a Welcome Programme to introduce you to other students and teach you about approaching assignments (who knew the French could structure an essay completely differently to the rest of the world?!). Unfortunately it isn’t included in your fees, and it’s pretty expensive for what it is. However, it is very useful for meeting people, so it’s probably worth splashing out on.” – Jessica Storey, Sciences Po Paris

“The orientation programme was an excellent chance to meet other students from all over the world. We came from different countries and had different upbringings but we were all incredibly excited about the adventure that was waiting for us.” – Catherine Jang, Sciences Po Paris

“There are other opportunities, especially in the 1st week, to meet new people in organised social gatherings (parties, language exchange groups, and clubs of all sorts). The student support office – I found to be supportive.” – Yohan Ryoo, Sciences Po, Paris

“There was a fairly comprehensive orientation once we started university including info like how to get transport cards etc., although since most of us had already been there a week or so we had figured out that information for ourselves already!” –  Gabriella Garcia, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University


On Housing
“For anyone going to France on exchange, I highly recommend the CROUS accommodation. It is government subsidised housing for students, and very cheap. I think I paid approximately NZ$100 a week, including power and internet – a bargain compared to Auckland! In comparison, my friends in Lyon who were flatting in apartments paid anywhere from $200-350 per week, for a very small room. My room in CROUS had its own bathroom, and each floor of the building had a kitchen. The only disadvantage is that it was quite far from uni, as the residences cater for students from all different universities, so are scattered all over the city.” – Elise Franklin, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“It is recommended that you wait until you arrive to find an apartment, because online scams are common. I also had one friend arrive to discover her apartment didn’t have a single window! Try joining the Sciences Po exchange group on Facebook to find potential flatmates. Also be aware that although the area around Sciences Po is historically the student quarter, it’s now one of the priciest in Paris.” – Jessica Storey, Sciences Po Paris

“I booked short term accommodation before I arrived and then looked for a flat/shared apartment once I arrived in Lyon. I had heard that the student residences were mostly international students and expensive so I wanted to live in a flat with French people, which was also a lot cheaper. I found a really nice apartment with two lovely French girls within a week, although I did visit Lyon at the beginning of August (with semester starting in September) in order to arrange it, as there was a lot more competition and stress towards the end of August as a lot of other students arrived. You could also try to arrange a flat before arriving in Lyon by offering to do Skype interviews/tours, but it is nice to see the area you will be living in etc.” – Gabriella Garcia, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“Sciences Po has an office and a website to help students look for accommodation. There is also a bulletin board inside the school building with housing and job advertisements. Every semester Sciences Po receives hundreds of exchange students and they offer us lots of services to help us settle into Paris.” – Catherine Jang, Sciences Po, Paris

France_GeorgetteDawbin_JeanMoulinLyon 3

On Academics
“At Lyon 3 there are two options for exchange students; SELF or DEUF. I participated in the SELF programme, which is entirely taught in English. I didn’t speak a word of French when I arrived, which made things very challenging – I would highly recommend learning some French before you go if possible.” – Elise Franklin, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“As classes are taught in just one long block per week, you usually just have one class per day. This was good in a way, as it meant you have a lot of free time, but sitting in one lecture for 3-4 hours instead of having it split over a couple of days is pretty tedious!” – Elise Franklin, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“Classes are generally small, very interactive, and only two hours a week, giving you plenty of free time to explore and travel” – Jessica Storey, Sciences Po Paris

“The university structure in France is definitely unique, and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Depending on the level and paper you take, lectures range from one to three hours a week, with no tutorials. There are secretaries for each subject, and depending on the class, you have to go through them to get enrolled. Getting your head around how things work can take some time, but luckily Lyon is a popular destination for exchange students, so there are always many other students going through the same things as you! The courses at the university don’t have a heavy course load, which was great, because for me that meant more time to travel, and to explore Lyon!” – Samantha Aramal, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“The courses at Sciences Po were really different to UoA, they were much more essay based, ideological and in some ways more thought provoking. Seemingly there was no standardisation of courses from year to year, so I really felt like I was learning something unique, especially as many of the classes were lead in a discussion style. This really pushes people to have an opinion on the subject and explain their thinking in front of the class – something that French people are very good at and which took a while to get used to. Your public speaking and presentations definitely improve at Sci Po” – Emma Ogilvie, Sciences Po, Paris

“I took a mixture of courses in French and English and I often felt very intimidated in my French courses. However, my classmates and lecturers were really helpful and encouraging and I learnt to push myself to practise my French, instead of giving in to my fears.” – Catherine Jang, Sciences Po Paris


On Travel
“I fell in love with Lyon the minute I arrived. Lyon is an amazing city with tons to do. Buses are very cheap to go to nearby destinations, as are trains if you book them well in advance. There is also a website called blabla car which offers cheap carpooling for places that are hard to get to by public transport – I highly recommend this.” – Elise Franklin, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“I had been hoping to study in France ever since I started university, and a 360 exchange at Sciences Po gave me the perfect opportunity to spend six months in Paris (not to mention side trips to Sweden, Latvia and Portugal, to name just a few).” – Jessica Storey, Sciences Po Paris

“Looking back on my exchange, Lyon was definitely one of my favourite places that I visited in Europe and I cannot wait to return there one day. It is a city rich in history and culture, and if travelling and exploring is a priority for your exchange, then Lyon is definitely the perfect place!” – Samantha Aramal, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University
“The ease of travel is one thing European’s don’t seem to value as much as New Zealanders, as we’d catch cheap coaches around Italy, Spain, France, and more.” – Susy Neighbour, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University

“Being in France meant that I was just a cheap flight away from many other European countries which are all amazing in themselves! Four day weekends meant that I could make the most of quick trips around the continent.” – Phoebe Moses, Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 University