Weekends and Days off in Toulouse!

by Sarah Cross, Sciences Po Toulouse, France

Despite having more classes and a fuller timetable than I’m used to in Manchester (those 8:30am lectures will stop me from ever complaining about a 9am again!), there remains plenty of time to explore the beautiful city and surrounding areas. I’m lucky enough to also have Fridays off this Semester, giving me even more time to explore. I thought I’d tell you about some of my favourite things I’ve done outside of classes and the library in my first two months.

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Bienvenue à Toulouse!

By Sarah Cross, Sciences Po Toulouse, France

I’m Sarah and I’m a PPE student studying for a year at Sciences Po in Toulouse. After what feels like countless months of admin, forms and eventually obtaining a Visa, I finally arrived here to begin my placement. The French bureaucracy has meant nothing is straightforward (partially thanks to Brexit!), so it feels great to have now spent three weeks in the ‘Pink City’.

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Dealing with emergencies in Toulouse

By: Eva Kristinova (Sciences Po Toulouse, France)

By this point you surely realize how incredibly fun it can be to study abroad. But let’s be real, it might not always be. All the same, know that if you ever find yourself in a less welcoming, stressful, or (God forbid) emergency medical situation, there are places you can go and seek help from. Here are some insights for what to do if you find yourself in need in Toulouse.

Physical and mental health support and advice

The best place to look for support and advice related to anything to do with health is the University Medical Centre. All you need to do is call the office number, and you can be professionally assessed by a nurse directly on the phone. She usually asks you about the issue and offers advice right away, but if you deem it necessary, she can also set up an appointment with a specialist depending on your needs. This is usually quick, even the same day. The centre provides generalist medical services, but also has nutritionist, gynecology, or mental health specialists. You might think it quite daunting to pick up the phone or even talk to someone in a foreign situation, but there is no need to worry, even when it comes to the language barrier. If you don’t speak French, it’s no big deal – most specialists also speak English and/or Spanish.

Link: https://www.ut-capitole.fr/universite/gouvernance/services-administratifs-et-techniques/service-interuniversitaire-de-medecine-preventive-simpps–42796.kjsp

Medical emergencies

For most purposes, the University Medical Centre should be your go-to, however there might also be times when you find yourself in a situation requiring urgent medical care and cannot wait for an appointment, or when the issue cannot be resolved over the phone. In that case, I recommend going straight to the nearest walk-in emergency clinic (Urgences in French). These can be isolated clinics or part of larger hospitals. For such a visit, you will need to bring your identity card (usually a passport) and medical insurance card. In these situations it’s much easier if you can speak French so that the doctor can ask questions and examine you without any barriers, however, most places in big cities like Toulouse will also have professionals who speak English.

If you find that you cannot get to an emergency clinic on your own, here are the necessary emergency numbers you can call (not just medical):

112 (European number for all emergencies)

15 (Medical emergencies)

17 (Police)

18 (Fire brigade)

114 (Number for people with impaired hearing)

A note on insurance

In terms of the documents you will need in these places, thankfully, the University Medical Centre doesn’t require anything besides your student card. For walk-in emergency clinics or hospitals, you will need an identification card of some sort, whether it is a country-issued ID card (EU) or a passport. In addition, you will need an insurance card. Note that although UoM insurance covers you for some incidents, it might not cover you for everything in France. Likewise with an EU-issued insurance card from another country. To avoid paying for the clinics services, I suggest you get a carte vitale (French medical card) as soon as you arrive in France. This can be obtained on request at the local mairie if you already have an EU insurance card. Alternatively you will need to apply for it ahead of time, the same way you would for visa and social security in France, and pick it up when you arrive.

Social security: https://www.securite-sociale.fr/accueil

Carte vitale: https://www.ameli.fr/assure/remboursements/etre-bien-rembourse/carte-vitale

Needless to say, I hope you won’t need to use any of the above information, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Loire-Atlantique – castles, boats, biscuits and wine

By: Eva Kristinova (Sciences Po Toulouse, France)

Recently, during our brief spring vacation, I had the opportunity to venture out of the comfort zone of the immediate Occitanie region and visit the very exotic north-west of France: Loire-Atlantique. This cozy département, sandwiched between the unique cultures of Vendée and Bretagne (which also just happen to be historical rivals), is home to a very different side of Frenchness, which is nevertheless as French as can be, perhaps even more French than our beloved Toulouse! And I’m not just talking about the cheese.

