My apologies that this post is coming so late, but better now then never!
So this is going to be essentially part one of two posts; one about life in Bordeaux and the other about my travels around Europe.
Life in Bordeaux:
Bordeaux is a smaller city of around 1 million inhabitants (including the suburbs around the main city), in the region of Aquitaine in the southwest of France. Technically our school is located in Talence, which also happens to be where I live, but it is a only a short 20-30 minute walk and tram ride from the main city. The center of Bordeaux is a gorgeous old European town complete with stone walkways, giant arches, a gothic cathedral, and a beautiful riverside walkway. The city is full of small cafes and restaurants, but also has a wide variety of shopping. In fact one roadway is one of the longest shopping stretches in Europe, Rue St Catherine (options vary from inexpensive to very expensive). Bordeaux is most famous for being the center of the major French wine region, and as you traverse from store to market to cafes to restaurants you will notice the incredible wine options. Some supermarkets have wine sections that rival in size to their food sections. So obviously while you are here you have to try a variety of the local flavors. Unfortunately I have only been to one vineyard (chateau) but I hope to visit a few more as the weather is warming up.
As for school life here, it works significantly different then back home. Let me start with an introduction to BeM (pronounced as it is spelled and not by each letter individually). The Bordeaux ecole de Management is a graduate school that students enter after their first two years of university. It is a private school and at around 6000 Euros per year, it is considered on the expensive side for education. Most of the students start with some more basic undergrad business classes before they choose one of the many MBA degree paths offered. Our path as exchange students is the basic management degree but there are a variety of specialty degrees here, including a Wine MBA. Each semester is broken up into a series of three week sequences (4 in the fall and 6 in the spring). During the spring you have two separate one week breaks that occur between sequences 6 and 7 and 8 and 9. Basically you take only one class for 3 weeks, do all the projects, cases, papers, and exams and then you are finished with that class. They feel a bit like UofLâ€™s May semester (if you have taken a course during the May Summer Semester). However you will find that during these 3 weeks your teacher may vary from day to day and your schedule can be very erratic. Some days we had the same teacher for 6 hours (four 1.5 hour periods), you may have multiple teachers in one day, and some days you might not even have class. The exam, if it exists, is almost always on the last Friday of the sequence. Also, the school has its own cafeteria, but a lot of us have found it better to walk up the street about 10 minutes to a student cafeteria called the Crous. There you get an entrÃ©e, salad, and desert for only 2.85 euro which is about as cheap as any meal will come in France. The students at BeM also are very involved and there are always school group sponsored parties and events going on throughout the week and on weekends. Overall, even if the format is significantly different, going to school at BeM feels a lot like any other college experience, which is definitely a good thing!
(this is not me in the picture, it is our friend Jon from the Basque Country)
Outside of school, life in France can beâ€¦interesting. From my experience, which includes traveling to multiple other European countries and living in Spain, the cost of living in France is very high; much higher than those of us who came here anticipated. If you do not live in Domofrance (which is BeMâ€™s equivalent to a dorm) expect to pay higher rent, gas, electric, water, and internet bills. Also coming to Bordeaux in the spring makes it very difficult to find accommodation because most places only offer 1 year leases and almost all of leases are started at the end of summer or the beginning of fall. Matt and I found a place in Talence that some former students had used during the fall, but had returned home for the spring. We are located about a 30 minute walk from school in one direction and about 30 minutes from the Bordeaux city center in the other direction. Eating out is very expensive, even fast food. For example, a McDonaldâ€™s Menu (McDs is incredibly popular here) can cost between 6-7 Euros. Eating out a restaurant will cost a minimum of 15 Euros for food only (not including any beverage). Like most students during college, we learn to live a lot off pasta and sandwiches because they are cheap! Also the Boulangeries (Bakeries) have delicious baguettes that I eat almost every day. On a side note, I think I have upwards of 25+ croissants since I have been here. The best advice I can give any student coming to France, is learn to live as cheap as possible and then safe your money for traveling and weekend excursions.
I will be back with part 2 of this post that includes some of the many trips I have taken with friends during this study abroad!