While studying abroad in Toulouse, you’ll live la vie en rose in la ville rose (the pink city). Uniquely pink, terracotta brick buildings rise up around winding cobblestoned streets in Toulouse to create an idyllic environment to live and study abroad in. Its south western location, between the Canal du Midi and the Garonne River, means the temperate weather is perfect for a stroll through town year round. Named the best city in France for study abroad, there’s no better place to spend a summer or semester studying than Toulouse.
Studying Abroad in Toulouse
With multiple universities, like the University of Toulouse, the Toulouse School of Business, and the Toulouse School of Economics, there are study abroad programs in Toulouse for any major available in both English and French. Literature, history, fashion design, and business are all popular areas of study in Toulouse; although, French is by far the most popular of all.
The French university experience varies from the university experience in the U.S. You may be used to taking anywhere from 12 to 15 credit hours a semester, with three credit hours per course, meaning you have classes two or three times a week for one hour at a time. At French universities, your classes will be set up similarly to a graduate school seminar, so you’ll meet once a week for a full two to three hours instead.
At the beginning of the semester, your prof (what you, and French students, will call your professor) will give you a syllabus, or calendrier, outlining the whole semester and providing you with due dates for assignments. Most of assignments will be in-class essays, but each course will require some sort of oral presentation or final paper called a redaction as well.
You do not necessarily need to be fluent, or have any level of proficiency, in French to study abroad in Toulouse, since many courses are offered in both English and French. However, most study abroad programs in Toulouse will include at least one language course, if you are not participating in an intensive language study. Even if your program doesn’t usually include a French language course, it is highly recommended that you take some sort of French language course, no matter your skill level, while studying abroad in Toulouse. Speaking French will help you make friends with other French students, and fully immerse yourself in the culture of Toulouse.
Life in Toulouse
If your only understanding of France comes from movies set in Paris, you might be in for a bit of a shock studying in Toulouse. Toulouse is a large city, the fourth largest in France, but the lifestyle differs greatly from Paris. The pace of life in Toulouse will be a little slower and there will be fewer tourists to navigate, but don’t for a second believe it will be any less exciting.
Toulouse is home to a wonderful cultural scene, with plenty of museums, art galleries, and private mansions (hôtels particuliers) to explore, architecture to admire, and music and dance to take in. Students will be able to explore the banks of the Canal du Midi and the Garonne River, or one of Toulouse’s many markets; from flea markets to flower markets and antique book markets, there’s a little something for everyone.
Life in Toulouse is just that, life in Toulouse. If you only focus on the dreamy, romantic aspects of living in southern France, you’ll begin to resent the day to day schedule that life as a study abroad student actually entails, such as weekly trips to the market and grocer, and yes, even doing laundry. Some of the basic aspects of life in France will not be very different from life in your home country. In fact, it’s the simple day to day tasks that will make you feel the most française, like taking your panier, a basket-like tote bag, to the market and walking back home with a baguette under each arm, munching on the crusty ends for a quick snack. It’s the simplicity that is the beauty of French living.
Accommodation & Visas
Housing in France tends to be more expensive the closer you are to the city center. However, most study abroad programs in Toulouse will provide accommodation in a dorm, an apartment shared with other students, or a homestay with a French family. If you’re looking to be fluent (or close to it) in French after your summer, semester, or year of study abroad in Toulouse, living with a host family is the best way to achieve fluency.
If you attend a summer study abroad program in Toulouse, you will not be required to apply for a visa. However, if you place to study abroad in Toulouse for a semester (or longer than 90 days), you will need a temporary long-stay student visa, which will be valid for anywhere between four and six months. If your study abroad program is a year or longer, you’ll need to apply for a long-stay student visa that is valid as a residence permit; you will also need to fill out a separate form for the Office of Immigration after arrival in France to obtain this residency card.
French visas can be tricky, and French bureaucracy can be slow and frustrating. Beginning the application process as early as possible is recommended. Your program provider will give you any necessary documents, but you’ll be applying for your visa and attending any scheduled consulate appointments on your own.
Benefits & Challenges
Risk is worth the reward. Nothing wonderful and life-changing is ever easy, but the decision to study abroad in Toulouse will be worth every potential bump in the road. You may struggle to adjust to the pace of life in southern France, and the language barrier might make it hard for you to find your place in Toulouse, but if you face this challenge with grace and determination the risks will be worth every reward.
A French friend is a friend for life. A French friend may be hard to find at first, as the French are much more reserved and they are focused more on quality, not quantity of friendships. Be persistent, but not too pushy, and soon you’ll have a whole new group of friends to sip wine with at the café or practice the French art of conversation. A French friend, once made, is a friend for life.