André hiking in the Alps
Studies, South Africa
André van den Berg, South Africa

It has been more than two years since I have returned from my Campus France studying experience, yet I still often think back and remark on it. I have fond memories of the two years spent studying and living in Grenoble, France (September 2012 – August 2014), which has been made possible through the scholarship I received from the French Embassy.  I have been enriched as a person and have a different view on life, the French language, culture and lifestyle. I am glad that I can still be involved in the French culture while living in South Africa by participating in French language classes and cultural events at the Alliance Française of Pretoria and the “Cercle Francophone” community of French expatriates living in South Africa.

I would encourage any prospective student to consider France as an excellent choice to complete his / her studies – be it undergraduate, post graduate or as an exchange student during their doctorate studies. It is a great way to practise the French you have learnt or to start learning speaking this useful language. It is not crucial to speak French from the start, but I would recommend that you apply yourself as soon as possible since it makes your life easier and broadens and deepens your whole experience. The universities also offer French language courses during your studies in France and the Alliance Française is also available if you need help regarding the language.

It is quite easy to integrate into the French lifestyle as a foreign student once you have overcome some of the initial hurdles which Campus France guides you through. The tram and bus services offered, allow you to travel throughout town and into the snow-covered mountains, which surrounded Grenoble where I stayed – in the heart of the Alps! The bicycle lanes found throughout the city also provided the option to travel to the university, city centre and friend’s apartments in a cheap, healthy and safe way. I stayed in the international university accommodation close to campus which offered laundry facilities, a study hall with internet access, a library, a swimming pool and games areas (ping-pong, foosball etc).  The studio I shared with my wife, also a Campus France student, contained a private kitchen and bathroom areas with two single beds, a dining table and study desks with chairs.

The international residence hosted fun events, like movie nights and pool / foosball competitions and the university organised outings, for example canyoning, hiking and skiing trips in the mountains and visiting the nearby city, Lyon, for the festival of lights celebration. If you couldn’t find your place within these communities, the student centres on campus or coach surfing groups could be explored as alternatives. The museums are mostly free to visit and numerous opportunities to attend free musical shows often arise – especially the “fête de la musique” which takes place throughout France in June and the fire-works during the Bastille day celebrations in July.

Apart from the opportunity I had to experience a white Christmas while drinking hot, French wine, “le vin chaud”, eating the traditional Chrismas cake, “la bûche de noël” and attending the market, I could learn how to ski. I unfortunately tore my knee ligaments and had to be operated. I can, however, confirm that the French medical services are of excellent standard and that the extra medical aid security, “la mutuelle”, covered all expenses, including my year-long physiotherapy sessions.

Coming back to the main reason I went to France, my postgraduate studies, I can attest with satisfaction. The lecturers, coursework, facilities and post degree opportunities are of high standard. I have had the opportunity to complete my Master’s degree in Informatics with an internship at Schneider Electric. I gained experience in a professional French company and have recently heard that the work I contributed to during my stay has resulted in a patent and publication in the international electronic engineering journal, IEEE.

I would again like to thank the French government for the scholarship they provided me as well as Campus France for their support throughout my stay in France. I would encourage any student who wants an international adventure combined with an excellent education opportunity to sign up as a Campus France student!

The call for the French Embassy Masters programms applications for 2017/2018 are currently open. Please follow the link to find out more and apply!