Hi there, I’m Alice. I’m a Biomedical Sciences student. At the time of writing this, I am going to enter my second year of my degree programme. For the summer, I wanted to go abroad, expand my horizons, and challenge myself. As such, I decided to take a one-month French intensive course at Lyon Catholic University. It was one of the best decisions of my life. In this post, I will share my experience in Lyon, France.
As a person who was apprehensive about studying abroad as I’d never been so far away from home for this long before- I cannot recommend it enough! I studied in Lyon, France for a month during summer and I can honestly say it has been one of the best things I’ve done in my life so far. Not only does it give you a great chance for independence whilst exploring a new country, but it also helped me find my confidence and I made some strong friendships along the way.
The summer school also gave us opportunities to explore France and neighbouring countries as we had Wednesdays off for cultural activities and the university I studied at provided a few trips for us. During my time in Lyon, I also visited Nice, Paris and Geneva, which was great as I wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to do so! Adding to this, the actual summer school itself was super useful too. I have now moved up a level in my French, but more importantly I have gained confidence by speaking to locals daily. I hope to continue my French lessons in Manchester next year!
This experience has opened a huge door for me as I’m now considering studying a masters’ degree in Paris after I graduate, which I would never have considered if I didn’t come to Lyon. If you’re considering applying, I say go for it!
Hi, my name’s Emerald. I’m 19 years old and I’ll be going into my second year of studies at the University of Manchester in September 2022. I loved my first year of Uni and I made lots of friends. I was sad to leave them for the summer after becoming so comfortable in my Uni life at Manchester, but I was also excited to meet lots of new people who all come from different cultures (and to get a tan of course). I study French, so my main motivation for studying in France for a month was to improve my French. Therefore, before going to Lyon, I already had a good grounding in French and could speak it pretty well, but I was by no means fluent.
Applying to the summer school and preparing to leave England
Applying to the summer school was through the University of Manchester and it was a relatively easy process. There was a lot of support available to guide us through the process. The International Programmes Office staff are really happy to help and they give you lots of advice on what to expect / what to pack / tips for the particular country you are going to study in based on previous students’ experiences. I flew to Lyon on the 1st of July with a friend called Witiko who also studied at UCLY (Université Catholique de Lyon). I would advise flying out with a friend if possible because it’s much less stressful flying with another person, and it’s more fun of course.
My thoughts on the University classes
I came to France thinking that University would be very formal, and I was scared of accidentally using the subject pronoun “toi” instead of “vous” with teachers. But within the first day, it was clear how friendly the teaching staff were. I got to know my classmates well and made friends with all age groups of many different nationalities.
I really liked the vibe our class had, and I enjoyed going to class every day. Despite it being quite a long day of lessons (starting at 8:30am and finishing at 15:30pm), it wasn’t too draining. The test that you take before coming to France helps the Uni to assign you to the right class based on your French-speaking ability, and I would say that this was quite accurate for me and I was put into the correct class for my level. The constant exposure to French meant that by the end, I was able to passively listen to the teacher speaking French and understand her, without having to fully concentrate on every word she was saying. I also found that when I came into the classroom in the morning, my “French brain” kind of switched on, and I could speak French more fluidly.
My favourite excursions with UCLY
Every Wednesday, the French University organises a free excursion for the students. I loved every one of the excursions. My favourite ones were as followed…
Visiting the town of Annecy: This place was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been too. We left early in the morning, travelled by coach, and spent the entire day there. We had an interesting guided-tour and were then allowed to spend the rest of the day however we wanted. My friends and I ate lunch together and then swam in Lake Annecy, which is beautifully blue and a perfect way to cool down.
Visiting the village of Pérouges: Again, this village was gorgeous and so well preserved from when it was first founded. All of the electricity cables are hidden underground so that everything in sight is authentically “French”. It was very peaceful there. My friend and I tried Pérouges’ speciality – “une galette au sucre” – which was like a pizza with sugar on it.
My own sightseeing
My favourite way to relax and escape the heat was to go to the swimming pool Centre Nautique Tony Bertrand. I met a lot of nice people there and it was only 8 Euros to go for 4 hours. And they have slides and jacuzzis, so we (as 19+ year olds, just to remind you) had many “courses de toboggans” (slide races)!
I was very lucky to have been in Lyon for July because there was a community wide event called “Tout l’Monde Dehors” which offered 180 free events over the course of the month. I went to a lot of events that they held and they were all brilliant, especially given the fact that they were free. My favourite was going to the event “L’Opéra sous les étoiles” (Opera under the stars), which was a live Opera screening held in the remains of the Roman Amphitheatre at the top of a cliff.
One of the days I was most excited for was 14th July, which is a national holiday for the French. Throughout the day, I walked around with my friends and enjoyed the sun. Then in the evening, we went and sat by the River Rhône to watch the huge firework show Lyon puts on. There were thousands of people gathered to watch the show and everyone was in really good spirits. The fireworks were amazing, lots of them coloured blue / white / red like the colours of the French flag, and I even had the opportunity to have a long conversation in French with the couple sitting next to me.
I met a lovely woman called Slava in my class. She and her family are living in France temporarily after leaving Ukraine because of the war with Russia. We have become good friends and she invited me around to her house one evening (she and her two boys are living with a host family) and I had the best time with them. They were so welcoming, friendly and, because I can’t speak any Ukrainian, they spoke to me in English and we had a lot of laughs. Slava’s son cooked us burgers, which were delicious, and then we played ping-pong and swam in their neighbour’s pool. This was my favourite evening in Lyon.
Reflecting on my time in Lyon
The hardest thing for me was being in a completely new environment and having to figure it all out mainly by myself. In Manchester, I am used to being around my friends virtually 24/7. So, when I arrived, I didn’t immediately make best friends with everyone (obviously!), I felt kind of alone. But after a few days, I made friends, settled in, found the best grocery shops to go to etc. and everything fell into place. I should count myself lucky that I already had a good level of French before arriving because at least I didn’t have to worry about not being able to speak a word of French. I also found that I enjoyed sightseeing alone some days and just having some time to myself. I learned that I don’t have to be constantly around friends in order to enjoy myself. For example, I went to “Le Parc de la Tête d’Or” (a huge park that has a free zoo and botanical gardens that you can look round) by myself one day, and had a great time.
I could write lots more about my time in Lyon and my camera roll is full of cool pictures of the city and things that I did. But to summarise, I would really recommend studying in Lyon for the month. It is such a beautiful city with so many things to do and your French-speaking ability improves exponentially when you are immersed in the culture. It was the perfect balance of study and fun.