23 August 2021
Now, on today’s episode of “studying in France,” let’s chat about something a bit less academic and a bit more… personal. I always get a big question when people hear I moved to France to study, and it’s actually one of my favorite questions to answer about living in France. Okay, enough suspense, the question that always comes up is: “wasn’t it hard to meet people when you moved to France?” The short answer: yes, of course, because I didn’t speak any French when I first arrived, and I also arrived during lockdown… yikes. However, if you want the long answer then I’d actually say no, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it could be to meet people actually!
When I first arrived I went through a difficult time because the country was in lockdown, and I wasn’t able to leave the apartment for more than an hour a day. This… I don’t really include in what I think a “normal” experience would be like, because even then French people were very friendly when I was on my daily one-hour-allowed-walk. I was even able to make friends during this time! Once the lockdown ended, I immediately joined organizations in Lyon that I thought would help me meet similar people, and before I knew it I had a good friend group here in Lyon!
Now, I won’t lie to you. The fact that I didn’t speak any French was a bit of a struggle when making close friends. However, I quickly realized that people were still happy to include me in parties or events as long as I made an effort to communicate as best as I could! So that’s exactly what I did, and before I knew it I was learning French way faster than I ever could in a class or on Duolingo! But, you might be wondering (because I get this question a lot too) “did you meet any close friends?” Yes! I naturally prefer a large friend group and a small “best friend group,” but I have definitely made several friends in Lyon that I would now consider close friends or “best friends.”
Overall, I would have a few tips to meeting new people if you are a bit nervous when you first move to Lyon:
Find a niche
Do you like hiking? Join a hiking club in Lyon. Do you like singing? Join a choir or a local theatre group! Not sure what you like? Try volunteering on the weekends or join a student international club! One of the best parts of Lyon is that it’s a large city with plenty of activities and people, so you can be sure to find other people who share similar interests to you! This will help if you don’t speak French yet, because activities are often enjoyed without speaking constantly!
Study French as much as you can
I recommend watching movies or TV in French, listening to French music, trying to read a book in French… anything to train your ear to better understand the French language, because once your French improves you will be surprised how much more comfortable you will feel making friends!
Learn to be okay alone sometimes
I don’t mean you will always be alone… I actually mean the opposite! For me, there were days I just wanted to sit in a park and read or relax and not feel the pressure of interacting with too many people at once. Moving to another country can be a bit of a culture shock, so don’t forget to just take some R&R and remember it’s okay to spend some time alone too.
Lastly, stretch outside your comfort zone!
If you are already a very outgoing person, then you might not need this bit of advice, but for those of you like me, try to get out and do more when you first move to France! The hard truth is, if you sit inside or sit alone on the quay you will likely not meet many people… Get out and go to places where you can meet people and strike up conversations! Just for the first few weeks of arriving in France, this will especially be important so you will meet people and find a few friends who can then introduce you to other friends… etc! Networking is probably the most common way that French people make friends too, so try it out!
Personally, I think friends you make abroad can be some of the strongest and most rewarding friendships you will ever have! If you ever start to feel lonely in Lyon though, just head to the international department at ESDES and chat with the team in English! The team will be happy to help you get involved in clubs and meet other students as well!