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Step by step.

Today is the day before the flight.

I bought the plane tickets through Iberia, as there is a special programme for Erasmus where they give you the option to buy return tickets with two hold bags and hand luggage for a good price, as well as giving you the option of changing the return date for free (https://joven.iberia.com/en/). Many people fly to Switzerland because they are the best-priced tickets, and then you can take the train as there is a very good train network.

All those that come from Erasmus to Strasbourg, at least those of law, the French Erasmus coordinator gives you all the facilities in the world, they give you the documents, the residence, everything, and they’re very friendly. If you don’t have a coordinator to give you these things you can also do it by yourself: you can solicit a university residence through Crous (the institution in charge of university residences) and if not, there is always the option of sharing a flat.

Everyone that comes on an Erasmus to France has to do what they call FLE, which is like classes in France for Erasmus, and you have to apply for them online and you have the option of choosing the days and times that convenience you most.

My first day in Strasbourg

I took a flight from Santiago to Madrid and from there, after waiting for four hours, I got on the plane heading to Strasbourg. The most peculiar thing I realised in that moment was that on this plane were ten people altogether, four of which were from Erasmus and we were already talking and catching up throughout the day. We also met an interesting passenger: the President of Congress, who travelled on the same aeroplane.

The plane itself was also peculiar because it was very small, very, very small, like a light aircraft. If you were to put it alongside typical aeroplanes from Iberia it would be minute. The plan was already surprising us. The flight was very relaxed, with no problems at all.

The Strasbourg Airport is also one of the strangest and at the same time smallest. When you get off the plane you are already in the terminal, and you collect your suitcases there, and the people that are waiting for you can enter to where you collect your suitcases. In itself, the airport is small, but the carpark for the airport is enormous.

When we got in the car and heading towards the Paul Appell Residence, a journey which should last 20 minutes was by 40 minutes because there was an awful traffic jam, an enormous traffic jam of cars and cars and more cars.

Once in the residence, the one in the Esplanad campus, you can arrive and enter the reception (Acueil) without a problem, and there a girl (who is not at all friendly) will give you the papers and keys, and will tell you that you have to pay the next day without exception. There is also a small thing to carry your suitcase from the car to the residence, because carrying the suitcase along the pavement breaks the handle and the case will stay there in the middle of the pedestrian crossing. Haha, it was very funny ahaha.

And, with the key, I was directed to my room which is not very big but, well, it wasn’t too bad. Within the room there was: a sink, five lamps (of which four worked), a mirror, a wardrobe, a desk, a bed that was 90cm wide with a bedspread and pillow, sheets and towels (you have to bring you own ones from home, as well as kitchen utensils) and also in the room was a mini-fridge.

The room was very bright, but the only thing was that the bathroom, shower and kitchen were outside. There are a lot of rooms and people everywhere, both French and Erasmus alike.

On the first day, it is already possible to go out and party. The Erasmus students among ourselves are very nice, they help you in what they can, and they tell you how to do something if you can’t figure it out yourself. Furthermore, in the Paul Appell residence there is a bus that will take you to party as far as Germany, and then it will bring you back.

I think, for now, the worst thing about Strasbourg is the traffic, and the best thing is that the people cycle everywhere, there are also urban transport and trams that will take you from your house to wherever. Also, the train station has a lot of trains, and it isn’t very expensive.

As I have family in Switzerland, now and then I would go for a few days to here to enjoy the landscapes. The green Switzerland is a very beautiful country (I will talk about it in a moment). The journey from Strasbourg to Switzerland was also long because the traffic jams continued, and worsened when a lorry broke down and stopped in the middle of the road.

Up to now, what I have seen is that Strasbourg is a city of students, there are many young people, and it is very clean.

I’ll keep telling you!

If you have any doubts or questions, ask me and I shall respond to you.

FIRST DAY IN STRASBOURG

After my short holiday, I began the same routine as every Erasmus: paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork.

