Nestled halfway between the sea and the Alps in the east of France, Lyon is a medley of piercing skyscrapers, ancient ruins, alleyways from the Medieval ages, and illustrious Renaissance palaces, despite the centuries’ efforts to wear them away. The city has not only earned the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also a reputation as the gastronomic capital of France and home to vibrant, diverse residents. The quick pulse of a large European city paired with the quaint charm of French tradition attracts droves of students and travelers alike. Come study abroad in Lyon and see why Paris may be the City of Light, but only Lyon can be the Capitale des lumières – the Capital of Lights.
Studying Abroad in Lyon
With some of the top-ranked universities in France and the world, Lyon plays host to a large and booming student scene. The opportunities to study in Lyon are almost endless, giving you a wide range of subjects to choose from. Some specific subjects that are popular for study abroad programs in Lyon include:
International Affairs. As the third-largest city in France, Lyon is a crucial center of international exchange and interaction. Perhaps most significantly, the Interpol Headquarters as well as the home-base for Euronews are located in Lyon. The large population of international professionals and organizations has given rise to a distinctly multinational focus at most of Lyon’s universities, with some institutions focused entirely on the subjects of politics and international affairs. Some examples of courses include, Government and Politics in France and Europe, or Politics and Economics in the European Union.
Cinema. The world-famous Lumière brothers took center-stage here in 1894, when they pioneered the world’s first motion picture. Today, Lyon carries on their tradition with not only one of the world’s largest film festivals, but also a proud culture of cinema not only throughout the city’s numerous historical movie theatres, but also in the classroom. If you are interested in French cinema, what better place to study abroad than in the birthplace of film itself? Courses may include Introduction to French Cinema or Great Authors in French Cinema.
Business & Economics. Lyon can boast ranking as the second richest city in France after Paris, and the city and its surrounding area is one of the most important economies in Europe. As such, numerous domestic and international companies have entrenched themselves along Lyon’s cobblestoned streets, especially in the biotechnology and software development industries. The city is a hotspot for business, and so most of the universities in Lyon focus on this area of study; therefore courses such as The Political Economy of European Integration or International and Intercultural Management are common.
History. Although many European cities can boast pasts that stretch back eons, few are as well-preserved as Lyon. Considering that the city was founded during the Ancient Roman Empire, the pristine preservation of its historical monuments, buildings, and artifacts are simply astounding. Lyon’s fierce pride in its history, which can tout the influence of Roman dictators, Medieval saints, and Revolutionary armies, is clearly present when studying history in Lyon. The city was also a center for the French Resistance during the German occupation of WWII. There is truly no better way to immerse yourself in the history of another culture than to walk through its streets, which have been standing for hundreds of centuries. Some examples of courses include History and Memory: France and the Second World War or Lyon: Memories, Identities, Territories.
Keep in mind that the French college environment is very formal, with a heavy emphasis on respect between professor and student. Although a large city with plenty of English-speaking students and professors and classes taught in English, some basic French language is almost always required to study abroad in Lyon.
Life in Lyon
Lyon is the dynamic, thriving city that somehow avoids the extraordinary high costs and weighty expectations of Paris. The city is divided into 12 arrondissements (neighborhoods), each one as different as the next. From the ever-popular and bustling streets of Presqu'île, to the historical cobblestoned alleys of the Croix-Rousse hill, to the rollerblading group that zips through the city streets every Friday at 8:30 p.m., there’s something for everyone in Lyon.
Lyon is famous for its food and local wine, but it also lays claim to one of the most popular festivals in the world: Fête des Lumières, or The Festival of Lights. Starting on December 8th and lasting for approximately four days, Lyon becomes a spectacle of living art with buildings, rivers, bridges, and parks adorned with millions of lights that dance to different colors and music. It is a celebration that goes back for centuries, showing just how proud the city is of its heritage and culture.
Since Lyon is home to one of the largest universities in France, amongst many other academic institutions, there is a very strong student culture within the city. Lyon is also an excellent city for those looking for a bit of the outdoors within city limits; many students spend sunny afternoons alongside the banks of the two rivers, which cut through the city. Lyon is also home to one of Europe’s largest urban parks (including a free zoo) as well as numerous cafes and museums that are studded along the wide, neoclassical streets.
The city is connected to the rest of France and Europe by its multiple train stations and international airports. Paris is just a two-hour train ride away, while Italy and Switzerland are also easily accessible. Much of Lyon can be reached very easily by foot, however it is also equipped with a metro system, trams and buses, allowing you to explore every arrondissement of the city.
Accommodation & Visas
Most study abroad programs in Lyon will provide three accommodation options within the city: shared apartments with other study abroad students, campus residence halls, or homestays. Residence hall placements can be difficult to come by, as a majority of university students live independently in apartments throughout the city. Homestays are an especially unique experience as it fully immerses you into the lives of the French community. Aside from the incredible living experience living with a local family, you’ll also get to enjoy the traditional Lyonnais lifestyle and authentic cooking.
If you are studying in Lyon for less than 90 days, you do not need a visa to study in France. However, if you plan to study abroad in Lyon for longer than 90 days, you will be required to obtain a Schengen Visa through a French Consulate or Embassy. You cannot apply for this visa more than 90 days before your departure date. It usually takes approximately three weeks to process a visa application, so be sure to submit all of your paperwork ahead of time.
Benefits & Challenges
- Extend Your Cheek. In France, you’ll find that la bise, the kissing of cheeks rather than the shaking of hands, is the essential and most common greeting throughout all of France between friends. In the same vein of thought, be prepared to put forth a little effort if you’d like to form a personal connection with the locals. The French are very proud of their language and their culture, making them somewhat wary of boisterous foreigners. It is important to attempt to reach out by learning and speaking French in day-to-day conversations, rather than resorting to English.
- Watch Your Wallet. That is to say, try to budget. Although less expensive than Paris, exchange rates and Lyon’s tendency for extravagant living can make studying abroad in Lyon somewhat costly. Be sure to take advantage of student deals and opportunities offered exclusively for study abroad students (look for the word Erasmus).
- Embrace the Lifestyle. Studying in Lyon is an excellent opportunity to get a taste (literally and figuratively) of French culture. Be open to the French way of life and you will not only have an eye-opening academic experience, but also incredible personal growth that will help shape the rest of your life.