Hear the name Bordeaux and you probably think of the wine. And yes, being in close proximity to vineyards is a major attraction of this south-western French city.
The cheaper-than-Paris cost of living, good weather, excellent transportation system, proximity to the Pyrenees (for skiing in the winter), and UNESCO World Heritage-status of Bordeaux are just some of the other attractions of studying here.
Whether you want to learn some French during a short summer course or stay for a year or more to become fluent, Bordeaux is a hot contender for the best place in France to study as an international student.
Bordeaux is an exciting and beautiful city with plenty of French je ne sais quoi -- and a lot of great wine. It offers a more intimate experience than Paris, which can be a great alternative for students not looking to study abroad in a major city.
Culture & Immersion
Bordeaux is still a big city with around 240,000 inhabitants. It's a multicultural place, with many Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, and German settlers, as well as international tourists year-round. Bordeaux has warm summers and mild winters. The French consider this part of the country to have a great quality of life, and Bordeaux is overall a very desirable place to live. There are no shortage of cultural activities to get involved in, and doing so will enhance your studies and make your time in France even more worthwhile.
Culture Shock & Support
Everyone who travels abroad copes in different ways, but almost everyone finds certain aspects of life abroad a challenge. How intensely culture shock affects you in Bordeaux will largely depend on how long you plan on staying.
Strategies that have proven effective in dealing with culture shock include making friends with locals and other international students, learning the language, immersing yourself in the social life of the city, and getting out and being active in your new home (walk through the parks, join a gym, go hiking).
College in Bordeaux is taught in French, with a limited number of courses taught in English, Spanish, and German. It's important that potential students choose a study abroad program that's suited to their level of French, otherwise adjusting to life and study in Bordeaux could prove too challenging. If you want to learn or brush up on your French, a shorter summer (or other intensive) course may be the best option. If your French is already good, a longer period -- including a whole degree -- in Bordeaux could be very rewarding.
If you're studying as part of an exchange program with your home institution, advice about how to deal with culture shock or health (including mental health) issues should be provided. If you've directly enrolled, you'll need to seek these services for yourself. French universities, such as the University of Bordeaux, offer a range of student support services, from disability support to interpretation.
Bordeaux is a popular city with tourists, so there's lots to see and do. Part of the historic city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bordeaux's Gothic and Baroque architecture is a sightseeing highlight of the city, as are the art galleries and museums. It's also a very modern place, with good shopping, public transportation, and other amenities. In the winter, the ski slopes of the Pyrenees are not far away. Other French people love to come to Bordeaux because of its weather, attractions, and way of life. There's definitely lots to enjoy here as an international student!
Insider Tips on Studying Abroad in Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a center of wine-making in France, and while that doesn't mean it's compulsory to drink alcohol, it does mean there are unique advantages to studying in Bordeaux. Viticulture (the making of wine, from grape to glass) is taken very seriously here. If you're interested in supplementing your education with knowledge and skills that can be used in various future careers in the food and hospitality industry, see what your host institution offers.
Studying in Bordeaux is a good option if you want to learn or improve your French. It's also a great place to study a range of arts and humanities subjects -- like history, art, architecture, literature, film studies -- because just walking around the city and being active in the local life will expose you to amazing case studies. Much better than only learning from a book!
There are various ways of studying in Bordeaux at the bachelor's and graduate level:
- Direct enrollment. This means enrolling directly at the university like you would at home. Studying in Bordeaux this way gives you the greatest flexibility in terms of location and degree. However, you will need to have good French language skills before you arrive.
- Direct exchange. Direct exchanges are coordinated by your home institution, and this is the way most people choose to study abroad. If your French isn’t already strong, this is a good way to continue learning. Find out whether your home institution partners with any colleges in Bordeaux to explore this option.
- Third-party provider.If you want to study in France but your home institution doesn’t have a partnership in Bordeaux (and the idea of direct enrollment sounds too challenging), then going with a third-party provider could be the answer. Graduate students will either want to enroll directly with an institution in Bordeaux, or study there for a short time in partnership with their home institution.
If you're studying in Bordeaux for a short period, getting a room in a dorm may be the best option. It'll save you the trouble and expense of looking for private accommodation, and you'll be able to meet other students, both international and French.
If you're staying for more than a few months, it makes sense to rent a room or an entire apartment. While this can be arranged ahead of time, it's usually preferable to go and check out a place in person and meet the people you'll be living with first. If seeking shared or private rental accommodation, check university noticeboards or search for Facebook groups for students studying abroad in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux has an extensive public transportation network, including trams, buses, and railway, as well as taxis. Individual tickets cost around $2 per trip, but there are also good-value monthly passes available. Bordeaux has been named one of the most student-friendly cities in France because of its excellent public transport system.
Despite being one of the most popular countries in the world to study abroad, France is surprisingly affordable for students. Plus, Bordeaux is significantly cheaper than Paris, so you'll get more bang for your buck here.
Cost of Living
If you're coming from an expensive North American city, Bordeaux is relatively inexpensive. However, it's still one of the most desirable cities in France, so prices are certainly not rock bottom. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center averages $700 per month. Public transportation is quite affordable, at around $35 for a monthly pass. A cup of coffee averages $4, a meal out $16, and a bottle of wine just $6.75.
Citizens of the EU and Switzerland don’t need a visa to study in France. Almost everyone else needs a short-stay Schengen visa (up to three months), a temporary short-stay visa (three to six months), or a long-stay visa. You'll just need to show proof of funds to support yourself while in France (currently 615 euros per month) plus medical insurance with a minimum cover of 30,000 euro.
Can You Work While Studying in Bordeaux?
International students are allowed to work up to 964 hours per year in France, which works out to be around 18 hours per week.
Some financial aid is available from the French government and private institutions. A database of scholarships available to international students is run by Campus France in French, Spanish, and English. API also offers a variety of scholarships for those participating in their programs. Finally, the French government funds scholarships for students from the US who are interested in studying the French language.