PAPERWORK

Afterwards, you receive the key to the residence – when they give you the key, they also give you a dossier and a slip of paper with the state of your room (imperfections, if it’s clean, if everything works) and they also give you the contract of the room which you have to return when its completed (the truth is I don’t know where to). Then you have to pay for the room. When you pay for it, ask for them to give you the ATTESTATION DE RESIDENCE because you will need it.

After you have done this you should go to the bank to create an account (I suggest Paribas, it’s a bank near to campus). Here you open an account and they give you a card for the ATM, all for free. After opening an account, you have to get insurance for you room (I suggest MGEL, because it’s with the bank and they offer a special pack where you pay for the pack, which is 27 euros, and the “assegurance”, which is 22 euros, and then upon creating the account with Paribas, this money comes into your account, so it’s as though you never paid anything).

When you go to get room insurance is when you have to bring the ATTESTATION DE RESIDENCE. When you have the MGEL pack, you have to return to the bank to give in a coupon and a photocopy of the “assegurance”. When you finally have all of this completed, you have to send the “assegurance” to the residence.

To be clear, MGEL is in front of the Faculty of Law, by the square where the Statue of Justice is.

And now you think that you have finished but no, you still have to buy a French mobile SIM card, which you need for the bank account. When you have the SIM card is set up, you need to give your French number to the residence and to the bank. I advise you set up the SIM with a company called FREE; it’s very cheap, and you can call to abroad and everything is very good.

Keep in mind that here the timetables are different, for example: the banks are shut on Mondays and open on Saturdays and opening times tend to be from nine o’clock in the morning to five o’clock in the evening. And who says that just the banks? The shops have the same timetable, apart from maybe the shopping centre, where things shut at 8 PM.

It is also very important to go to the faculty to have the learning agreement signed, and they will tell you the timetables of the classes (in the Faculty of Law they make everything quick and easy). More or less it’s like this: once you have signed the agreement, you will then have to go to enrol in the university (remember to bring a copy of your ID and a photo card), there is a form that they will make you fill in quickly and they will also give you the option to have the sports card, if you want it, which costs 15 euros and is valid for the whole year (you use it for the sports facilities). Once you are enrolled, they will give you some paperwork where you will put your ID number which you will use for everything in the university (for example, for the cultural card which is free and gives you discounts in museums, trams, buses…). This is also your student card number, and what you will use as your user number to access your faculty’s webpage with the lessons, timetables, professors, grades… The student card will be given to you within 10 to 15 days.

This is in the Faculty of Law, because I have seen on here other experiences where faculties have some kind of issue with the learning agreement.

When you finally have all of these forms signed and handed over, you can say that you are safely in Strasbourg, hahahaha.

Changing now from the topic of paper work, there are university dining halls where you can eat well for cheap: €3. 10.

Ah wait, I already nearly forgot about the internet on campus and in the residence. For the residence, the internet isn’t Wi-Fi: you request internet on a website that they will have already told you about, and then in 5 or 6 days, they will come by your room and install the internet, which is provided through modem cables: there is no Wi-Fi. Even so, they give you a username and password that you have to use. Then, apart from the internet in the residence, there is Wi-Fi that you can use in the faculties and university dining halls, which is a network called Osiris, for which you will again need to ask for a username and password, which will be provisional until they give you the fixed, authentic details.

Until now I have not yet partied at all, today will be my first party which will be a party hosted by the residence, but despite not having gone to parties, I already know a lot of people, and there are many Spanish people in Strasbourg, and the people speak both French and English and some even dare to speak to you in Spanish.

I will also tell you that straight after arriving I already had classes, and the first class in the Faculty of Law went well. I tell you, the class was three hours long, but after each hour there is a 15-minute break (to smoke, to go to the bathroom…), time passes quickly. Understanding the professor is going quite well. It is true that you cannot take in everything on the first day, everything that the professor says because there are many things, but if you have good classmates, they will help you and, if not, well, you should look for some manuals and corroborate the information.

I will also comment that you have to look up the timetables of lessons, at least in Law, every week online because they tend to change. But the Erasmus coordinator explains everything to you well, and you will understand perfectly.

