Why Study In France ?

Christmas Market at Champs-Elysées

It’s a question I get all the time. Yet I never responded to it properly.

I usually give a one-liner reply of “to do something different” because that’s the heart of it but one year later, I’ll try instead to explain the reasons why studying in France could be an option to consider.

1. Studying Overseas

As mentioned, there were many uncertainties during that period of submitting applications and making decisions but studying overseas was something I was extremely certain of. It’s definitely not that universities in Singapore are incompetent (they’re even ranked really well) but I craved that experience of living outside of familiarity, of discovering first-hand what else the world can offer.

2. Getting out of the English-speaking bubble.

With the interconnectedness of today, sometimes I get the impression that the global news I read, the western shows I binge watch or the music I listen serve as a peephole to the world. Until I realise that they’re all in English. Sure, english is the most often used language and notable papers or media get translated into it. But what if not everything can be translated? It’s easy for a native english speaker to get complacent in this bubble and I myself didn’t quite comprehend what this entailed when I first heard about it. To illustrate this simply, world news that appear on popular French newspapers (e.g. Le Monde, Le Figaro) differ quite significantly from the English ones (e.g. BBC, New York Times, CNN) — both in content and write-up. It’s quite surprising that what is noteworthy to one is not worth mention to the other. And this doesn’t even cover what’s outside the occidental (I.e. western, i.e. white people) bubble.

3. Studying in a different language

I find it fascinating that the link between biological / chemical reactions in our brain and thoughts is language. There are so many interesting insights on how thinking in a different language, especially one acquired later in life affects thought processes that I could pen another rant on it. While I received plenty unexpected reactions to this decision (“are you crazy”, “why would you do this to yourself?” “will you be able to cope?”), it’s actually pretty common for people to study in a language other than their native tongue. As I realised after a three-week exchange programme in Bordeaux, being in the country itself and using it speeds up the learning process. Many people also do language programmes before they enroll in other universities and it’s a good way to spend time living abroad.

4. Cost

Yay to socialism. Public universities in France cost 404.10 € a year. To put that in perspective, it means that even with accommodation and living costs included, studying overseas costs less than studying locally (in Singapore and perhaps in other countries like in America). Also, there are plenty of scholarships around to encourage international students to study in these universities, given after the first year. This debunks the myth that studying overseas is only possible with kachingz ($$) and it is thus an option for more to consider (:

5. Different Tertiary Education System

Not a very related photo but enjoy

It’s ingrained in many of us that we should go to university, select a major that’s practical / we don’t dislike, then get a job. The system here is pretty different, in that universities aren’t the obvious route after high school. What they have are trade schools, écoles instead. The difference is somewhat like Singapore’s Junior College vs Polytechnic scenario, except that there isn’t a hierarchy nor stigma. In many cases, it’s even the opposite. Because many trades are that specialised, these écoles have direct partnerships with companies and what you learn in school has a very close link to how those comapnies work. Given the broad scope of industries in France/Europe, This also means that being a world-class pastry chef or a fashion designer is a very legitimate path where going through these écoles get you into those vocations directly.

6. La vie française (Life in France)

Glorious french food from ubiquitous Artisanal French Boulangeries (the waffle in the photo wasn’t that good though)

An interest in french culture is recommended. You don’t have to like every single bit (e.g. I am semi-allergic to smoking) but liking some parts makes the experience that much more worthwhile. Paris is rated as the best student city in the world and it’s not for nothing. There’s plenty to love here and my favourites include how design is a rational concern (evident in posters, architecture, dressing style), how philosophy is ingrained in their education system the way math is in ours (it’s a compulsory subject), how well-rounded and diverse people are (even engineering students are really interested in politics), how i’ll-just-do-whatever-i-want people are (though that does lead to the ridiculous admin), etc. Oh, and food.

7. Travelling from the heart of Europe

The European Train network system is highly enviable

There are so many cities that claim to be the center of europe but France is one of them and it makes travelling really convenient. Trips no longer have to be a luxury when you have a 6€ bus to somewhere else, or a rail pass for unlimited travel. Europe is also severely underrated as a tourist destination where there are plenty of hidden treasures and communities who keep to their traditions. It’s an educational experience on its own.

Ultimately, we all have different purposes for going to university. Be it for the experience (that’s me!), for the professional qualification, for a vocation, etc., there’s a lot more paths out there and here’s another few of them.

P.s. Thanks to those who shared their experiences, here’s another contribution :)

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