As part of my MSc. Renewable Energy course, I am doing my second year at Ecole Polytechnique, located in Paris, France. As it normally goes, moving to a new country can mean administrative hurdles along the way. To help you make the process as smooth as possible, I have tried to provide a list of key documents or procedures you will need to be aware of, if you are planning to study at one of the EIT InnoEnergy’s universities in France.
Before I go on listing some of the points that I hope you find useful, I also want to provide some background and reasoning from my side for moving here. The universities in France are challenging in terms of the courses taught, and offer a great opportunity to learn from some of the best professors in the field of energy research. French technical universities have been the alma mater for some of the greatest scientists such as Marie Curie, Gay Lussac etc. Being incredibly passionate about energy transition, it was the university reputation that firstly enticed me. Secondly, France holds a multitude of companies and organiations that are in the forefront for energy related activities. The internship opportunities are immense and so are the career opportunities post-graduation.
Firstly, I would like to mention the concept of ‘youth’ in France. Unlike other countries which provide discounts for anyone who has a student card or visa, in France, you need to have a student card AND be below the age of 26 (so if you have already turned 26 you no longer fall into this category). Museums, local transportation and other services are easier and at a discounted value if you are 25 and below. If you are thinking about choosing France for one of your study years (and you should as there is something for everyone, from beaches, mountains, culture and, of course, food) , think about your age, because who doesn’t want a year-round free entry to the Louvre museum!
Make sure to collect a signed and sealed copy of the university admission letter. For most foreign students, applying for a French visa requires an accommodation contract in France. But to apply for accommodation, you will need a French visa, causing a Catch-22 situation. So, request a letter from your university, stating that you are guaranteed accommodation via the university, which can be used to submit in place of an actual accommodation contract.
In France, most of the documents that are requested, need to be in French. Before you move to France, make sure to have your original birth certificate from your home country. This document needs to be apostilled, especially if you are a non-EU citizen. After you have the apostille stamp, send it to a French Government approved translating agency (List here) for translating from your home country language to French.
No matter what kind of accommodation you would like to rent, you need a local guarantor to sign off as a guarantee, that you will make the monthly payments. If you know a French citizen or employee working in France, they can at as a guarantor for you. If not, the following are other options:
Typically, you can apply to Cite Universitaire, but almost all student coming to Paris apply for this accommodation, so it is very difficult to get in, but definitely worth a try! If you are a student who receives a scholarship, you can apply for Crous accommodation. For others, there are several private hostels and residential blocks available for students, but these can be pricey.
I currently reside in Kley-Paris Saclay, a private student resident block that is 5 minutes away from the Ecole Polytechnique campus. This residence is comfortable for students having classes on campus every day. The city of Paris is almost an hour way from Ecole Polytechnique, hence travelling 2 hours to-and-from university everyday can be tiring when you are a student.
The French Government provides funds for students below the age of 30, in the form of a discount off the monthly accommodation. It can range from 20%-40% depending on whether you are a scholarship holder and your salary from previous jobs you have held. Typically, you pay the entire rent value to your accommodation on a monthly basis, and CAF transfers your discounted value directly to your bank account, within the first 10 days of the month.
When you apply for accommodation, whether student homes or private apartment, check if they are applicable for CAF. You wouldn’t want to miss on this step! CAF payment starts a month after your accommodation contract has been initiated. For example, if you are residing in a particular location from June to December, the CAF payments begin with the month of July, you will have to pay the whole rental for June by yourself. Remember this while planning your budget and expenses!
All applications in France are submitted via hard copy postal services. The list of documents required can be found on the CAF website, along with a step by step instruction for application. Usually the universities have a special presentation for CAF application, make sure you attend that! Send the list of documents to the CAF postal address as soon as you have all bank, accommodation and personal documents ready. CAF generally takes 2-3 months to look through your profile, before the transfer start, so plan ahead!
Due to some of the challenges that have been created by Covid-19, EIT InnoEneryg swiftly composed a financial support package for affected students, making sure that they receive required support and assistance during the coronavirus lockdown.
The French government has also been quite helpful during the Covid-19 times. All students who have lost their internships or have it postponed can apply for a 200 Euro one-time payment to assist with their monthly expenses.
The universities themselves have been providing different types of funding to students affected by coronavirus as well, but these change based on university. If you are in a similar situation in the future, don’t hesitate to contact EIT InnoEnergy or your university for any help! There are lot of provisions available, all you need to do is ask.
By Malavika Venugopal, EIT InnoEnergy Master School student