| Daily Life
Students enjoy special privileges in France that make life more enjoyable. An extensive system of discounts, assistance, and special facilities allows students to stretch a relatively modest budget to cover basic needs—and to enjoy life in France. Benefits include a network of student restaurants, university housing, rent subsidies, health insurance, student clubs and associations, and discounts on public transportation, movies, museums, libraries, and sporting events.
1,200 museums; 5,366 movie theaters, including 140 multiplexes; 33,300 stage shows each year at national theaters and centers for dramatic arts, as well as private theaters. All of these set the rhythm of daily life throughout France. Festivals of music, song, and dance; athletic events; and celebrations of books, food, and science round out the cultural life for which France is rightly famous. Students enjoy discounts and special subscription prices at all cultural events. Student status also makes it easy to stay active in sports through discounted access to athletic facilities. Rare is the campus that does not host a wide range athletic clubs, associations, and leagues. Many universities and schools are located in city centers, offering easy access to the rich social and cultural life of France’s lively cities. Museums, bookstores, theaters, and cafés are never very far away.
The majority of ISEP students are housed in French university dormitories with French and international students. Dormitories are a good place to meet other students and practice speaking French. Most dormitories offer single rooms, often with a sink in the room. Either maids may clean the room a few times a month, or students may be expected to do their own housekeeping. Communal bathrooms with showers are available on each floor of the dormitory and are usually co-ed.
Dormitories may offer cooking facilities, which can range from an electric hot plate to a full kitchen with an oven and refrigerator. Many dormitories in France now require a code for entry in the evening. Others are not locked and have a receptionist at the entry. Students should keep their own rooms locked at all times and contact their host coordinator if any safety issue arises.
University restaurants - restau-u's - are administered by C.R.O.U.S. As a student with a C.R.O.U.S. Card, you are entitled to a subsidized rate of about 3 Euro. A typical meal consists of an hors-d'oeuvre, a plate of meat or fish with vegetables, a salad, and cheese or a sweet. Drinks are served at a moderate price. Students should note that some restau-u's close on weekends so they should expect to cook in their dormitory or find a restau-u that is open, which may be farther away. Should you want to venture away from the cafeteria food, there are restaurants everywhere offering a wide variety of fare at a wide range of prices.
If your residence has cooking facilities, you should explore the food stores in your area. You'll find small neighborhood shops, supermarkets, and open-air markets. And no matter where you live in France, you won't be far from a bakery where you can buy baguettes and croissants.
Centre Régional des Oeuvres Universitaires et Scolaires (C.R.O.U.S.)
At every French university there is a C.R.O.U.S. office. Each C.R.O.U.S. is directly or indirectly responsible for the housing, cultural, and sports facilities generally located on campus; it also supplies information on all cultural and sports activities in the area by means of circulars, monthly bulletins and posters in the university restaurants and dormitories.
Besides providing these services, C.R.O.U.S. has a valuable travel service that supplies Billet BIGE/Trans-alpino tickets. To obtain a C.R.O.U.S. card, be sure to have three or four photos available. A C.R.O.U.S. card gives access to all C.R.O.U.S. services. C.R.O.U.S. also manages the university restaurants.
Maisons d'Activités Culturelles (M.A.C.)
The M.A.C. propose a variety of activities such as cinéclubs, theaters, lectures, debates and various group activities. They charge low prices for their cultural events. They endeavor to go beyond the strict bounds of artistic activity, such as orchestras or theater companies, by presenting exhibitions and films of scientific and social interest as well.
Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture (M.J.C.)
Students should also take advantage of the services provided by the M.J.C., which serves as a meeting place for students and provides various social or educational activities.
Many university residences provide linens with the room. Washing and drying facilities are usually not provided in French dorms. Students will be able to find laundromats, however they can be expensive, so be prepared to do a lot of hand washing. Dry cleaning is even more expensive, so avoid bringing non-washable clothing.
The primary cause of death and serious injury to travelers under the age of thirty-five is road traffic accidents. While hazards are greatest in developing countries, many developed countries also have death and serious accident rates higher than those in the United States. Even in countries with low accident rates, you may be at risk if you are not familiar with local traffic rules. Be sure you familiarize yourself with traffic rules and road safety issues in your host country and other countries to which you may be traveling.
The French state-owned railroad (S.N.C.F.) is modern and fast. It reaches all but the smallest towns. Students can look into various rail passes if you think you will be traveling a lot. If you don't think you will use trains enough to make a pass worthwhile, youth discounts (Carte 12-25) are available on many trips. S.N.C.F. offers a 20 percent discount on aller-retour (round-trip) tickets for journeys of more than 1500 kilometers (e.g., Paris-Nice). There is also a 50 percent youth discount pass for travel during certain times and days.
The Transalpino/BIGE agency offers reduced-fare tickets, mainly on international trips, to anyone under 26. They have offices in 15 large Western European cities, as well as hundreds of selling agents including the C.R.O.U.S. discussed below under "Student Services and Organizations" section. The savings are 20 to 50 percent off regular second-class fares. Despite certain time limitations and other restrictions, Billet BIGE tickets probably are the best way to travel if you don't have a rail pass. These tickets cannot be bought at the train station.
Buses literally pick up where the trains leave off. The gare routière is frequently located right at or very near the train station. If you don't have a car, these inexpensive buses are the only transport available to carry you to remote towns and villages. You may find that purchasing a monthly pass saves you money on local transportation.
A U.S. driver's license is valid in France, though an International Driving Permit is more easily recognized by the gendarmes. For more information on obtaining an International Driving Permit, see "Documents - Other Considerations" in the Participant Handbook.
The tourist office issues a pamphlet, Motoring in France, which includes a guide to French road signs. To rent a car, the driver must hold a driver's license and credit card and be at least 21 years of age (in the case of Hertz and Avis). Mopeds are also very popular in France. To help you find the most direct or most scenic route, the best maps are Michelin's. Gas stations are easiest to find on the outskirts of towns; gas is very expensive.
Student Travel Agencies
Almost every country in Europe has at least one national organization specializing in the needs of student travelers: discounted transportation, accommodations and sightseeing, ID cards, meeting other students, etc. They are usually good places to get general advice, too, even if you are not a student.
Many towns have a syndicat d'initiative, or tourist office. These vary in helpfulness from town to town, but are usually valuable sources of general information while traveling.