ROOM TOUR: STUDENT RESIDENCES IN PARIS

Tuesday, April 21 Париж, Франция


This article about student residences in Paris is dedicated to those who are going to France to do their Licence or Master - first and foremost, to those who got such scholarships as bourse d'Études du Gouvernement Français (as I did) and bourse Eiffel; but also to anyone else who is thinking about renting a student room to save up some money (and just make everyday life simpler).

As mentioned previously, I was lucky enough to get a French Government scholarship. This scholarship gives plenty of different privileges, including government aid with accommodation (which came in very handy since there are already many different problems to solve when you move to another country). That means, I did not have to look fo accommodation on my own - Campus France agents on-site were the ones responsible for it. Getting a scholarship also meant I will have to pay smaller rent - and the payments will be made directly by Campus France.

Nonetheless, before my departure I had quite a bit of anxiety - there was not enough information available, only some dry brochures and several concise emails. I boarded my flight with only a one-night hostel voucher in my pocket (provided by Campus France). What would happen next... Nobody knew at the time.

YOU MUST SPOIL BEFORE YOU SPIN WELL, OR LES ESTUDINES PARIS-IVRY


The morning after I landed in Paris, I arrived for my appointment in the Campus France office in the 10th arrondissement. Turned out, there were no more rooms available in the districts I was aiming for (5th, 13th...), and the only option they could offer that was more or less close to my school and did not cost a fortune, was in the student residence located in Ivry-sur-Seine. Everything looked good on paper and I decided to accept the offer without much hesitation. Only after I signed the papers and had lunch at Le Petit Cambodge, I learned that the mysterious Ivry-sur-Seine is in fact a far-from-picturesque suburb located two steps away from périphérique, a ring road which surrounds Paris.

My residence was located on the Jean-Jacques Rousseau street, but the views were not able to spark a whole lot of philosophical thinking. From my windows, I would see factory pipes and glass office buildings; to reach the closest metro station, I had to pass by the Leroy Merlin and then right below the périphérique (where, on the luckiest occasions, I would even see rats running back and forth); the only bus I used would stop every twenty minutes, right next to where several barges were parked (who would have thought that the embankments of the Seine may actually not be photogenic).

Sounds marvellous, doesn't it?.. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. In my dreams (which, as I swiftly understood, were rather naive), I would imagine myself living in a humble student place, yes; however, I imagined it being cute and cozy, somewhere in the heart of the left bank, with a boulangerie and a flower shop around the corner. But in reality everything was quite different. Next to me, there were only two odd shopping malls. You should have seen a look on my Russian friend's face when I told her there is no 'authentic' place to buy a baguette in my neighbourhood.


I have to admit though: inside the residence, everything was quite alright (that is, as long as I pretended there was no instant noodles smell in the corridors and no freshmen who decided to throw a party in the room next to me). On the first floor, there was a laundry (with 'student' prices but with a very limited number of machines), a cafeteria (where I never set my foot though), a few vending machines with some snacks and some hygiene products. The residence manager was kind enough to allocate me (quote) 'one of the best available rooms' - with laminate flooring and fresh furniture. To be fair, it was a full-fledged apartment rather than a room: a small entrance/kitchen, a spacious bathroom, a bedroom with a convenient built-in wardrobe, and even a proper little balcony (yes, guys, I had my own balcony). Up until now, this first apartment is still the biggest one I have lived in in Paris.


The apartment came with quite a few 'utensils': some basic tableware and cutlery, a few hangers, bed linen and towels (which I was supposed to take to the first floor every two weeks according to the schedule to have them changed). However, I had to go to the closest Carrefour a few days after I moved in to get more household items like a kettle and some cleaning sponges, as well as a couple of decor elements to make my place feel a bit more like home.

