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How to prepare for living and working abroad in Paris


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Going abroad as part of your university studies is a truly exciting experience. Whether you are commencing your studies at a European university through the Erasmus programme or undertaking a work placement, it is always best to plan ahead to make the most of your time living abroad.

On my year abroad working as a British Council Language Assistant in Paris, I take the time every day to soak in the vibrancy of France's capital through taking a different street to work daily. On each route, I am blown away by the beautiful architecture and the city's cultural offer.

However, my time in Paris has not always been so picturesque.

Image credit: Leonard Cotte at Unsplash

When I first moved to Paris, my mental health suffered as a result of being unprepared for living and working abroad.

In retrospect, there are some important things I wish I had known before moving abroad.

Opening a bank account

Administration in France is slow, to say the least, and this is also the case for many European countries. Therefore, it is important to make arrangements which enable you to carry out day-to-day business before you depart your home country, especially if you are planning on working abroad.

Opening a bank account was particularly complicated upon arriving in Paris where I was overwhelmed by many options with very different rates. I eventually decided to go online with HSBC, my bank in the UK. However, things were not straightforward.

Encountering difficulties with online banking, I requested a meeting at a French HSBC branch, which had a week-long waiting list. This made me so anxious because I needed to provide my bank details to my school as soon as possible in order to be paid, and, consequently, if I was not paid on time, I would not be able to pay my rent and maintenance costs.

Although meeting face-to-face with a bank employee was the best way to sort things quickly, it is best to make financial arrangements before departing your home country.

Financial preparations

Living abroad, especially in Paris, can be very expensive if you want to experience the city fully. Financial concerns have been a big weight on my shoulders during my time here and I have since realised that it is paramount to budget in advance so that you can fully relax and enjoy your time abroad.

For students renting privately in France, you can apply for the CAF, a housing benefit for people working and studying which really eases some of the financial pressures you might face. The process is quite lengthy but it is worth the admin to save money on your rent.

Important documents

It is also important to pack photocopies of your passport and other important documents and make spare copies before leaving the UK in case of emergencies.

Pickpockets are everywhere in Paris. If your passport is stolen, the process to purchase a new one is ten times easier if you have a copy, especially if other IDs and your mobile phone have been taken too.

Image credit: Skitterphoto at Pexels


If you are planning on heading to the Alps to make the most of France's great skiing conditions, it is essential to check that you have the right insurance cover.  Most universities provide general insurance for working or studying abroad, however, extreme activities are often not included, so check with your university's study abroad team before leaving the UK.

In France, Civil Liability insurance is also mandatory, which I purchased for a small fee each month with my bank.

Although I am now completely settled in Paris and only occasionally miss Gregg’s sausage rolls, I can honestly say that living and working here has been every bit as challenging as rewarding. It is okay to feel stressed when you are moving to a new country, but bear in mind that there are many other students in the same boat. Speaking to students who have returned from studying abroad is a great way to calm any anxiety.

Most importantly, make the most of the experience: laugh, cry, and eat macarons to your heart’s content!

To make sure you keep your head when heading abroad, follow more guidance from the FCO Travel Aware page.

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