Working While Studying Abroad in France

by Andrea Bouchaud

Working during your study abroad program in France is great way to really have a unique, hands-on learning experience. Many students choose to work during their time studying abroad as a way to gain cultural and linguistic insights as well as an expertise in their future career. Having a job in France as a student can really give you the edge needed when looking for a job after graduation and boost your study abroad experience in France to the next level. If you’re interested in working in France, while studying in France, there are a couple of cultural and legal things you’ll need to know to get started though.

The Notre Dame in Paris, France.
The Notre Dame in Paris, France.

Benefits to Working in France During Study Abroad

Let’s take a look at the top five reasons why you should work in France while studying abroad:

1. Beef up those French skills. Most students who choose to study abroad in France do so to improve their foreign language skills. You can only learn so much from a textbook or in a classroom. Working in France will expose you to real life situations on a constant basis where you can master things like French numbers, customer service skills, and office jargon.

2. Become French in no time. What better way to immerse yourself in French culture than interacting with French people? Whereas in a classroom you’re busy taking notes and trying to not get behind, working in France presents an interaction between you and your colleagues or customers, who will most often be French. These work related interactions will expose you to cultural nuances that you’ll never see as a student.

3. Help your monthly budget. Studying abroad in France can be quite expensive and living off your savings for one semester or more doesn’t help make it any easier. Working in France can help make your monthly budget easier to manage and more affordable.

4. Make your résumé stand out. Working abroad in France can make your résumé stand out when looking for a job post-graduation. A quick tip to make sure that your France work experience won’t go to waste, apply to jobs in France that focus on your major or career goals, so that future employers can see how the skills you gained from working abroad can be used at their company.

5. Friends. French culture isn’t always the easiest to make friends in for foreign students. A work experience in France will have you interacting with the same people daily, which can help you to form relationships and eventual friendships with your French colleagues.

Four Things to Watch Out for When Working During Study Abroad in France:

1. Don’t let work interfere. The main reason you’re in France is to study and further your education. Working abroad in France is a great experience that can really amp up your professional skills, but make sure work never interferes with your class schedule.

2. Don’t get burned out (or in legal trouble!).Although you can work in France on a student visa, it’s important to remember you don’t exceed part time hours. Not only will doing so bring you loads of legal trouble, it’s also overwhelming! When applying for a job, be sure to advise your employer that you’re a foreign student and can only work a part time position (un poste à mi-temps in French). Complying with immigration laws and not wearing yourself out will help you to have a successful study abroad experience in France.

3. Don’t get hung up over low pay. Remember a job in France shouldn’t be your main source of money, it’s just a way to help your monthly budget not be so tight, help you acquire needed skills for your career, and immerse yourself more in French culture.

4. Don’t forget French cultural norms. Know and follow these four French work cultural norms: Don’t be autonomous with decision making at your French job unless your boss specifically says you can. Always take a lunch with your colleagues but don’t bring a bag lunch; French workers always buy their lunch, they never bring it from home. Don’t be offended if your French colleagues look at you suspiciously your first few months, it’s just their way of seeing what you’re all about. Lastly, don’t be surprised if you can’t work on Sunday or only limited hours on the weekends.

The Ins and Outs of Working in France as a Study Abroad Student 

Working in France can be appealing to foreign students but there are many legal and cultural things to understand about this opportunity. Finding work as a foreign student isn’t always the easiest in France. Due to continuously high unemployment rates, working is a privilege, not a right, for foreign students. This means that if a French student and you apply for the same job, the French student is more likely to get it than you. It’s not discrimination, just a way to keep their citizens off the unemployment list.

Don’t get discouraged. There are many companies that hire foreign students. The first step is to apply for a job once you arrive in France. It’s also a good idea to bring a copy of your resume translated in French. After you’re hired, you’ll need to secure start and end dates based off of your visa dates as well as your daily work schedule. Part time work is limited to 60 percent of full time hours or 964 hours per year.

After your hours are nailed down, you’ll need to confirm your employer will notify the local préfecture de police to get authorization for you to work at least two days before your start date. This is more so for students who are on a visa de long séjour. Make sure you and your French employer discuss these items before you start working: job details (position, duty, and expectations), contract length, amount of hours you’ll work per year, your start date, and be sure to provide a copy of your French student visa. As a legal worker in France, you’ll also need to have a French bank account to be able to receive compensation.

Working in France is a great way to really immerse yourself into French life, culture, and language. With the right preparations, you can legally work during your study abroad program and maximize your experience while gaining the skills you need for your future. Bonne chance!