Thursday, 17 May 2012

Living the student life on a budget in Strasbourg


I spent a year studying in Strasbourg, France, which, thanks to its status as one of the two homes of the European Parliament, is unfortunately rather expensive in terms of general living costs. But with a few simple tips, you can save money and benefit from all of the wonderfully French socialist measures which exist to protect students and even encourage them (ah, so different to our dear ConDems) to study for longer. Most bachelor's and master's degrees are practically free, although some of the private, specialist schools may charge higher rates more similar to British post-grad courses.

But there are ways to 'get your money back' - the French government awards grants to (EU) students who are financially not so well off; apply through the CNOUS website and you may be eligible for a 'bourse' (grant): http://www.cnous.fr/_vie_15.htm
300 - 400 € per month including charges is probably about average for a student in Strasbourg (of course you can get cheaper and more expensive depending on your preferences regarding location, room size, etc.). Food shopping can get expensive in Strasbourg, so try and limit yourself to the cheaper stores such as Aldis and Norma for the basics, and only go to Simply or Carrefour when you really must. All of the delicious products on offer may be tempting, but remember that groceries really do all add up! 

Secondly, the French government ALSO provides housing benefit to all students regardless of income, known as the CAF: https://www.caf.fr/wps/portal which you can apply for once in Strasbourg by visiting the CAF offices. This, for me, amounted to 90 € per month - almost 1/3 of my monthly rent, which really did help a lot!

In terms of living costs, Strasbourg can be quite expensive. Rooms in student residences are available but not particularly cheap; fellow students paid up to 600€ for a city centre room. Your best bet is probably a private student flatshare, available on websites like this: http://www.recherche-colocation.com/recherche.html
To save money on rail travel, the Carte 12-25 is available from the national SNCF rail company for anyone aged under 25; this allows you to get from 25 - 60% off rail travel for just 50 € per year. Public transport in Strasbourg is actually really good too, more 'German style' than French - there is a good tram network and regular buses. Monthly tickets are very cheap compared to other cities I have lived in - I paid 22€/month for a student 'abonnement' (monthly travel pass), and if you ask for an income assessment you can get a reduction based on your financial situation and your parents' income. My flatmate managed to pay only 2,20€ per month for transport! 


Another excellent opportunity to save money whilst making the most of life in the culturally rich city of Strasbourg is the 'Carte Culture' - all students of the University of Strasbourg receive this for free in their first year, and afterwards for about 6€ per year. This gives you free entry to most museums and galleries in the city, plus reduced tickets for gigs and concerts (often 5,50€ per ticket, some of the more famous names excepted of course!) For cheap sport activities, students can opt for the 'Sport' add-on when paying for their student card, which is just 15 € for the entire year and affords you access to the university's sports facilities. By signing up for a fitness class or sporting activity for the semester, you could attend professionally-run, fully supervised classes with the sports coaches of the university, from weekly aerobics to fencing, football and swimming. I consider this an absolute bargain, although you would sometimes find some classes booked up quickly. I attended an aerobics course every week and found it fun, the teacher motivating and the whole experience was excellent value for money. No need to pay for a fitness class. 



What's more, many people and students in particular travel by bike in Strasbourg as the bike path network is very good, and you can buy cheap second-hand bikes at flea markets or Emmaus, a concept which is very much worth a mention. This is a shop/workshop to which members of the public donate their old furniture and bicycles and so on, and the items are fixed up and repaired by homeless, unemployed or otherwise vulnerable members of society who are also given a place to stay here and helped to find their place in society again. The repaired items are then resold in the shop, with the money going back into the charity to help others in need. I bought my bike and several pieces of furniture for my flat from Emmaus. The bike cost around 30€ and was definitely worth the purchase, as public transport in Strasbourg doesn't run that late (until about midnight) so I found it useful to have a bike if I was returning home later than that. 

So, there you have it - my tips for a budget, yet fully enjoyable student experience in Strasbourg, one of the most culturally-rich, interesting and unique cities I have ever lived in. You're bound to have the time of your life here!

