Mais, pourquoi Lyon?
In terms of why I chose Lyon to study for my third year, I found that it was an energetic and active city that still retains a sense of community. For example, it does not have the size of Paris, but still has a rich cultural heritage and unceasing energy. By the end of my year in Lyon, I found that I really knew the city and was so familiar with it that I felt comfortable exploring new places and meeting new people. I never felt lost nor did I ever feel as if I had nothing to do. I also chose the city based on its geographical location; it has the Côte d’Azur to the South, Italy, Switzerland and Germany in close proximity to the East and Paris in the North. I really used this centrality to travel, venturing to Aix-en-Provence, Milan, Geneva and Paris on a few occasions.
Lyon is a city steeped in history from its origins in the Roman Empire to being a key location for la résistance during world war two. La Fête des Lumières is an annual festival, which amalgamates Lyon’s rich history with its advancing future. It began as a religious procession through the streets of Lyon as a celebration of the Virgin Mary after she rid the city and its inhabitants of the bubonic plague. Since then, the festival has taken on a much more technological form, with light projections using the age-old architecture as a canvas to create breathtaking spectacles.
Lyon is the gastronomical capital of France, famed for its ‘Bouchons’ which serve traditional Lyonnaise cuisine and scattered with all the brasseries, pâtisseries and fromageries that your stomach desires. It is often said that if Paris is the heart of France, Lyon is certainly the stomach. This much is true, with roads such as Rue Mercière and Rue Saint-Jean which meander past endless restaurant facades, it is unlikely that you will not find something new with each visit.
If, like me, there are some days when you only have eyes for food, Les Halles de Lyon is a food market (conveniently located on my road) dedicated solely to Lyonnaise cuisine with 48 bars, food stalls and restaurants. Cheese and wine are also a plenty, this is France anyway, and Lyon is especially proud of its red wines Châteauneuf du Pape and Beaujolais, which are sourced from the Côtes du Rhone region.
Lyon lies between and around the two rivers, la Saône and le Rhône, which join at the south side of the city. The former reflects the Mediterranean roots of the city with pale, coloured buildings of oranges and yellows while the latter is lined with the impressive domiciles of the universities and the Hôtel-Dieu de Lyon. Living, studying and adventuring was made so much more enjoyable with the backdrop of Lyon and for me created a true affinity and loyalty to the city.
I found that my stay in Lyon was equally, if not more, focused on cultural learning than academic performance. I found this removed weight allowed me to experience so much more and open myself up to so many different opportunities. As an ERASMUS student you are surrounded by people from all over the world, from Australia, Germany, Italy and more, who share the same passion for culture and language. From a professional and personal perspective, you learn to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds allowing you to become a truly international student and a member of the global community. Similarly, you learn so much more about other cultures, not solely French but from all over the world because of these international connections. These friends will stay with you for life and I have no doubt that I will visit some of them again and continue the perpetual journey that is cultural learning.
A year abroad is undeniably a CV enhancer, especially in a world that is constantly becoming more international, with businesses and industries extending into new jurisdictions, creating a workplace which is so diverse with different languages and with differing perspectives. As a soon-to-be graduate, I feel so much more confident in my career prospects thanks to my year abroad, which has varied my skill set and cultivated my cultural awareness. It shows that I can be placed in an unfamiliar environment and thrive. It shows that I can communicate with a range of diverse people. It shows that I can understand two legal jurisdictions. And lastly, it shows that I embrace the internationalisation of society and see the world as an integrated network, rather than as isolated nations.