Thursday, October 6, 2016

It's no secret: France is one of the most popular destinations for study abroad students, but it isn't exactly known for being an inexpensive country.

As a study abroad student in France, you can try to use federal financial aid or find a study abroad program that offers scholarships, but what if you want to go to France without accumulating more student loans? Is it possible to study in one of the most expensive countries in the world for free?

For students wanting to study in France on a tight budget, it's worth shopping around.
Maybe not totally not-paying-a-penny free, but yes -- a resounding yes! Studying in France debt-free is totally possible. I've done it and lots of others have too. You just have to have a little know-how, a lot of patience, and an independent streak. And speaking French reasonably well won't hurt. Here's how:

Live on a Budget While Studying in France

Whether you're studying abroad with a provider, through your university, or directly enrolling at one of France's many prestigious universities, there are a few quick tips anyone can use to save money while studying in France. Here are our favorite quick tips to get you started:

Consider studying in smaller cities, away from Paris, for a more authentic (and inexpensive) French experience. Cities such as Grenoble, Lyon, and Cannes are good possibilities.

Avoid touristy areas where restaurant prices will skyrocket -- for trips to these attractions, pack a baguette-and-cheese lunch from the corner store. Don't be afraid of dingy looking restaurants: what you're looking for is many happy-looking people speaking French, the lack of an English-language menu, and a fat chef.

Students and the under-25's are eligible for quite a few discounts in France. Purchase an international youth travel card and you'll get discounted entry to the Eiffel Tower and other major sights around France. In some places, your age alone will be enough to cheapen the price (it never hurts to ask!). Take a look at this list of resources for student deals and discounts in France.

Take out large sums of money at a time from your bank account back home at ATM's around the cities. Take this money and deposit it into your newly-opened French bank account. This way, you can avoid repetitive fees for withdrawing money and ease your purchasing convenience with a French debit card.

Au Pair and Get French Classes Paid For

If you want to study abroad to learn French but don't want or need a degree, you may want to consider becoming an au pair in France. Au pairs can be up to 30 years old and come to France as a sort of sponsored worker, typically with some kind of exchange program.

Au pairs only have the right to work in France as au pairs, have specific working hours of no more than 30 hours per week (after school and on Wednesdays) and get a room, a transportation card, and a small monthly stipend of around 275 Euros as payment.

Direct enrollment costs a whopping EU437 (about $550) -- and that includes a year of basic student health insurance!
Families are also required to pay for 10 hours of weekly French language classes for their au pairs, who must take the classes during their stay and prove enrollment to keep their visa. Being an au pair in France isn't a very well-paid job, but it provides a way of studying French in France in a non-degree program for free.

Note: If you work as an au pair, you may not be able to switch families if things don't work out, and you won't be able to switch to a different kind of visa once you arrive in France.