Lina Agabani Puch thought she was ready for her first class as a new bachelor at Paris-Sorbonne University in France. But the international student from Saudi Arabia couldn’t keep up with the rapid pace of the professor’s French. âEveryone around me, they’re just typing and I don’t understand a thing,â she said.
Lina Agabani Puch speaks Arabic, English and French, as well as some Spanish. She has also recently started to learn German.
The next day, Agabani Puch started recording and transcribing her lectures – an extra three to four hours of work each day – and over time she saw her French skills improve. She did this for a year.
In 2014, Agabani Puch graduated in Applied Foreign Languages.
âIt’s a challenge, but it can be done,â she says. “So if I can do it, why can’t you?” “
Today, Agabani Puch is studying for a master’s degree at the same university.
French universities are popular destinations for international students. In 2014-2015, more than 298,000 international students were enrolled in France, according to the Atlas project of the Institute of International Education.
For prospective international students considering an undergraduate degree in France, here are six things to know.
1. There is a French organization that works with students who want study in France.The public agency, called Campus France, has more than 200 offices around the world. Campus France helps prospective international students through the university admission and French visa application processes, and offers a wealth of information on other topics such as financial aid and housing.
âMy advisor, or the Campus France agent, took care of everything from A to Z,â explains Agabani Puch.
Daria Plantak, public relations manager at the University of Burgundy international office, said via email that she believes students should start learning about universities and the application process a year in advance. This will allow advance notice of deadlines and time to obtain identifying information such as language certificates and visas, if required.
2. In France, students decide very early on what they want to study. Prospective students indicate what they want to study when they apply to schools, according to French university officials. This is also true in the UK and is partly due to the fact that undergraduate programs in these countries last three years instead of four.
âFor international students who know what disciplines interest them, a French university education is a high quality and effective option to obtain advanced training in almost any field,â said Nathalie Janin, Executive Director of International and External Affairs at the ‘UniversitÃ© Grenoble Alpes, by email.
3. Tuition fees are a steal at public universities. The tuition fees of French public universities, set by the government, are the same for national and international students. The 2015-2016 annual tuition fees for an undergraduate are 184 euros, around $ 200, according to Campus France. Students have to pay a lot more. in private universities – between 3,000 and 10,000 euros, approximately between 3,300 and 11,200 dollars, per year.
The shorter duration of undergraduate programs, called bachelor’s programs in France, is another advantage because it means one year less tuition fees.
Financial aid from the French government, foreign governments and various other organizations is available for international students. A good place to start research is the Campus France scholarship database.
Plantak, from the University of Burgundy, says students should contact the French embassy in their home country to see if there are any scholarships available.
4. All students must have health insurance. For students from countries in the European Economic Area, a European health insurance card or certain private schemes will suffice, according to Campus France Students from outside the EEA will have to pay for coverage by the French student social security system. The security contribution for a student in 2015-2016 is 215 euros, or approximately $ 243.
5. Students can get help paying rent. International students in France can apply for housing assistance from the government. The amount of help they receive depends on the cost of rent and the student’s financial resources.
âThe students here, not just international students but students in general, they really get a lot of help from the state,â says Agabani Puch. “There is a great emphasis on this.”
6. Foreign students can work while studying. French law allows international students to hold a job while continuing their studies. Students from EEA countries can work as much as they want, but students from outside this region can only work part-time. Non-EEA students can work up to around 60% of the hours full-time, according to Campus France.
Students and university officials say that obtaining an undergraduate degree in France as an international student is a difficult but rewarding experience.
âIt can be scary,â says Agabani Puch, âbut if you want to travel and if you want to learn a foreign language and if you just want to go on an adventure, broaden your horizons and challenge yourself, you have to get and do -the.”