ULIP Finance FAQs Living in Paris can be stressful for students, especially with regards to finance. Having personally had some pretty big financial issues in my first year at ULIP (thanks Student Finance Wales), I now know that help is there should things go wrong in any way. It is completely normal to worry about financing your way through university in Paris, but hopefully through this page I can offer some information and advice. If you have any particular or unparticular finance questions or issues you would like to discuss with me, feel free to contact me via email.
How can ULIP help you with your finance? The University and Student Services can help students with their finance in a variety of ways. The University acts as a guarantor for renting an apartment and can offer help if any problems arise with landlords and contract issues. The university also offers a hardship fund and emergency loans for those in need of them (subject to filling out the necessary paperwork). For example, I received an emergency loan when my student loan did not come through and eventually paid it back when I did receive my student loan. Never hesitate to contact Student Services if you need these. They can also help with CAF applications and provide the necessary documents for opening bank accounts and applying for CAF and the ImagineR (E.g. student certificates, translations of birth certificates). The university also offers a bursary for students with a household income of less than £30,000. This should be applied automatically if your parents have given permission to declare their household income to university.
How can I open a French bank account? Opening a bank account is probably one of the first things you should sort out when you move to Paris. Many students use Crédit Agricole as there is a branch very near ULIP, but other options include HSBC or BNP. Firstly, you will need to make an appointment with the bank, if you are not confident or do not know French you can contact your buddy or a friend from ULIP to take with you to help translate. Make sure you bring your passport, proof of residence, declaration of study and some money, plus any other documents they may require. French bureaucracy is bad enough even when you have the correct documents!
How can I avoid international fees when transferring money to France? Most people will get their student loan paid into their UK Student Account, but transferring directly to a French bank account or spending money directly from your UK accounts will probably incur international fees or exchanges at unfavourable exchange rates. For this reason, most students opt to use services such as TransferWise or Revolut. These allow you to transfer money at a preferable rate or for free, depending on which service you use. I have found Revolut extremely useful this year and could not recommend it more highly. Avoiding international fees will save a lot of money in the long run.
What extra costs are to be expected? In France it could be a good idea to invest in health or other types of insurance depending on your situation and urgent need. The EHIC system will not be valid if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, so now more than ever insurance is necessary for ULIP students. French healthcare is not like the NHS, so you will have to pay for trips to the doctor or hospital and later apply for medical reimbursement by posting scanned copies of all your prescriptions and medical bills to Assurance Maladies in Paris.
Bank accounts also cost money to maintain in France, usually a small fee each month. This is to cover the running cost of the account. It is important not to leave your French bank account unattended just in case it starts going into your overdraft, which you will probably have to pay interest on.
What is CAF? CAF stands for Caisse des Allocations Familiales, which essentially is a French housing benefit. Most apartments in Paris that are within a student budget will be eligible for CAF, but you must check with your landlord to confirm this. The amount of money you are entitled to depends on your housing and financial situation, but on average you can receive over a hundre europs per month from the French government to help pay your rent. If you are not sure how much you will be entitled, you can try Caf's simulation, where you can put in your details and they can estimate the money they can provide you.
The application process is notoriously bureaucratic and time-consuming but the sooner you apply, the better. To apply you will need to complete an online application form, get your landlord to fill an 'attestation de loyer' and send some supporting documents such as a student certificate (provided by ULIP Student Services) and a translated birth certificate. If you are still having troubles with CAF it is worth booking an appointment in person, they tend to fast track your application if you do this, otherwise contact Student Services in person or via email.
Paris travel expenses The public transport system in Paris may be hot, stuffy and crowded, but overall it is a great system. When you first arrive in Paris it is a good idea to either buy a carnet of 10 t+ tickets for 14 euros, which allows you one journey per ticket using the Metro and the RER or the bus or tram networks within zone 1, equally you can purchase day tickets for around 7 euros. After that, you can purchase a monthly or weekly Navigo pass from an information desk, which is 75.20€ or 22.80€ respectively, plus an initial 5€ charge for the card. This allows for unlimited travel within all zones 1-5. The best deal is the student ImagineR Card, valid for the year and all zones. You can apply online, and it costs either a one-time payment of 350€, or you can pay 38€ monthly from a French bank account. You will need a student certificate to apply for the imagineR to prove your validity. As long as you are making over 6 individual journeys a week, this is the most cost-effective option and allows ‘free’ travel to the airport and far outside of central Paris. It is also possible for Student Finance England users and potentially others to get some of their travel costs reimbursed, which includes the ImagineR and some journeys home (provided you keep receipts of payments and all necessary documents to complete the reimbursement application).
You can also use Vélib or other bike sharing systems or a personal bike, or just walk. In order to use the Vélibs, you must pay a security deposit of around 150€ and pay a monthly subscription if you are a regular cyclist, or simply get a day pass if you fancy a change of scenery. Paris has plenty to discover when you aren’t underground and central Paris is surprisingly small. Uber is also available for getting home from a night out, and it is recommended to have it installed just in case (especially during freshers week!)
How to save money? Although Paris has a reputation for being an expensive city, there are still bargains to be had. While not everyone has a Lidl nearby (count yourself lucky if you do!), over time you will find the cheapest places to do your weekly shop or to go out for a drink. Keep an eye out for where the second and third years at ULIP or other French students go, they’re probably just as thrifty as you! Shop around as well, you might find that the Asian supermarket around the corner sells noodles cheaper than your usual Monoprix, and small shops like this often have new things to try too. Also, you can save money by checking the Nube Room in the basement before going out and buying books as there are more often than not the spare copies you need for your classes.
Should I get a part-time job? Getting a part-time job can be a great way to improve your French and get some extra income. However, it is important that this doesn’t interfere with your studies. Lots of students choose to get a babysitting or English tutoring job, but there are other options such as working in bars, cafés or shops. Babysitting and tutoring jobs are often offered on the noticeboard by the vending machines in the basement and agencies such as Be My Nounou can put you in contact with French families seeking babysitters.
Written by Geraint Davies, ULIP SU Treasurer (2019-20)