Post graduation in France – on a scholarship:
I finished my B.Sc. in Mathematics from the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, at Pondicherry in 2008. Like all citizens in this beautiful part of India, I was fairly conversant with French. I knew the language and had been practicing it for 15 years. When I got a scholarship to do a post grad from a prestigious French University, it was a dream come true.
I went to an Alliance Française and enrolled myself for the DELF/ DALF course, equivalent to TOEFL for the English language. At the same time I went to Chennai and enrolled myself at the Campus France office and started the process, the roadmap to study in France. Campus France, formerly Edu France are centres in all major cities in India and it helps Indian students wanting to pursue their post-graduation, PhD etc in France.
The University and the course:
I decided I would do my M.Sc. in Business Information Systems. A mix of General engineering and Management. I had chosen my college, ESIGELEC and Campus France helped me in the process of finalizing the documents etc. Finally I applied to the EGIDE scholarship………(around 250 scholarships are given out to Indian students every year from the French government). I knew I had a good chance considering I had a good level of French. And so I got the scholarship of 615 € per month for 12 months.
Once I was in France, everything was different, the social life, the cleanliness, the weather, the air, the people, it was another culture altogether…………I had already experienced it a bit mixing around with French people in Pondicherry but this was going to be the beginning of a great experience.
My course was taught in English and the management modules were very interesting with visiting professors from all over the world.
The French Experience
I reached Rouen, in Northwest of France, it was gloomy, raining, and cold even in the late summer. But the experience was turning out to be very different. Starting from the accommodation, food, university, everything was so organised and easy, that it felt good. No traffic, fresh air, snow, 5 layers of clothes and the timetable was relaxed………there were holidays, projects ……a good balance. Time flew. Soon we had the internship.
I must add though that knowing French was definitely an advantage as whether it be bank work, buying things from the supermarket, university stuff, everything was in French…………the French are proud people and seldom speak in English. So I used to often help my Indian friends who did not speak French.
The best thing that the French government offers is a social security cover for students and it is worth 200 € for the year and with that a % of your rent is reimbursed by the government. It is called CAF (Caisse Alocation Familiale). As a scholarship holder I got 60 % CAF instead of the normal 30 % and my social security was paid for.
Holidays-all over Europe
During holidays, we used to plan and go visit neighboring countries. With my scholarship money I was able to visit Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, a bit of France and Germany.
The advantage we had was that we were a big group of Indian students and were always together. So the social life and missing India was out of the question. He disadvantage was that being such a big group of Indians, we did not mix around too much. And that is quite a disadvantage as mixing around with French people helps to learn their culture, the language and many other things.
Internship – in Paris
12 months flew and then it was time for the internship to validate the Masters. Most of us did our internships in Paris. That too was an experience by itself. Suddenly there was so much to do and see…………the life was much faster. A bit like Mumbai or Delhi but only more cold and clean.
There was a lot of variety of food, lots of Indian restaurants………but all in all a superb experience.
The most difficult part of the education in France is getting an internship as it is not the same notion of campus placement. You have to market yourself and convince the companies to take you. Sending 100 applications a day and getting one interview call is normal. Getting a job is tough but not impossible. Often how wisely you chose the internship determines your job opportunity as many employers keep their interns. The other difficulty is renewing your visa once the course and internship is over.
Travel was hard work during winters…………It was 18 months of learning, fun and discovery. All in all it was an experience, a complete one. Today we can all cook, we are more tidy, we have an exposure and we can adapt to situations better in our professional life and most importantly living alone in a foreign country teaches you how to be independent, self-sufficient. disciplined and more responsible.
Check out part -2 of Kushal’s experience of France as an Indian student in the next article.