French would be a plus plus. But if your main concern is that you do not speak French, fret not. You will still survive. Most Parisians understand English, it’s just whether they are willing to speak it or not.
It is advisable to open a French bank account. If you want to have a French phone contract, you will need to have a French bank account. But you can do without one and use SIM cards. Société Génerale, as far as I know, is the only bank account that allows short-stay visitors to open an account. Foreign bank alternatives would be HSBC or Citibank.
Before you leave for Paris:
Applying for a French visa should be quite straightforward. Just remember to give yourself time. You need to book a visa appointment one month in advance. In addition to that, give yourself at least three- four weeks for the application to be processed. The checklist of things to prepare is up on the French Embassy website.
Do ensure you have everything on the list before heading down to apply. You will come to learn that the only way to overcome French bureaucracy is to prepare more than what they ask for. You win.
It is not necessary to have a birth certificate translated to French.
ESA does not help you to find accommodation, so it’s best to start searching for one as soon as possible. Do search for accomodation via reliable real estate agency websites. They require a fee, but it is totally worth it. Here are some recommendations:
Do find an apartment in a safe arrondissement (district). It’s best to avoid 18,19,20th , but if you’re into the Moulin rouge, then go ahead.
Travel within Paris is very convenient and reasonably priced. However, intercity travel in France can be very expensive and more expensive than travelling to other European cities. SNCF is the major transport operator in France. Tickets can be more affordable if you book them about two months in advance.
École Spéciale d’Architecture (ESA)
Modules: French or English??
Exchange students must take two compulsory modules – design, history of Paris and French language (streamed according to your language proficiency). In addition to that, you have the luxury of choosing two other modules from across all years.
Most design studios in year three are in French. However, the tutor and the teaching assistant usually speaks English as well. The first week of school is studio-free week. Basically, you will get to sit in the studios you are interested in and choose your studio in the subsequent week. (Note: Do choose a tutor who not only speaks English, but is willing to speak English, if you are not confident of your language proficiency that is) More design studios are in English in year four because there are more non-French tutors in year four.
As for the other modules, you can choose from some seminars that are conducted in English. I personally recommend the somewhat intensive but enriching theory modules by Brent Patterson.
Article contributed by Theresa Chua