Hi everyone, welcome to my year abroad series! My name is Ellenor and I’m a third-year English and French student. Over the rest of the academic year I’ll be writing updates, recommendations and advice as I bring you along on my year – or rather a semester – abroad to Paris.
For this first instalment, I wanted to share my experience with planning the year and the hunt for accommodation alongside all the setbacks we’ve had to face (and I haven’t even arrived yet!).
The process of planning begun in the Autumn semester of 2019. With various talks from the year abroad team spanning insurance, locations, accommodation and more, I quickly found it to be a somewhat stressful experience. The most important question to ask myself, however, was ultimate ‘how do I want to spend my time abroad?’.
Eventually, I decided I was going to split my year into two, with the first half studying at a French university and the second half working. I even managed to secure a language teaching role in the South of France after enduring my first French interview – the scariest interview I’ve ever done, hands down.
March 2020 then rolled around and after telling myself “It’s fine, this won’t affect the year abroad”, I was strongly mistaken.
Trying to secure accommodation abroad was not the easiest task I won’t lie. In Paris, especially (I’m unsure if it’s the same in other European cities) home students aka French students get priority with the already limited student accommodation. This left me with a search for private accommodation. Some English-speaking websites I came across in my search include:
I’m unable to fully vouch for these sites as I didn’t go ahead with any of their places, yet I thought it might be helpful to include them here for anyone on their own accommodation hunt.
Eventually, after many emails, lots of research and even a weekend in Paris to try and view places, I settled on an Airbnb. It wasn’t an easy decision to go ahead with an Airbnb, mainly owing to its pricing – a shock to my £90 per week in Lenton mindset that’s for sure. However, I ended up having more than anticipated to budget on accommodation, and with the added safety I felt by going with a familiar site it seemed like the best option.
Of course, I haven’t actually arrived yet so hopefully, I won’t end up eating my words!
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the biggest setback has been in all of this. You guessed it, Covid-19.
At the end of August – just before I was due to depart for Paris – we were informed by the year abroad team in Nottingham that because our travel was not deemed as essential, we would not be able to access Erasmus funding (which most students including myself are very reliant on). Owing to this situation, I deferred my semester to the Spring one and informed my January work placement that I would not be able to fulfil the role. Paris was always a dream of mine which is why I delayed the university semester instead of going ahead with the work placement.
It was ultimately due to this delay that I was able to budget for an Airbnb after having saved money during Autumn. Please note this is not a standard means for student accommodation and I am very appreciative to be in such a position.
Which all leads me to today. Despite stresses of Brexit and visas, we are – all being well – going ahead in the New Year, and I’m ready to bring you all along on mon voyage!
My main takeaway: do what’s best for yourself and try not to predict the future too much. It can be easy to get swept up and follow the crowd in moments of panic, but doing what is in YOUR best interests is what’s most important.