Monday, September 15, 2008

Pointers and Things to Do

Some pointers for surviving the first few weeks of the intense bureaucracy of France and Sciences Po:

1) The first thing that you should do when you get to Sciences Po is to matriculate by completing the inscription at the Acceuil Administratif. They adhere to an alphabetical calendar with last names starting with A-B being able to matriculate on Monday mornings, B-C on Monday afternoons, and so on. In order to do this you will need the form that you can get online, an identity photo of yourself, 195 euros to pay for student social security in France (more on that later), and a copy of your passport.

2) The inscription pédagogique happens during the first week of the Welcome Program at Sciences Po. Hampshire students complain a lot about the Hub and signing up for classes/not getting into the class they wanted. The Hub’s problems are nothing compared to Sciences Po’s. First of all, class times and dates aren’t listed anywhere except for on the website when you click in a very specific place and are only available just before the inscription. This means you can’t really plan your schedule until just before you sign up for classes. Also, all international undergraduates sign up at the same time. Imagine every single Div I and half of the Div IIs signing up at the same time. I was in front of my computer, on the website at 10 to 10. Inscription began at 10. By the time I clicked on the last class I wanted, it was already full. And so was pretty much everything. By 10:20, the only classes that weren’t completely full were those who had no course description.

3) You will need a bank account in Paris. For a number of different reasons, you will seriously need one. Also- who wants to sleep with thousands of dollars or euros hidden under their bed? I recommend the BNP bank that has special deals for students. You will need proof of matriculation in a French school (hence completing the inscription before getting a bank account). You will also need proof of your address in Paris. Most banks will let you give them a temporary address, but you will need a letter from the person/place you are staying confirming that you are actually there. Almost everything in French banks is needed in writing. Make sure to schedule an appointment with the bank to set up an account.

4) You will need to insure your apartment when you find it. Apartment insurance is obligatory by law in France. The national student union in France recommended Matmut to me for apartment insurance because of their student rates. I haven’t actually done this yet. Also- Always sign a contract when renting an apartment or room in Paris. This can allow you to get help from the French state (even if you’re an international student) to pay for your apartment- visit the CAF website. Signing a contract also keeps you safe from getting kicked out of your apartment. French law stipulates that landlords and other people that rent rooms or apartments must give tenants three months warning before forcing them out of their apartment before the end of the contract. Contracts in France are usually for one year, but as a student, you can rent for only nine months if you choose.

5) Get a Carte ImaginR. This is a card for students that allows you to pay either monthly or yearly for public transportation in the Ile-de-France. It is much, much cheaper than buying metro or bus tickets all year. Transportation costs have been rising in Paris, so this is actually pretty necessary. You can get the dossier for the Carte ImaginR from any metro station window. Send it in with the payment and an identity photo. You will probably have to wait three weeks for the card to arrive in the mail, but if you save the metro tickets you use from the time you sent in your dossier, you can get reimbursed.

6) Get the Découverte 12-25 card. This is a card that can get you up to 50% off on all train travel in France including the Eurostar, and some trains to places like Amsterdam. I really hope that you want to see more than only (I know, you’re thinking “only?! It’s Paris!”) Paris and the surrounding areas so get the card and travel around some.

Time for my super interesting anecdote: France requires that all students belong to the French social security system. The only exception to this rule in if you happen to be an EU citizen with the European Health Card. It doesn’t matter how much you are covered by your American (or other international insurance), you will still have to pay 195 euros. I thought, though, that because I am both covered by my American insurance while I’m in France and also an Italian citizen (i.e. an EU citizen) that I could somehow convince Sciences Po that I didn’t have to pay 195 euros. Funny thing though: Italy only gives the European Health Card (or Tassera Sanitaria) to residents of Italy. I reside in the States. So here I am, covered by the States, Italy, and thus the EU, but still required to pay a huge amount of money for more insurance. At least now I can get super sick, right? Anyway, I personally think that Hampshire should pay this fee- maybe not for me, but definitely for future exchange students.

I don’t know how helpful this is, or how interesting, but I thought I’d give it a try. Feel free to comment/question.


Kelso said...

This is awesome...I'm going on exchange to France sometime in the next couple years, so I'll probably come back to this entry in the future.
I don't think I'll be living in Paris though...I'm thinking maybe Bordeaux.
Thanks for posting all this info though, this is awesome....
-- Michael

JDeLaughter said...

Hi Alessandra,

I'd like to invite you to participate in a research project I am conducting on study abroad blogs and bloggers for my Masters in Internatinoal Education. If you are willing to help, please send me your email at, and I will send you the interview questions. It will probably take you about 15 minutes to complete.

-Jesse DeLaughter

caradelew said...

I have a question about Paris Academic Rentals. I'm studying at Sciences-Po this spring semester and although I turned in an application to them back in November they have not replied or sent me any information. Have you used their services before? If so how did it all work out?

Phil said...

This (along with your comments about apartments and the dreaded exposé) is by far the most useful information i've found on the web. I'm off to Sciences Po on the Sunday 30th.

I have a question about the CAF: In your experience, how long did the process take from filling out the form to receiving payment? Also, how useful is the BDE when looking for housing and sorting out financial stuff? (i'm European, so i don't think i can take your tip of using Paris Academic Rentals)

acrookston said...


I'm not sure how useful the BDE is for helping find apartments... But there is a wall of notices (usually people either looking for a job, an apartment, or a roommate) at 27 rue St Guillaume that might be helpful. Other than that, keep your ears open. If you're participating in the Welcome Program ask your classmates if they need a roommate or if they've heard something.

I also did not sign a contract (illegal) so I did not use the CAF. From what I've heard, you'll need a month or so. But it really varies on your portfolio.

I guess you're in Paris now! So good luck and have fun!

Just for curiosity's sake: How did you find my blog? And where do you come from?