Yuliia Soroka, France
My Erasmus Experience in La Rochelle Business School
Where is it? La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime, Poitou-Charente, France
La Rochelle is a small city (around 75,000 citizens) in Charente-Maritime region right near the Atlantic Ocean. It is located quiet far from Paris (500 km), but near Bordeaux (around 80-100 km). La Rochelle is famous for two things. First, in XVI-XVII century it was a centre of the protestant movement, and this historical moment is described in the famous novel “The Three Musketeers” by Alexander Dumas. And the second thing is Fort Boyard – the castle in the middle of the ocean where “The Fort Boyard” TV-show takes place.
La Rochelle has an amazing old harbor surrounded by the old XVI century wall and three towers. From the harbor you can take a boat trip around the islands or learn sailing, or make some other water sports. For example, the island near the city (you can get there by the city bus) – L’ile de Ré – is famous for windsurfing.
La Rochelle is a place with an incredible French maritime spirit: fishermen, typical French restaurants with seafood, a big market with everything you can find in the ocean, wine bars, small streets with cute houses, a nice cathedral in the city center, famous shop “Galeries Lafayette”, bakeries with always fresh French baguette etc.
Where to stay?
The dormitory in La Rochelle is very comfortable. Students can rent a 20 m2 comfortable room with its own bathroom, but kitchen on the floor. It is located in 5 min by foot distance from the School. The price is around 550-600€, and it is very noisy. So if you have a friend to share room with – it is a good option (but be ready to share a bed as well, because there is only one double bed at the room!). There is also an option to life in a family. It will cost also around 600€ per month with food. You will study French lifestyle, try French cuisine, practice your French language etc. But if you speak French, I recommend you to find a place to stay by yourself on the website www.leboncoin.fr. With your friends you can even rent a house. I found small separate apartment (really small – only 10 m2) with a small kitchen, shower and toilet in it for 380€ per month.
Not all the apartments in France have the washing machine. But there are a lot of laundries around the city (at the big supermarkets, for instance): the price starts from 4€ for the small one (which is big enough for the student’s size) and 7€ for the huge one. During the 40 minutes of washing you can relax and read a book or do some shopping.
How to get there?
If you want to go to La Rochelle from Warsaw, you should better go through Paris. The flight to Paris with Wizzair or Ryanair low cost companies is quiet cheap: if you book in advance, you can get a ticket for 20-25€. But be ready to pay for the bus from the airport to the city-centre around 19€ (book a ticket for the bus at http://tickets.aeroportbeauvais.com/Information.aspx ). It is more expensive to take a train from Paris to La Rochelle. All the trains in France are represented by SNCF company (voyages-sncf.com): usually it is a super speed train, which will make 500 km distance from Paris to La Rochelle in 2,5 hours. But the price will be around 80-100€. If you pay 50€ for the one year long loyalty card “Carte Jeaune” for young people (younger than 25 year old), you will get 50% discount for some train tickets. But still it is expensive for students. That is why students in France prefer blablacar (www.blablacar.fr): Paris – La Rochelle trip with balablacar will cost 35€ (30€ you pay to the driver and 5€ you pay to the balbalcar) and it is pretty safe.
I recommend those who are in La Rochelle to visit Bordeaux (train will cost 10-25€). You can also take a direct train to Barcelona or some low cost flights to UK.
If you take often the bus around the city, it is better to go to the bus station and get the bus month ticket: it costs 23€ per month (for those who are less than 25 year old). Attention, it works not like in Warsaw (from the day you buy and register it – 30 days), but from the 1st to 31st each month.
What is Caf?
French Government helps all the students (even foreign ones) to pay the rent. So you go to the registry at the La Rochelle Business School, ask about Caf, and they help you to send all the needed documents (ID copy, rent contract, birth certificate and few more). According to their decision, students get from the Government from 50 to 100€ every month during their stay as a help. I had been waiting for the decision for 2-3 months, but it was nice to get (as a Christmas surprise) the payment for those 2-3 months at once.
Where to buy products?
There are supermarkets at the city centre of La Rochelle. The prices there are higher than in Poland. But if you go on suburbs, you will find Leclerc, Lidl – with the same price category that in Warsaw. Every Sunday there is a big market, where there are not only French seafood, fruits and vegetables, but also Asian fast-food which is pretty good.
In autumn and winter the weather was (in La Rochelle and Paris as well) like during a spring-time in Warsaw: in average +10 – +15 C, but windy because of the ocean and always rainy in February. In spring – it is warm, sunny, but can be rainy. So not a warm coat, but an umbrella – that’s what you need there for sure.
Any night life?
If you want to have the nightlife, rent the apartment in the city centre where there are a lot of bars and clubs. Because the last bus in La Rochelle is at 8-9 pm. There are no night buses at all. So the transport option can be only a bicycle, a taxi, or a friend with a car. “Must Go” in France is a wine bar – a place with wine and cheese plates – mmm! “Must Go” in La Rochelle – the bar “La Guignette” – a bar with a big history and the only place, where you can try a green wine: this bar produces their own apple and strawberry wine.
During the year there are also a lot of parties in the houses of your friends: there are many students who rent a house with 5-6 rooms, which means for 5-6 people (sometimes all of them are from different countries – that’s really cool!). You can find people to share house with on fb pages like https://www.facebook.com/groups/850495615023921/?fref=ts) so they often organize huge parties and kindly propose to those who live far to sleep in their place. J
Is it worth it?
As you see, 500€ Erasmus scholarship is not that big in France, where minimum 400€ you have to pay for the apartment. And if parents don’t help – it can be even hard. You can forget about finding a job: in 75,000 citizens’ town with two universities (which means a lot of students who are looking for a job), that’s impossible to find a part-time job (only in summer when there are a lot of tourists there, but you don’t have your lectures in summer). There are even not enough places for local people to work in. And with every week different timetable at the School, even McDonalds doesn’t want to hire you.
But you are taking there not Master degree, but MBA studies, which is more difficult, more business oriented, more practical and more prestigious. And Sup de Co La Rochelle is very prestigious Business School in France. During the studies you have the opportunity for the job interview with HR of Accor, Disneyland, Dotchester Collection etc. and who knows – get the job or internship there. If you want to find a job in France after finishing Sup de Co La Rochelle – that’s not a problem: employers want you, they answer on your CV, and they give you a job (French language is required, of course).
During the first semester I had all professors from France – businessmen, specialists in hospitality with a big experience in the industry etc. A lot of professors were coming from Paris (some run a business there, others – professors from Sorbonna) only for the lecture and going back with a train in the evening. The next semester I had all the professors from Canadian University of Quebec – leading experts in marketing, finances, service management (www.uqam.ca). Each of them had spent two weeks with us coming specially for the lectures from Canada to La Rochelle – so during two weeks we had the same subject, next two weeks another one etc. That was difficult, but incredibly interesting: working in groups, we wrote the marketing plans for hotels or restaurants; we had lunch at the restaurant in La Rochelle and analyzed all the mistakes they did in a business, tried to give some recommendations for their strategy and future development; we created a new product for Accor Hotel chain and presented to Accor strategy manager etc. During the year it seemed that I got not educational, but work experience!
And all this knowledge, together with new friends from all over the world, and the beauty of the France, French culture, French language, and La Rochelle maritime spirit – this all make you be happy there and enjoy the life like French people do. So I want say to all Vistula students: “Come on, guys! You have such a chance with Vistula University and Erasmus Exchange program, so make your life colorful, take a chance that life gives to you and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!”