I am sure everyone who has already been on an Erasmus stay will understand that coming back isn’t easy. At the moment, I am torn between the memories of things I left behind, the habits in Austria I have to get used to again and the fact that daily life hit me very fast and it feels like I’ve never been gone. My friends and I call it “post Erasmus depression” and even though this sounds really dramatical and uneasy, an Erasmus semester always pays off at the end. In the next lines I am going to explain how I left a piece of my heart in the beautiful city of Strasbourg.
What I really like about Strasbourg, apart from the fact that it’s cute in winter because of the Christmas markets and decoration and in summer because of the great variety of parks and places to sit near the Ill river, is that even though it’s a quite small city with only around 280.000 inhabitants, it has a lot to offer. Museums, expositions, street festivals, concerts and many more cool things are taking place daily and are very cheap/free for students as they receive the “carte culture”, which offers a lot of reductions for many cultural things.
The city has a huge campus offering a lot to students all over the world. Not only the variety of faculties is impressing, but also the possibilities outside the university halls are very attractive.
SUAPS for example is a sport organization for students. There are many different courses students can choose without having to pay anything. SUMPS is an association were students can get free help if they have any health issues. Also, there are many different cafeterias offering delicious food for a very low prize. There is also a program called “Language Tandem” where you can create an account, enter your mother tongue and the language you want to learn and tell a bit about yourself and contact people, having the mother tongue you want to learn and them wanting to learn your mother tongue. You can arrange a meeting afterwards and work on your language skills together. It’s also a great possibility to get to know French people.
Inside the university halls, life looks less attractive. For most of the students in Strasbourg, me included, the university system is perceived as being a bit strange. Apart from the fact that French administration couldn’t be more complicated, the courses are very theoretical and I had difficulties understanding what to learn. Student activity is very rare during the classes. The only activity of the students is the constant typing on their laptops.
I got the impression that the University of Strasbourg really cares about the well-being of their students and wants to give them a very good theoretical background. I just ask myself the question if it also prepares enough for the world of work.
In Strasbourg, I lived in a student residence called “Les Cattleyas”. When I entered my room for the first time, I was really shocked, because it didn’t look like the pictures I had seen before. Besides furniture there was NOTHING in the room and the first thing I did was buying a couple of things to make my room more comfortable. After I had decorated my room and it got more individual, I started to feel well there and at the end I was even sad leaving. I paid 414€ for a studio per month, which means that I had my own bathroom and small kitchen corner. The residence prepares a laundry service but the machines are very often occupied and cost 4€. The residence is situated in a quite calm quarter and public transport and supermarkets are very close. Going to the city centre takes 15 minutes by tram.
The most beautiful student homes are “MUI – Maison Universitaire Internationale”, “Gallia” and “Bruckhof”. They have a monthly rate of around 450€ for 18m², “MUI” and “Gallia” being the closest to the city centre. The cheapest ones are the simple rooms (kitchen shared, 9m² room including small bathroom) for about 270€ in Alfred Weiss (next to Les Cattleyas where I lived) and Paul Appell (directly on the campus) and the even more simple ones (kitchen, bathroom and toilet shared, very small room) for around 190€ in Paul Appell.
As you can see, rent is quite expensive. Food, drinks and hygiene products are expensive too. The cheapest 0,5l beer costs 5,50€ in a bar. Luckily, nearly every bar offers “Happy Hours” during which you can get drinks as well as food at a lower price. Another positive fact is, that Kehl in Germany is not far from Strasbourg. From my student home it only took me 15 minutes to go to LIDL, dm, EDEKA and many other shops. Things are a lot cheaper there, so I bought products in Kehl in advance to save money.
Still, there are some very delicious French products which are cheaper in Strasbourg than at home or in Kehl, especially cheese, baguette and wine. Try these products as often as you can. You’re going to miss it as soon as you’ve crossed the border to your home country again.
I made a lot of great new social contacts during my Erasmus semester, most of them were Erasmus students themselves. At the beginning, I was a bit disappointed about the fact that I didn’t interact with a lot with French people because I really wanted to improve my French language skills and learn more about the French culture. But I still learned a lot concerning language and culture and I now see, that people’s behaviour is a part of the culture, too. I experienced that French people are not very open towards new people. There are rarely people contacting you, you would rather have to go towards them. If you manage to start a conversation, people are very nice and helpful and it can even happen that you grab a drink together once or twice. Still, what I call being the “Erasmus spirit” is something completely different. Don’t worry because you get to know a lot of open-minded Erasmus students from all over the world.
All in all, I can really recommend Strasbourg for an exchange program if you want to live in a cozy, small city that is still offering a lot of cultural events, meet international students, work on your language skills, travel within France or other countries nearby, are interested in European institutions, like “vin et fromage” and just have an extraordinary semester abroad. Enjoy!
Author: Jana Kurnik.