The main advantages of this residence were definitely a huge supermarket down the street (better assortment than in the city, and better prices too), spacious rooms, fuss-free electricity/wi-fi services (there was no need to set them up on your own). The rent was also affordable - as a scholar, I was paying ~450 euros/month and I could also apply for CAF (fyi: for non-scholars, the rent was ~850 euros/month). The obvious disadvantages were lack of public transport and the 'industrial' character of the area, with no parks or cafés around. This lack of feeling like I actually 'live in Paris' was one of the main reasons why I started planning moving somewhere else before I even settled in.

Luckily, I got an opportunity to move just four months later.

STUDENT DREAMS DO COME TRUE, OR CITÉ INTERNATIONALE UNIVERSITAIRE DE PARIS


In the end of December, I decided to email Campus France to ask them if they may have any rooms available in other residences. To my surprise, they replied straight away saying that there are in fact some rooms at Cité Universitaire (CIUP) - the famous 'student city' of Paris which is basically an enormous park with 38 residences: from maisons that remind you of Hogwarts with their gilded coats of arms to colourful futuristic buildings.

Thousands of lucky students from around the world live here - I say lucky, because it really is difficult to get admitted: for example, when I was trying to prolong my stay after my scholarship period was finished, I was not able to succeed despite having a great application. Living here is truly a great experience. In the Cité Universitaire park, you can find rare species of plants and insects, the quality of air here is good, and there are plenty of opportunities to train outside. In the main building, there are Service d'Accueil des Étudiants Étrangers, a student cafeteria with very affordable prices, a gym with a swimming pool, and a library - moreover, Angèle's music video for her popular song 'Balance ton quoi' was also filmed nearby.

Anyway, I suppose you won't be surprised to learn that the next day I was in the Campus France office. I was offered a room (own bathroom + common kitchen) at Maison des Provinces de France which was built in 1933. The place was smaller and more expansive than my previous one; but the history of CIUP, its location (only one minute to the tram station and the Montsouris park, just seven minutes to metro line 4), plenty of different supermarkets and shops - all these were the reasons why I was still happy to move (although the moving day itself makes me cringe to this day).


Here are some of the other obvious advantages of living at Cité Universitaire (notably at Maison des Provinces de France): lots of wood in the rooms, big beautiful windows and elegant staircases, weekly room cleaning, regular bed linen changes, cheap and well-equipped laundry at rez-de-chaussée, common study rooms, on-campus safety. When it comes to disadvantages, I would point out the following: elevators (constantly out of service), common kitchen (overpowering smells, blocked sinks, and disgustingly dirty stoves), weak wi-fi (a router or a cable is a must), single beds, barely-there heating during the winter, and am-I-in-the-sauna heat during the canicule period (when the temperatures started hitting +42-43 marks last summer, even the clothes that were inside my wardrobe on the opposite side of the window were getting warm).

If you will be lucky enough to get a room at CIUP, do keep in mind that there is literally nothing in the rooms except for furniture - no cooking utensils, no toilet paper, no hangers; you will have to purchase absolutely everything. However, since people are constantly moving in and out, there are often 'sales' of items that departing students do not need anymore - sometimes they even give things away for free. When it comes to the rent, it differs significantly from maison to maison. Mine was ~550 euros/month; without the scholarship you would have to pay ~750 euros.


I lived at Cité Universitaire for seven months, from January to August 2019. I was longing to experience living at a student residence like this for quite a while (blame the countless American movies I watched growing up) - in a historical building, with forged staircases, and a library with high ceilings and cozy yellow light coming from reading lamps. On top of that, renting a room at a student residence allows one to avoid a lot of organisational issues that anyone would encounter should they decide to look for and rent a studio on their own. This is why if you do have an opportunity to live at a student residence, I would highly recommend using it.

I sincerely hope that you found this article helpful. I decided to share my experience because I remember how before moving to France I was also looking for photos of residences and for reviews - but to no avail. If you have any questions (for example, about deposits, meals at the student canteens, etc.), I will be happy to reply to them in the comments section down below!

Also, please let me know if you would like to read about my experience of looking for and renting an apartment in Paris - or maybe the information you can already find online is, in fact, enough?..

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