First impressions and rumours of France outside the dazzling Parisian city lights leaves only the few cities such as Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse as the remnants of civilisation.
The quiet life
Beyond this, for many who are unfamiliar with the country’s greater/wider geography, it is thought only to be stereotypes of tiny provincial French farming towns where the choice of shops doesn’t vary outside the local boulangerie. Indeed, these miniature towns dotted around the countryside do comprise a large part of France’s geography.
As someone who spent her second summer as an au pair in a miniscule town just outside Nantes, I can attest to the fact that life outside the city really is not all that cut off from civilisation. In fact the town I stayed in was just an hour outside Nantes on the train. However had it been the option of spending an entire Erasmus year there rather than just a month you might start to feel a bit differently…
Fortunately I was able to find an in-between option for my own Erasmus year. Dijon, a small city in Bourgogne, felt like the perfect location. It combines the more metropolitan aspects of city life with a decent amount of the sights, shops and restaurants, but avoids the more scarily expensive living cost of cities like Paris.
It is perfectly situated being close to both Lyon and Paris on the train and to the Jura Mountains in ski season. Everything you could want to see or visit in the city centre was easily accessible by foot or by a short tram journey, avoiding countless pesky Metro changes that are associated with tourist days out in larger cities. Being a slightly smaller city also meant that being able to wander back from the cluster of local bars at night was never a real ordeal. So all in all, a city like Dijon was a pretty great location for a year abroad.
A sacrifice worth making?
Nevertheless it cannot be denied that like the reason many graduates flock to London following finishing their degree, the opportunities and experiences in the capital cities or cities of a similar size are infinitely more varied.
With countless monuments, museums and bars that you might need to make a list for just to make sure you visit enough of them, the difference in lifestyle is undeniable. Ultimately the cost can be off-putting but this is a sacrifice worth making for many. However, should this be the case or even simply that big city life is just not for you, towns like Dijon make a close second choice.
Would you rather undertake your Erasmus year in a small or large city? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo: Moyan Brenn / Flickr