LENS: Crous Student Housing
By Huiwu CHEN
Welcome to Paris! As it is notorious for bird cage old buildings and complicated bureaucrat process, anyone who has a room settled before arrival is VERY LUCKY.
Thanks to the school, some of us had the chance to live in CROUS and experienced the “France Limited” student life.
CROUS is the social accommodation for students. You can find CROUS apartments scattered all over Paris and other major cities. Our CROUS student apartments are located in La Chapelle, one of the most interesting areas in central Paris. From a public health aspect, La Chapelle is perfect for social observation and it will inspire you from the most trivial events day by day. It is not a wealthy area, but it is amazingly rich in culture. From the long Indian streets near Gare du Nord, to the North African bazaar on the side of Barbes, plus the massive Asian quarter nearby, and an old French market for exploring 100 different cheeses. I usually feel like I’m traveling through continents while walking around blocks in La Chapelle. The activities carried out by the residents are like millions of micro movies, reflecting the diverse culture they bring along with them, and sparkles when these culture crash against each other. Not to mention Montmartre and Canal Saint Martin are all in walking distance. Different from tourists, we have the privilege to enjoy quiet moonlit walks along the river side, and to wander through empty allies at midnight in Montmartre.
We have plenty of fun living at CROUS, although the process to check-in can be painstaking… make sure you have all the required documents before arrival. Make sure you have the highest authorized French translation for birth certificate. Make sure you have a card that works in France before you get your French bank account, because it might take 3 weeks to have your account open. If you don’t speak French, you need someone to help you in every office. Make sure you arrive the office early, even a little bit before office hours. It can be very frustrating if after waiting with 200 people in the same lobby for several hours and someone announces that they will close the office right now…
There are two offices involved. The central CROUS office situated next to the RER station “Porte Royal”. The other one is our district office, taking care of several student residences in our area. This office is at Simplon, in the 18th district. Due to the fact that they change the protocol every year, no one knows for sure where we should sign the contract this year. For my experience, we went to the central office in the morning, guided by an EHESP student assistant, only to find that there are 400 other students like us in the whole building… and it wasn’t until 2 pm when an “official” person came up with some solution after they had threatened many times to close the office (the crowd was about to initiate a new revolution…) We were sent to the other office at Simplon, crossing Paris, and realized that we could have done everything at the same office like what they did the year before… then we finally got our keys and finally checked in at 7PM. Unfortunately, some of us found our rooms still occupied. To say the least, it was a day of drama, and I deeply wish this doesn’t happen again this year. So, confirm in advance with the EHESP student assistant, and ask for someone with fluent, polite French to help.
Please do not get terrified. I share this experience just to widen your expectation for all kinds of bureaucratic situations. Despite the paperwork, the feeling of having classmates living close to you is the best nest you can find in this foreign city, and meeting other EU students from all different disciplines and other schools is always exciting. Until today, the days of La Chapelle are still a movable feast to me, glorious and full of life. And it will always be our little oasis in memory. This is our story of Paris, and I am sure you are ready to write your page. Bon courage, Bon voyage.