Hi, I’m Laura, a second year student at EBS and I spent my third semester in Nantes, studying in Audencia Business School as an Erasmus student.
But I suppose you must touch life in order to spring from it.
– F. S. Fitzgerald
Thank God for the Polish! The first two people I met became some of my best friends until the end of the exchange and they were from Poland. They were part of my small Eastern European family, since I was the only Estonian there. So we joked around that at the end of the semester I would understand Polish perfectly. That obviously did not actually happen. The people who surround you during the exchange will shape you as a person – you will change and so will your behaviour, you’re able to deal with people who have different backgrounds and traditions. It made me understand solidarity as a whole new concept (leaving out the few moments in my group project where I wanted to punch some people) and you are much more involved with different crises around the world, because the people who surround you are from those places. These people change the way you see the world, you make friendships that can last a lifetime and that is awesome! You will learn more in one day than you would in a year here.
- NEW HORIZONS
You – for once – have time to think. About what’s going on and who you want to become after you graduate. You get to step out of your life in your home country and see it from a distance. Yes, the school you go to will give you brand new (or repetitive) knowledge of things, but the people will give you understanding of it all. Most people surrounding me in France were third year students, so they had their life roughly figured out or they were on their way there. I got so much motivation to do new things, things that I had never even considered before. So, get your motivational and inspirational boxes maxed out and go do something extraordinary with it. Estonia wants to bring their talents home, but for the Estonians to discover their talents, they need to spend at least some time elsewhere.
- SCHOOL (Audencia)
My first reaction “Alright, whatever” to the fact that there is around 4000 students in Audencia was quickly replaced with “Omg, there’s so many people”. Every room you go to is packed with people and for a student from tiny EBS, it takes a couple of days to wrap your head around it. The school was huge and had an architectural logic only understandable to the French – room 600-something on the second floor!? I loved the fact that all my lecturers were from a different country, so I was surrounded by an international crowd in every sense. Most classes had a semester long group project and there were lots and lots of presentations. Estonian schools should learn how to teach a foreign language from them! I got to transfer all my classes and the study consultants there are very helpful and sweet.
France as a nation – melancholic, dramatic, polite, flirty. It’s a regular thing to see people in supermarkets talking loudly with themselves or a guy walking down the street singing songs à la Frank Sinatra, but in French. No one rarely buys wine that costs more than €8, it’s normal to roll your cigarettes while standing between people in the tram. They don’t run to catch a bus/tram, they jog gracefully.
Since France has a much bigger population than Estonia, there are a lot of things that are different. The main difference being the public transportation. In Estonia, when a tram or a bus is full, you wait for another one. In Nantes, crowdsurfing was literally an option. I have never been wedged between so many people before in my life. At times it was something like a gang fight with the additional problem of having no air to breathe, because you had someone’s hair in your mouth and nose.
The French love their language more than anything. Do not be surprised when asking whether they speak English or not and then asking them another question they will respond with a 5-minute speech in French. They might understand English slightly, yes, but they do not speak it (usually). So, previous language knowledge will save you in most of the scenarios. I was not usually the first person volunteering to speak French, but when my friends were too slow, you could hear me scream like a proper Frenchmen: “Allez, allez, allez, on y va, vite, vite!”
- IT SOLUTIONS
Let’s just say there’s no place like home to that. My European Business Environment and Culture professor had to finally give it up at the end of my semester, and admit that Estonia is indeed the best in this field. Every student has their own WiFi login information that can be used only on one device at a time – and it is slow. Their 4G was comparable to Estonian 3G at times, usually to EDGE. That’s probably the thing I missed most, a proper internet connection.
- FOOD (Döner kebab, eh?) AND LIVING
They have a fantastic student restaurant system set up in all of France, where the maximum amount of money you spend on food during lunch is €4, which provides you with an entré, a main course and dessert and – yup! – they’re all delicious! Our school also had a cafeteria and vending machines where you could get some snacks – and we had Starbucks. Everything is set up by one system – you use plastic cards to pay and transfer money on them online, at school or the restaurant. Living expenses depend on where you want to live (student residence, apartment, host family) and range from €300-600/month in Nantes. In Nantes the best place to live is in the centre (Commerce). You should calculate an additional €200 in for food. They have cheap kebab places on every corner and I had a favourite, that I always went to after a party, where my homies already knew what I wanted when I walked in.
The only people you will see wearing sweatpants on the streets are gang members or people coming from the gym. The latter is a rare sight, though. So, in France, you even dress up to go to the supermarket to buy ice cream, just because you don’t want everyone staring at you. They love their minimalism and a red lip or eyeliner is a must for a French gal. 99% of the people in Nantes wore sneakers, usually white. Also, my Canadian friends were probably the most stylish guys I’ve ever met.
You’re just more you when you come back, it’s as simple as that. Use that time to travel and discover as much as you can, because plane tickets are cheap there and you never get that kind of a chance again.
Author: Laura-Liisa Lilleberg
Editor: Katharina Binder