Studies abroad : Five expatriates share their experience

Studying abroad : a dream.


Many students take the leap and succeed in finding enough money and courage to go to the country they dream of. Still hesitant ? Lets shed light on three key aspects of studying abroad through the story of five students. So what kind of adventures have students had to face in their new country ?


To expatriate oneself, the administrative side of the iceberg


Victor is an Egyptian young man. Now 21 years-old, he arrived in France at 18 to begin literary studies in what is called “prépa” (hypôkhâgne-khâgne) at Hélène Boucher high school. After he got his baccalauréat in the economic program of a Jesuit secondary school, his professors advised him to consider the option of studying abroad. Of the eleven students in his class, nine decided to study in France. The administrative adventure began..


As the OFII (Integration and Immigration French Office) network states: “The holders of a visa of duration three-month-old superior carrying the "studying" mention are distributed of requesting a temporary residence permit on the 1st year of their stay in France”. However, they must report to the OFII territorial direction within the three first months of their stay to state their situation.


Once a confirmation is made, the applicant has to present various supportive documents such as a French proof of residency. But the issue is how to find a place to live as a foreigner : “Every agency and owner asked for a guarantor, but I didn’t know anyone in France.” Victor finally found an apartment thanks to a private owner, who simply asked for a three month caution. During the next few years, Victor finally got in touch with an agency only asking for a caution. After two years, Victor was considered to be a reliable person and did not have to pay a caution anymore.


Victor’s arrival in France was quite complex at the beginning, he however explains that these formalities became a daily routine after a couple of months. Nevertheless, he says “I don’t dare to touch my first residence permit in case someone asks for it one day, I probably have three bags full of paperworks here..”

He however applauds the decision to welcome the applicants closer to Cité Universitaire green area and not near the police headquarters anymore.



Financial Aspect


Aurélie is a 21-year-old french woman. She arrived in Australia in 2012 and decided to go back to school in 2017 to earn a Master’s Degree in Urban Development & Design to become a Landscape Architect in Sydney. But this desire had a price ! “An academic year costs $30,000 here (20.000€), which is very expensive, but that allows to have great teachers and a incredible quality of courses ! The government lends this money to all the students, who pay off only having begun to gain a certain amount of money. It is then taken as a tax on your salary.


Julien is also living in Sydney. He is a twenty-six-year-old French-Thai boy currently studying for his doctorate at the Chemistry School of the University of Sydney for his doctorate. In Julien’s opinion, Sydney a very expensive city to live in, especially when it comes to transportation. He notes, “But I do have my savings, my parents are still helping me and I have a scholarship (partly coming from the one of my tutor). I had applied for a foreign scholarship given by the University of Sydney.” Unfortunately, the University finally told him he was not selected after six months of waiting. Julien says it is very easy to transfer money from France through bank like Westpack or companies such as Revolut.


Victor quickly learned not to convert every purchase into the Egyptian pound, because the conversion rate would make you dizzy. (One euro = 21 egyptian pounds). For an apartment in Cairo you would have paid 5753 Egyptian pounds, in Paris you would pay the equivalent of 10350 Egyptian pounds.


The Cultural Clash


Benjamin was fifteen-years-old when he came to France for a year as a high schooler, living in the house of another boy of his age. Coming from a small town in Maryland, a rural region in the United States, this year in a deeply urbanized area was full of novelty.


“When I first got to France I was really surprised by how mature the students at the high school were. In the countryside where I'm from we all seemed a lot younger. So I felt like a baby in the class that year”. The biggest surprise is probably the impact of this journey on Benjamin’s religious beliefs. “My biggest problem was that I was very religious and I lost that with my host families. I am a very scientific person, and I was taught that religion could be scientifically proven. I lost that because I went to a french high school which taught things like evolution which wasn't taught at my school. I went to a small Christian School here in the United States, and the people there are very afraid of change. I'm not religious anymore, so France did have a strong effect.


Aurélie has also been puzzled by a lifestyle so different from the one she knew in France. She eventually adopted Australian Culture so much that she doesn’t want to come back to France anymore. “I don’t like France anymore due to the mentality metro/work/sleep they have. People are always grumpy, pessimistic, unpleasant..” Australia is indeed known for a great kind of managerial practices at work, the kindness of its inhabitants, an altruism associated with a great climate and a casual state of mind, loved by students and backpackers (people travelling or going camping while carrying your clothes and other things they need in a backpack).


And Finally ?


To be an expat student seems the beginning of an administrative and financial endeavor, but it can also be the start of a deep story in the welcoming country. Aurélie emphasized a moment of realization “I studied in a preparation to join HEC. But Marketing and Consumption, being 30 years-old, you wonder if those are good choices, if it is really what you desire from life”. The journey would be an initiatory and formative one but also the occasion of great opportunities to change the way you live, as illustrated by the decision of Aurélie to go back to school and to adopt the Australian state of mind.


Victor and his impeccable French earned him several contracts as a translator from French to Arabic, and met  various intellectuals at the University of Paris whom he used to mention in his literature essays in khâgne. No matter your income or your university, studying abroad is an opportunity to seize as Julien notes : “I was in a small engineering school in France from Rennes, I succeeded in obtaining internships abroad and began my thesis in one of the best Australian university anyway!”


            What about you, where are you going ?