Now I am going to give you a little description of what the residence is like in case any of you are interested in it for your Erasmus. I am in Paul Appell and it seems to me a simple room and, as I’ve told you, the room is small, a study with: a bed, a wardrobe, a desk, another wardrobe, a mirror, a sink and a mini-fridge. Then outside are the bathrooms, six on each floor; a kitchen without a table so you have to eat in your room, then there are the showers, which are sufficient and the water is warm. The bathrooms, showers and kitchen have cleaners, but your plates, pans… you have to wash them yourself, and you also have to buy the toilet paper yourself. Your room you have to clean yourself, which means you have to buy cleaning products, meaning you also have to buy cleaning products. You also have to buy your plates, glasses, cutlery, towels, sheets and everything like that.

What I still am unsure about on my second day of Erasmus, is where the area for washing your clothes is, which I hope to be able to clarify the next time that I write.

SECOND DAY IN STRASBOURG

Today has not been too different as I have been filling in more paperwork. This time for the CAF – the grant that you can apply for here in France – which helps with paying for your accommodation, this grant can give you between 20% and 40% of what you pay towards accommodation, and this grant can give you this if you are in a residence or in a flat. What they also do is not count September, so they give it to you from October.

Where do you have to go to get this grant? Well, until the end of September you can go to the “L’AGORA” to do it, which is a building next to the Faculty of Law, then there you can apply online and send in the documents (copy of your European Health Insurance Card, the French schooling certificate, confirmation that you are enrolled in the faculty, and “l’attestation de logament (the housing certificate which you get from the secretary of the residence)) and then you have complete the CAF registration.

Yesterday in the residence there was a little gathering where I met a lot of people, many of which were Spanish, and as today is Wednesday, we are going to go out to party as every Wednesday there is an Erasmus party at a bar here. The pubs are small. There is also a bus that stops right in front of the Paul Appell residence that will take you to party at a club in Germany, because we are right on the border. I still haven’t gone, but when I go, I will tell you all about it. We are also making plans to go to party in Munich for Oktoberfest, as there are passes which makes it much cheaper to go. The good thing about Strasbourg is that it is in the middle of everything, and you can go everywhere.

OKTOBERFEST

Well, Oktoberfest is the festival of beer in Munich, a festival that is known worldwide. And, as Strasbourg is so close to Munich, we’re going there!

At first, we were going to go by train, but that would have been quite complicated because we would have had to change train various times and the journey would take 12 hours, so there would be no compensation.

Then we learned that there were bus trips organised for students, but when we went to sign up it turned out there were no spaces left. The bus had a good price of €35, leaving at sunrise and returning the next day at sunrise. Really good, because the Oktoberfest facilities close at eleven o’clock at night.

So, we were without a space on the bus and with a 12-hour journey on the train… Then we looked into renting a car and for 40 euros each, with fuel and everything included, we went to Munich by car. We booked a car online and when we went the next morning to pick up the car from the rental, they told us that we had to pay the deposit with a credit card, not a debit card. We were so lucky that, by chance, somebody had a credit card so we could finally use the car hahaha. We were already on the road when it became clear that our journey wouldn’t take four hours as expected, because there were road works and therefore the traffic was not flowing, therefore our journey took us six hours, including breaks to go to the toilet, stretch out legs etc.

Finally, in Munich, we asked the people there how to get to the centre. Once in the centre, they told us that the best things to do it park in the outskirts and take public transport. So, we went there to park in the Olympia Park, where it cost us 4 euros to park there for the whole day and night (brilliant price). Then we tried to take the underground, and the people sent us one way and then the other hahaha. Finally, we followed some Germans dressed in the typical dress and we got on the underground and finally arrived at the festival.

The truth is that it was not what I had expected. It is like a fair, there are funfair attractions, popcorn stands, cotton candy, caramel-coated almonds, balloons… and then there were the wooden huts where you drink, but, well, you can be alone on the terraces because you have to have a wristband to enter, which costs a lot. But then the inside is exactly the same as outside, only that inside there is an orchestra, but the music is the same as the music you listen to outside.

Here, the beers are enormous. They are enormous jars that are almost difficult to hold in your hand. As well as beer, there are also refreshments and food.

