Nice has it all. Except for night clubs. The city has the ideal location between the sea and the mountains. Arriving to Nice, you first fly over the magnificent, snow covered Alps. Then you see the Mediterranean and your plane starts to descend. For a moment it seems like the captain is about to land straight into the water, but eventually you find yourself in the airport that emerges right from the sea. If you’re into skiing, you can easily go to the Alps and back in a day with a bus. However, if you are looking for wild night life, you are a bit disappointed. Nice mostly features Irish pubs and bars and only one night club, the High club, where the entrance is 10 euros and drinks are really expensive. A couple of weeks ago I attended a bus party that ended in a club in near-by town, Juan-les-Pins, that has a much better choice of clubs to offer.
Walking on the famous main street of Nice, Promenade des Anglais, in the sunshine, watching the cloudless sky and the Mediterranean that glistens in the deepest shades of turquoise, I’ve many times told myself that I’m never going back to Finland. I am already calculating, how long I will have to work after my graduation before I will be able to buy a summer house here. For a Finnish person, being able to walk in shorts and a t-shirt in March is something unbelievable. People were already swimming in the sea in January when I arrived, but I was later told they were Russians, which does explain a lot. On Sundays it seems that the whole city has decided to go for a Sunday stroll on the Promenade. I bought used roller-skates from leboncoin.fr, the French version of huuto.com and been using them a lot to go to one of my favorite places in Nice, the “castle hill”, collin du château. It’s a hill at the end of the Promenade des Anglais, next to the Old town. There is a huge park, monastery, an old castle, cemetery, two cafes, waterfalls-and a lovely view over the city. People go there to run, to have a picnic, to play with their children, to practice juggling and so on. Under the hill is the Old town, with its small little streets, restaurants and boutiques. Another place that I recently found and really like, is the park Paillon near the main library and “tête carrée”, the famous statue of a man with a cubicle head. There is actually a river underneath, but they covered it and build a park on it. There is a huge fountain and super cool children’s playground in the park, and often there is some additional program. Last time I went through there, city of Nice had installed helium balloons in shape of silvery fish above the fountain, so it was as if you were under the sea.
My school, EDHEC Business School, is located near the airport, on the Promenade des Anglais and there is a sea view from the school terrace (yes, our school has a terrace). EDHEC is an internationally recognized business school, (a “grande école”, actually, if you know what I mean) and normal students need to pay 12 000 euros per year to study there, so it feels amazing that I am here for free. The campus in Nice is specialized in finance, so it might be a problem if you are not interested in the subject. I major in accounting and finance myself but there are many people who study for example marketing and are here only for the climate. Some of the courses are really interesting, but as this is only the first year of finance for the EDHEC students, courses are mostly about the basics of finance and sometimes seem quite easy, they are mostly a repetition from LR03 and LR05. For a second year exchange, these courses would be great. It might also have been interesting to come here for a master exchange, because master exchange programs are highly specialized into a certain field of finance. Most courses are only worth 2,5 ECTS and electives are only worth 1,5 ECTS.
Time schedules are really different from the Finnish system and demand a bit getting used to. The courses run the whole semester and we have one week of exams at the end May. Sometimes you only have a lecture on a subject once or twice a month so you easily forget what you have learned the previous lecture. Lectures last three hours and can take place anytime between 8.00 a.m. and 8 p.m., sometimes also on Saturdays. Because of the one and a half hour lunch break, school days are really long. Electives are taught during one week, from Wednesday to Saturday, six hours per day. On the plus side, if you choose your electives right, it gives you free time to travel. Including my spring break, I have three weeks in a row for traveling, if I skip two or three lectures. These weeks I intend to spend discovering Dublin and London and visiting a friend who is doing an exchange in Spain. I live so close to the airport that I usually go there by bike, since it only takes me 10 minutes and I don’t have much luggage because I’m flying with the low-cost carriers.
There are many cheap flights leaving from Nice (Barcelona for 30 euros, anyone?), and you can go to Italy by train in an hour, so it is a great opportunity to travel around Europe. So far I’ve been skiing in the Alps, to Berlin, Ventimiglia in Italy and tomorrow I’m leaving to Brussels for a weekend. There are also many lovely, small, idyllic seaside towns surrounding Nice, like Antibes, Cagnes-sur-Mer and Menton that are really worth visiting. Cannes, with its famous film festival and Monaco, with its luxury yachts and casino are just an hour away by train.
Nice is a quite expensive city. Living is expensive, food is expensive, working out is expensive, going out is expensive-only wine is cheap. School proposes some apartments, and if you start looking for an apartment on time, you might be lucky and find a good apartment with a great location for an acceptable price. However, I started searching a bit too late (two days before I left, I wasn’t sure if I had an apartment or not), but eventually I got lucky. I found my apartment through a French website proposing roommates, appartager.fr, but there are also many others. Living with roommates is much more common in here than in Finland, partly because the rent is so high, often from 400 to 600 euros, plus electricity, water and heating. I pay 450 euros per month for my room plus the electricity, and I live with five other people. Many exchange students also live in student residences where they have their own toilet, showers and kitchens. Student residences often demand an awful amount of paperwork and guarantors for your rent (they ask, among other things, information on your parents’ occupation, salary and monthly expenses), so you should take that into account and reserve some time for the applications if you want to live in a student residence. Facebook can also be a useful tool for finding accommodation, if you write on the Colocation Nice, ESN Nice or EDHEC’s own Facebook group. It is also not a bad idea to stay in a hostel for the first couple a days, go see the apartments yourself and then decide where you want to live. I had never been in Nice before so I had no idea where it would be nice to live. Many students live near the Old town, quite far away from the school which is in the opposite direction, near the airport.
My apartment is really far away from the center, but on the other hand, it’s a ten minute walk away from the school plus I have French roommates who are super nice. I have five roommates, two girls and three boys. We often cook and watch movies together and they take me to their friends’ parties. Two of my roommates have also moved to Nice recently so we often explore the city together. If I don’t understand something, they are patient enough to take the time and try to explain it to me in different words. Without them, I wouldn’t learn much French here. One of the girls is Belgian, and I find her French to be the easiest to understand. One time she told me, that even though French is her mother tongue, she still sometimes has problems understanding the boys, because they use so many peculiar expressions and speak a different French than what she is used to.
Because all the courses are in English and most students at EDHEC speak excellent English, you don’t speak much French unless you really force yourself to do so. However, apart from EDHEC students, locals don’t speak much English, even though Nice is a big touristic destination. And if they do, it’s usually with an incomprehensible accent. One time I went to visit a gym and talked to an employee in French and all went well, until she asked me if I wanted to see her boss who spoke English. So the boss came and explained the same things to me in English and I didn’t understand a thing she said. When my brothers were visiting me, we went to a museum, and the guide was first talking English with a French accent. I didn’t understand a thing until he changed to French with an Italian accent, which was a little easier to understand.
Against all my prejudices about the cold and closed French, all the people that I have met are really nice and friendly. I was going to see an apartment, but I couldn’t reach the landlord. One of her neighbors opened the door and guided me to the right door. Another time I was working out in the gym and a guy came and brought me a gym mattress when he saw I was exercising on the bare floor.
All in all, I couldn’t have chosen my exchange place better. I’m already considering staying here for the summer…Jonna Yli-Mikola EDHEC Business School (Accounting and Finance, 1/2014-5/2014)