I only knew one thing before applying to study abroad, and that one thing was just that I wanted to go abroad and experience life from an outside perspective and work my way into the inside. I wanted something that was going to challenge myself and give me a more concrete knowledge of myself. I initially chose places like the University of Birmingham in England and looked at the University in Chengdu, but with some mulling over of decisions, I decided upon the private business school of KEDGE in Bordeaux. I was so excited and scared at the same time and contemplated this decision so many times, doubting my abilities and worrying about the financial aspects of the trip.
This is when I started applying to the most random and oddly specific scholarships in order to assure myself a bit more that this would be something I could legitimately do. One tip I have for everyone is to apply for as many as possible, you never know what you may get. I applied to at least 50 different ones and I was surprised and ever so thankful to receive education abroad scholarships, an honors marketing scholarship, an honors college scholarship and one or two more that have given me an ease at heart with this part of the trip.
The next part of my preparation was deciding my time of arrival and the departure date from Bordeaux. For KEDGE specifically, an organization sets up pick ups from the airport on the weekend right before the integration week, so I’d suggest flying in either that Friday or Saturday if you chose to attend! Sadly, for me, I arrived just one day too late for this pick up and just used an airport taxi to arrive at my front door step (very expensive option).
These are the things I wish I had someone tell me:
- Use TBM (Transportation Bordeaux Métropole)- this is the easiest and cheapest way to get around in Bordeaux, with stops all over the city all the way from the BOD airport to Gare Saint Jean. Make sure you look at the large map of the whole city to see where all the stops go to. The trams are easiest for short distances, but only the +1 bus goes to the airport.
- Apply for housing as early as possible. Bordeaux specifically is one of the hardest and most competitive housing markets to get into. Try websites like MorningCroissant, AirBnB, ect. Don’t be afraid to apply to all of the ones within your budget, because it is likely that a lot of them will reject your application due to a short stay. If anyone is staying in Bordeaux, they are welcome to ask me for help on this!
- Make sure to live inside of the city for ease of purchasing groceries, venturing through morning and Sunday markets and exploring the city in your free time. (I did this, but it just happened by luck)
- Stops that are good to live by are:
- Hotel de Ville
- Forum (this is closer to Talence)
- Grand Théâtre
- Stops that are good to live by are:
- Open a credit line (if you don’t have one already) that is accepted all over the world and make sure that you give your card company a notification any time you travel outside of your living region (Discover is not accepted in most places throughout Europe) or open a bank account once you get to France .
- Get your budgeting done before you come to your destination (including weekly food outings, groceries, possible trips outside of your town, ect)
Next the packing adventures began. One backpack, one carry one, one checked bag, four months. Possibly the most difficult jigsaw I’ve ever tried to put together. Now I can say, I tried to do a lot of research on the weather here in Bordeaux, but I must say, my packing was not right for this trip. Since we are closer to the ocean here in Bordeaux, I seemed to have forgotten it’s a bit windier than I’m used to in Alabama. So, if you choose to study somewhere coastal for the fall or spring in Europe, definitely make sure to pack lots of sweaters or warmer clothes in various thicknesses along with rain gear, such as: rain boots, an umbrella, and a raincoat. I made the mistake of bringing a lot of casual tees that can go under a coat, but I would have preferred more sweaters, due to getting cold really easily.
Lastly, for France specifically, a lot of things had to be done for us that we were not made aware of to begin with, so in order for others to have a less stressful experience with this, these are the steps you should take if going to France and then the latter steps are if you are planning to attend KEDGE in Bordeaux (a middle sized campus), Marseille (largest campus), or Paris (smallest facility).
Step 1. Apply for your study abroad and receive the acceptance from UA and the university you applied for
Step 2. Find a reasonably priced flight for your desired stay time. Here in France, they have courses from the beginning of September until close to Christmas, so for spring it should be relatively the same length.
Step 3. Apply for a visa through Campus France- this needs to be done 3 or more weeks before you plan to do the next step, unless you want to pay the rush fee.
Step 4: Apply for the US visa to France. For Alabama, the closest visa office is the one in Atlanta and you have to go for an in-person presentation of your documents and get fingerprinted. There will be a document sent to you with a list of papers you will need to bring with you, including a photo for the visa (they can take a photo at the visa visit for 12.50$ if my memory is correct). There is a FedEx center right behind the office incase you forget a document that can be printed out (For me it was my unofficial transcript).
Step 5: Receive your visa back in the mail. You MUST be there to sign for it or they will take it back to the post office.
Step 6: Start packing for your adventure, don’t forget to check the weather channel for the typical weather during your stay! Make sure you also have converters for different European countries in case of travel and start budgeting for your trip.
I hope this helps you all & best of luck,