Something that really caught my eye was that the toilets were impeccable, in fact there was a cleaning lady in the bathroom the whole time to make sure they were clean, the toilet paper hadn’t run out… and outside, by the exit of the bathrooms, people could leave a kind of tip for the good state of the bathrooms, the tips were left by whoever wanted to leave one.

The attractions were as though you were in a theme park, there were attractions all over; free fall and things like that, but also the typical bumper cars and such.

People were already going to the festival at nine o’clock in the morning and starting to drink, and at 11 the facilities closed! Then we tried to go to a club or something, but we couldn’t find anything, not even a bar. Hahaha, so we had a botellón (a booze-up in the street in Spain) next to a petrol station.

The weather accompanied us all day until two o’clock in the morning, when it began to rain. It was then that we went to sleep in the car. But to get to the car from where we were was another adventure, ahah.

It continued to rain the following day, but somebody had the brilliant idea of sightseeing, so we went to the centre, parked the car and discovered that there was a bank-holiday in Munich and so nothing was open. Finding a cafeteria was hard work, and then it was over €3. 50 for a coffee.

Finally, we realised it was two in the afternoon, and we went to go back home (to Strasbourg). The surprise when, after putting fuel into the car, we discovered there were enormous traffic jams! It was Sunday! It took us 8 hours to get to Strasbourg, we left at two o’clock and got back home at ten o’clock, so we had to return the rental car the next day before 8:30 in the morning, so we had to get up early after such a busy weekend.

Although it was an unforgettable weekend, I noted that it made me ill with a fever.

I also noted that the people in Munich were very friendly, and had no problem with speaking Spanish, English, French… at least the people that we met. The truth is, I hadn’t thought that Germans were so hospitable. Of course, if you find a German on a bike, run. Haha.

A NEW ADVENTURE IN THE PAUL APPELL UNIVERSITY RESIDENCE

The new adventure in the residence is using the washing machine, haha.

Many people have never used a washing machine in their life, it is true, but this was not our case. The problem here was the way of turning on the washing machine and dryer. I will tell you how:

On Monday, we decided to do the washing, after asking the secretary where the washing machine was, we went there with our dirty laundry. What a surprise when we arrived there and realised you couldn’t buy the washing detergent there but had to have bought it before. Another surprise was that you had to pay with your student card to use the washing machine by topping it up (with money), and ours hadn’t arrived. So, due to our ignorance, we returned to our rooms, hoping to do our laundry the next day.

Already Tuesday, we found the machine to top up your student card, then we bought the detergent and we went once again to the washing machines. As we were two doing the washing, we decided to put the washing together in a big washing machine of 8kg, the clothes only just about fit in, but they came out well washed. We put the clothes in the washing machine and we went to pay. We put the card into the washing machine and, without further ado, it began to wash our clothes. The price to use an 8kg washing machine was 4 euros.

When the washing machine finished, we took out the clothes to put them in the dryer, but the 8kg dryer was in use so we decided to try to fit the clothes into a 6. 5kg dryer and, to our delight, it did. We put the clothes in the dryer and went to pay, but the dryer didn’t work, and it didn’t work… until, after a while, we realised that we had paid for a wash instead of a dry, and a washing machine was one without any clothes in it ahahaha.

When we finally realised this, we were able to see how turning the dryer on is done: the dryers had a number and, when you pay, you have to choose the right number and then you can use the dryer. And if you thought it ended here, think again…

The launderette closes at eleven o’clock at night, but ten o’clock is the latest you can use the dryer and washing machine. So, we used the dryer at ten o’clock, and the dryer takes 50 minutes, the numbers don’t add up. So, whilst we were waiting, we went for dinner and arrived 10 minutes before the dryer cycle ended. But what a surprise when we saw that the cycle still had 25 minutes left. Impossible, this dryer doesn’t work… but at 10:55 PM, we decided to take out our clothes from the dryer and the clothes weren’t dry, because the duvet cover had bundled up the clothes so they couldn’t dry, so we had to bring back wet clothes, and improvise a washing line in our rooms.

I only hope that the next wash, within two weeks, will be easier. At the end of the day, you have to live life with a sense of humour

Step by step.


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