At 26 years old, Shaeann – a Trinidad & Tobago native – decided to uproot her life to pursue her MSc. International Business at the IESEG School of Management in Lille, France.
What inspires us to move abroad may vary but, study abroad experiences are perfect for people like Shaeann who want to merge the next step in their professional careers with a lifestyle challenge.
Deciding where to do your study abroad is a challenge all on its own for many people.
For Shaeann, though, it was as simple as an obsession with French culture which she developed while pursuing her undergraduate degree that led to France being her top choice. If that wasn’t enough, a trip to France in 2017 definitely convinced her that there was where she was going to live!
Applying for a French Student Visa
Studying abroad can come across as daunting when you factor in the visa process. We’ve all been there – not knowing where to start or how to go about finding the right information.
The perks of connecting to our fellow Caribbean Millennial travellers is that they’ve already gone through these processes and can point us in the right direction to help make the situation less stressful.
Here’s some insight on what the visa application process is like for T&T nationals who want to study abroad in France.
Can you briefly walk us through the documents you needed & the visa type you’re on?
As a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, unlike other applicants who can apply through CampusFrance portal, we must apply through the nearest French embassy, which is located in St. Lucia.
My advice would be to prepare everything in advance. (Be over-prepared if possible!) I started my preparation in January and made my appointment in April.
Here’s a list of the documents you’ll need:
- Proof of financial support
- Proof of Accommodation
- IDs: Passport, Birth Paper
- Parents/Guardian IDs
- Job letter (if you’re currently employed)
- Proof of french language studies (may not be required but gave just in case)
- Travel ticket
- School Acceptance Letter
*label and photocopy EVERYTHING*
Book your appointment at least 3 months in advance of your travel date. The appointment usually takes around 1-hour, granted you have everything. They do not interview you (i.e it’s not like an interview for a US visa). I received my approval by email around 2 weeks later and mailed my passport to St. Lucia for the visa to be placed inside. It is a tedious process so my advice would be to start early.
Adjusting to Life in France
How does University life in France compare to the Caribbean?
I attend a business school, which is super different compared to a French University. I will say that it is also quite different from my undergraduate experience at UWI. My class has 17 nationalities, T&T being the first (whoop whoop!). So it’s interesting to communicate with people from all over the world in one single room. My professors are also quite diverse. I’ve only had one French professor thus far. The workload is much more intense as I have around 17 courses (yes 17!) per semester.
What were some of your expectations moving to France?
My only expectation was to not meet any Trinis! Haha! So far mission accomplished (Just joking)! However, I expected to be a bit more at ease with the French language but learning French continues to be a struggle.
Have you been able to easily make friends and meet new people?
Most people know that the French aren’t the friendliest, but I knew I had to meet locals somehow. So I downloaded Tinder (don’t judge me lol). I’ve met a good couple of friends there who are equally eager to learn English while they teach me French. So it’s a win-win.
What was finding housing like for you?
My story is a bit different as I moved to Lille 2 months before the first day of school. I also had to show accommodation for my visa so this meant finding a place to live by March/April.
It took about 2 months to find a place I really like because, as with most places in Europe, the apartments are very small (affordable ones).
I used websites like HousingAnywhere, Studapart, etc… I recommend Studapart because it’s safe, secure and you have a lot of affordable options for most cities in France. I found my apartment on Studapart.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about your life in France?
That I’m living my best European travel life! 😂
People see my travel pics on IG and are amazed. They don’t know the struggle of battling with 42km/h wind, dealing with minus 3 degrees, the time it takes to get administrative work done in France, etc….
Are you able to connect with other Caribbean people where you are?
Unfortunately, I’m probably the only person from the English-speaking Caribbean in Lille. (Seriously!) But I’ve met two Caribbean folks at the IESEG Paris campus. They’re from Antigua and Barbuda & Jamaica.
What’s one piece of advice you have for fellow Caribbean Millennials who want to study abroad but might be uncertain if it’s the right move for them?
Research, plan ahead (1 year+), and save! Don’t just move to a country because you visited a couple times and liked it. Come see with me and live with me are two different things! Please ensure that this path is something you want because once you start planning there’s no turning back. Well, there is but that’s wasting time and energy.
Managing Travels & Studies
Are you able to travel around or lot? Or do you spend most of your time studying?
Life is about balance. I think I’ve managed to balance my study and travel life quite well. I mean since I’ve been here I’ve been to 12 countries so far and passed all my courses. So I guess I must be doing something right!
Where is the last destination you travelled to?
In January 2020 I visited 6 countries:
- Berlin, Germany
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Krakow, Poland
- Budapest, Hungary
- Bratislava, Slovakia
- Vienna, Austria
What has been your most memorable trip?
My most memorable will definitely be my trip to Amsterdam. It was the most spontaneous, unplanned trip and my credit card is proof of the result haha!
What is the furthest destination you’ve travelled to?
What destination have you found to be overrated?
Berlin….maybe it’s because it was the last day of the year but that city is hella wild! Wow!
Has Shaeann’s experience thus far in France helped to shine some light on the beauty of doing your Master’s degree abroad? If nothing else, it’s taught us that you absolutely can balance good grades and stay booked and busy visiting five destinations in less than a month!
Feel free to head to her IG and follow along at @getyourselfashae! All of her travels are documented in her highlights as well as her feed!