Ncamisile Khanyile is a French Embassy scholarship holder 2016-2018 and a France Alumni member. She will complete her studies in Engineering in applied mechanics at the School of Centrales Nantes in France this year. Here is what she has to say about her stay in France.

Je m'appelle Ncamisile Khanyile et je viens de KwesakaMthethwa, un village pas très loin de Richards Bay, KZN. J'ai obtenu une diplôme en ingénierie mécanique (honours) par l'université de Pretoria dans 2013. Depuis, J'ai travaillé chez Transnet Engineering pendant 2+ ans avant de déménager en France a 2016. Maintenant, je suis étudiante en Master de Mécanique Numérique à l'Ecole Centrale de Nantes.

This is probably all the French I know at the moment, how to introduce myself. Not perfect. Slow but surely learning:)

2. What made you pursue your studies in France? / What drew you to France?

I think it was because they offered my speciality. Not many universities in the world have this option - I anted to learn from them since they have advanced in the field. The French rich culture drew me in as well - we all dream of living or visiting France. It is spectacular.

3. Have you been abroad / to France before? How does your life differ from that of SA?

This was my first time abroad. I think the major difference (at least at my host city) is the less splashy way of living. People bike, use public transport (makes sense because of easy access to it), they recycle and reuse (it’s normal to bring your own shopping bags – be it at the supermarket, marché or clothing store). Most of the people who drive luxury cars (BMW, Mercedes, etc) are the taxi drivers. Another major difference is the seasonal eating.

4. Is there a particular reason you chose the city you are currently living in / the university you are currently studying at?

I chose Ecole Centrale de Nantes because they offer Computational Mechanics and the studies are in English. I also looked at their ranking amongst other Grande Ecoles in France.

5. What are the things that stand out for you in France? What experiences have you had that makes your trip exciting and worthwhile?

I think the highlight was spending winter holidays with a friend’s family down South in Saint-Raphael. Besides the French Reviere being one of the most beautiful places in France, I think it was getting the chance to immense myself in the French culture that made it awesome. Everyday I was learning something new about the French, and this experience made me appreciate the French cuisine, their traditions and culture. I even ate l’escargots (snails).

6. Is there any advice / tips you would give to students wishing to study in France?

I’m an academic at heart, so my studies always come first. So, my advice to someone wishing to study here is to not forget their reason for coming here, they must learn to prioritise their studies. In my Uni, the classes are insanely difficult, and the workload can easily overwhelm you. But in saying this, I think it is also important to take some down time, make friends, take time to travel (perhaps my regret to date is that I have not travelled enough, since arrival I have not been outside France). Life is a balancing act.

Also for our African brothers and sisters, the climate here is no friend to our hair (I wish I had known this before coming this side). Invest in some proper deep hair moisturising products.

7. Career-wise, what would you like this experience to hold for you upon your return from France?

I hope that this experience opens more opportunities for me, be it in academia or industry.