10 comments:

  1. Hi,

    first of all I must say that I really enjoy reading your blog which just found through gathering information about Strasbourg. Why Strasbourg?
    Its one of possible choice for my erasmus exchange next semester. My first choice is Germany because I would like to start relearning language again. What I found for now about Strasbroug I like it a lot. But I really dont like French language. And I get concerned about living cost. So can please give me more information about living cost. How much did you spend on month like student? I would like to travel around too. I want to go 1 big place every month(Paris, Luxemburg, Porto-Ryanair flight). What about night life in city?

    Looking forward to you answer and best regards from Slovenia, Tilen

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  2. Hi Tilen, thanks for the comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the blog and am happy to help with a bit more info about Strasbourg. You must be excited about your Erasmus semester and it is hard to choose where to go. What don't you like about the French language? I always found learning French a little bit easier than German (German grammar is hard!).

    When I was a student in Strasbourg I probably spent about €700-800 per month - €400 on rent plus charges (electricity, gas, internet), €22 tram ticket, maybe €120 on groceries, €30 mobile phone, €100 on leisure activities like going to bars and clubs, restaurants, cinema, concerts etc. Usually your Erasmus grant is also calculated based on the cost of living in the destination country, so people going to France are likely to get more than people going to cheaper destinations.

    From Strasbourg it's quite easy to travel around - Paris is about 3 hours away by TGV train and you can get quite cheap tickets if booking in advance. Luxembourg is also an easy journey away by train. I went to Rome while in Strasbourg from the airport in Baden-Baden (just over the border in Germany) as it has a Ryanair terminal and a fairly cheap and easy bus connection to Strasbourg. It is also a good launch pad from which to explore Germany - I went on day trips to Heidelberg and Freiburg. Don't forget that Alsace itself is a beautiful region - some of the smaller towns near Strasbourg are very beautiful and lie along the Route des Vins - lots of vineyards and regional wines to sample. Colmar in particular is a very pretty little town.

    As for nightlife in Strasbourg - for Erasmus students there are the usual student parties most of the time. Strasbourg University is very international and one of the biggest universities in France. Going out in the city itself can be quite expensive - drinks aren't cheap and clubs charge quite high entrance prices. As mentioned in my blog, the Carte Culture is a good tip for getting cheap concert tickets and Strasbourg has some good venues, especially La Laiterie.

    Hope this helps and good luck with your decision. I also did an Erasmus semester in Germany and Belgium and loved both experiences. I'm sure you'll have an amazing time wherever you go!

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  3. Nice Blog! I am currently thinking of choosing Strasbourg for my semester Exchange with STS. I wanted to know if there are a lot of people who speak German there? I know the basics of French but I am very interested in learning German. Do you happen to know if high schools there offer German as Second Language course? I also wanted to now a little bit more about nightlife in Strasbourg...What is the approximate entrance price for the average club? What is the minimum age for entrance? Are the high prices worth it?
    You've got a pretty nice blog here, hope you take the time to answer and best regards from Bolivia, South America

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  5. that is good experiences for the student i have go many information by your article
    keep it up..

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  6. Hi

    thanks for worthsharing information. I will be joining universite de strasbourg as PhD student. i am on a scholarship with stipend if 1500euros. my apartment rent is 524 euros.
    you think the remaining amount (~1000euros) will be sufficient for my survival?

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    Replies
    1. Yes that should be more than enough. Travel around Strasbourg is good value and I think I spent around 700-800€ per month in total when I was there, that's including rent, so it can definitely be done. Good luck!

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  8. Totally agree with your lines you have done great job its really ture story of every student think about it keep sharing your experience with us it will be helpful for student in future .



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  9. Hi,
    I'm a student from India, and I've got an internship offer from IPHC, Strasbourg. Your blog really helped me understand much about the living expenses there, as that's the most important part! Thanks for that :)
    I needed to ask one thing, the flight from my town to Strasbourg takes twice the amount as the flight to Paris. Since my budget is quite low, I was wondering if I should fly to Paris first and then take a train to Strasbourg to cut on my expense. But I'm also worried,since I'll be travelling alone for the first time to France, will that be risky?
    Could you please give me some suggestions?

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