SPENDING AND FUNDING
An important thing to do when you arrive is to get a phone. When you’re looking for accommodation and leaving messages on peoples answer phones, you’re much more likely to get a reply if you’ve got a French number. However, the French mobile telephone companies rip you off over here. If you go on pay as you go and you pay 10€ for the card then each time you top up, the credit only lasts for a certain amount of time. 5€ is a week, 20€ two weeks and 15€ or 20€ is a month I think. Basically you end up having something just like a contract, but on a bad rate. The best option is to get a contract and when you leave, say you’re leaving the country and you have to cancel the contract. Apparently that’s okay, but it’s something to check into. I don't use my phone much and so I was on pay as you go with Orange and I just tried to stick to facebook and emails for organising things, until something came along and then I topped up.
Obviously, it depends where you live and shop, but I found the price of food out here to be quite expensive. The bigger supermarket you go to the better, but I settled into a chain called “Simply” and that was quite nice. There is a big Geant Casino near campus by the line C tram stop "Nerpic-Belledonne" and I used that quite a lot as well. You can get a student card and get 5% off on a monday with that. The only thing you’ll find is cheap is bread, especially a nice baguette from a boulangerie, and wine! So if you can pull that diet off, go for it!
As mentioned before, the CAF is a financial aid for students (and families amongst other things). I received 90€ monthly for my accommodation but it depends how much you’re paying. You have all year to apply for this, but the earlier you get it done the better. It normally takes around 2 months got the first payment to come through after handing in the documents. Mine took slightly longer because I needed to hand in extra forms and was away over Christmas when they asked for this. If you havn't started the application by January then I would say get a move on, no need taking the risk when you can receive aroun 900€ through the year.
You'll need a French bank account to receive it and to understand the process its best to ask a French person or you can ask someone at the EVE building (Grenoble universities attempt at a SU). They have a handy machine to print off all the forms needed on the first floor. I believe if you're in university accommodation they deduct it straight from your rent; which is a lot more helpful and means you don't have to keep your bank account open for a month or two after you leave. They also don't give you any money for the first month and every payment is given in the first week or two of the month after that. In about April I was asked to provide my birth certificate to help with their records. I never got round to translating my English one before I left, as you are told to do by the Erasmus Team, but I went down to the CAF office and they said was fine just giving a copy of my English one. They did however orginally ask for a birth certificate dated within the last 3 months, which kind of defeats the object of a birth certificate in my view, but my one was dated from 20 years ago and was fine. It is probably a good idea to get your translation done before arriving but definately bring your english one and a copy as well, but I did read on a website that French Administration doesn't accept translated items. Just be prepared for eveything I'd say. The CAF website in Grenoble is www.caf.fr/wps/portal/votrecaf/381 and you can find more details there.
Additionally, I did find the following association which provides translation services if you find you need something officially translated:
Association Dauphinoise Accueil Travailleurs Etrangers
5, place Sainte-Claire
Tel. 04 76 44 92 70
It is by Tram B stop "Sainte-Claire/Les Halles". I read on a website that translation normally costs 20€ but a reduction of 10% is available for foreign students.
For setting up a bank account, I didn't do too much research into the best banks but I just set one up with LCL (Le Credit Lyonnais) as a friend who came for the year 2009-10 had done the same. They were also advertising themselves as very student-friendly, which is a great point to bring in when something doesn't go right. I did things in the wrong order as I tried to set the bank account up with a proper address (I just gave the youth hostel address) and had to return quite a few times. Nonetheless, the service provided was good. I'm not sure if I used all the benefits from the bank but I did get some "Multi-Risque" insurance for 1€ which I think was compulsory for your accommodation if your in a coloc. Also you don't have to pay to have a bank account for the first year, so perfect for one year abroad. Apart from that they also gave me a carte bleu which acts as your bank card and you can also use it as a form of student ID. If you want a cheque book you have to ask for one and it takes a bit of time to come through (1-2 weeks?). I never really used my chequebook because by the time I received it, I had done all the deposits for items such as the Metrovelo. I believe that after the first 12 months of use, the bank starts charging you a small amount to keep the account open. This is something that I didn't need so I arranged to shut my bank account down. I didn't want to this while I was still in Grenoble so I got an appointment, explained that the CAF would still be coming in the month after my contract had finished and the woman I saw all year long was very helpful. She told me I had to hand my carte bleu and my chequier in and then I would be able to send her a letter with the details of my bank in England. She would then do a bank transfer with all the funds left in my account and shut the account for me. This all worked out well and my account was shut down promptly in August.
You’ll also receive an Erasmus Grant. This is to help cover "mobility costs" throughout the year and I received around £2,000 at the start of November. Warwick's Erasmus Team tells you more about this and the processes of receiving the money. However, you have to send your arrival form, amongst lots of other forms, to receive it and then after lots of transferring from the British Council, to Warwick, it finally arrives but not before the end of October. It’s important to plan the first few months without this. It is probably wise to find out the amount that this will be for your year because I heard with the University finance cuts, the grants may be a lot smaller. I also receieved more money at the end of the year when the grants were re-calculated (around another £1,000) but the Eramus Team told everyone that this was not coming throughout the year. I imagine because they didn't want people to plan for it and so it turns out in the end to be a lovely surprise at the end of the year.
You can also take out a Student Maintenance Loan. As you’re spending a year abroad you can apply for a bit more than normal, but this is something you have to sort out early and normally send a confirmation of your course change. So as soon as you know you’re going, look into everything on the Student Finance website and talk to the Erasmus Team if you're unsure. I got automatically given a letter from the Erasmus Team confirming my change of course and my year abroad which I had to send off; and you will probably have to do something similar. Take note that as the French year starts and ends earlier than at Warwick the first instalement will seem late and the final instalement won't come through until more or less the end of the year.