Travel agency in Nantes located at an old biscuit factory
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My Parisian Adventure Chapter 4: Christmas is Here

As the days began to get shorter and the air started to become colder, the realisation that Christmas was upon us hit me rather quickly. Upon my return from swelteringly hot Monaco, I was greeted to a breezy chill in the wind, coupled with the littering of towering Christmas trees complete with flashing decorations and beaming lights. It was a rather beautiful sight.

All around Paris you could spot these enormous, sky-scraping trees, Christmas markets being set up with dozens of stands, and ice rinks beginning to appear for keen visitors to strut their stuff on the ice. Paris was the last place I ice skated in fact, 9 years ago, and after that experience I concluded it wasn’t best for me to try it ever again. Mulled wine was everywhere, definitely not my thing, but hot chocolates topped with whipped cream were my go-to after a long slugging of work at University or when the temperature started getting a little too cold to feel my face.

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My Parisian Adventure Chapter 3: The Beauty of France

Now I’d settled in properly and fully immersed myself in the University life, I vowed to myself that I would explore France and its culture. France is a gargantuan nation, and far larger than most believe it to be. A mind-blowing example is the fact that it takes less time to drive from Paris to Manchester (English channel crossing included) than it would to drive from Paris to Nice on the glittering South coast. From the bustling metropolis of the French capital, often grey and cold, you can travel to other parts of the nation and witness rows and rows of palm trees.

Such diversity is unheard of pretty much everywhere in the remainder of Western Europe, with a grand wealth of popular hotspots to discover and a wide range of history to see. Although University life can get extremely busy, I always take my time to sightsee and partake in activities whenever I can. For example, I enjoy long walks in the city centre, covering most of the major attractions along the way.

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My Parisian Adventure Chapter 2: Time to get to Work

I unfortunately missed the first week of University lessons due to a delay in my visa process, but come the second week I had arrived in Paris and was raring to learn. The education system there has many similarities and differences compared to what University of Manchester undergraduates are accustomed too, but generally I found the transition into life at SciencesPo somewhat comfortable and straightforward.

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The call to armes – a reflection

By: Eva Kristinova (Sciences Po Toulouse, France)

Hello, it’s me again. This post will be a little different from my usual content, but, I hope, interesting nevertheless. What I wish to share with you is something that has become a constant feature of my life in France, something I soon learned was simply an inevitable part of French culture, history and people. Just as a heads-up though, I do not wish to fuel any stereotypes here. This is simply something that I’ve observed, and upon discussion found that my French peers freely, even proudly admit to. So, here are a few reflections on the culture of protest in France.

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The Cafés on the Garonne

By Eva Kristinova (Sciences Po Toulouse, France)

With the sun once again creeping into the lovely streets of Toulouse, it is the start of the café season! Not that these quintessential staples of French cultural life should ever complain of not being busy, since the Toulousains apparently don’t care in the least about the weather. Come rain, come shine, come snow, come sleet, the show must go on! And there is always something to be seen in a French café.

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La fête de Noël (even if a little late)

By Eva Kristinova (Sciences Po Toulouse, France)

Hi everyone and happy new year! I’m back with another post, this time a little past its relevant time frame, but one that I hope you will find interesting nevertheless. I am, of course, talking about the wonderful end-of-year holiday (also my personal favourite) that has become celebrated pretty much everywhere – Christmas! Or, for those who prefer to go with the French spirit of laïcité, simply the holidays (so, belatedly, Joyeuses fêtes!).

Now, even though I was lucky enough to go home for Christmas itself, I have still been able to experience and ask about the French twist to this popular time. What is Noël like?

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Academia and the university system in France

By Eva Kristinova

When you come to university in your first year you have a lot to learn about how it all works. Then, if you decide to spend a year abroad, you often have to go through that learning experience again at your host university. And because there are plenty of other things you could be (and you would probably like to be) doing instead, let me make it a bit easier for some of you. Here are four key aspects of student life and the university system in France that I learned about during my first weeks at Toulouse.

Sciences Po Toulouse
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