My year in Lyon has been a very fulfilling experience and something that I am extremely glad to have taken on. The opportunities to broaden one’s horizons and meet people from many different cultures are boundless. Lyon is a truly beautiful city and definitely underrated as a place to stay. As for the Lyonnais people themselves, they are very helpful and friendly, and will always do their best to make you feel welcome. Nobody really speaks English which I found surprising but refreshing, and is of course excellent for one’s French!
Having mentioned the helpfulness of the locals in general, bureaucracy and anything remotely administrative or official is sadly not easy to deal with
Housing can be a nightmare. I cannot stress enough how important it is to visit Lyon as early as possible to get something arranged. Housing agencies are suspicious of foreigners for many reasons, so be prepared for this. Also, make use of Websites such as www.appartager.com.
Avoid halls of residence at all costs, horror stories are rife (no fire alarms and disgusting lavatory facilities amongst others).
Transport is very good in Lyon but you will need to buy a pay-monthly TCL card (available in specific ‘TCL’ shops which are scattered throughout the city) in order to get around cheaply.
Banks: The Post Office banking system is by far the best. Bear in mind that all banks charge a small monthly card fee. Get an account sorted out early in order to receive CAF (French housing aid: about €100 a month) and Erasmus grants easily.
University life: The French university system on the whole is very good, if very different: 2-3 hour long lectures, very casual essay writing system (no referencing, bibliography or word limit required), although methodology and structure of work appears more important than content itself. The system suits some people more than others. There are no real societies as such but there is an Erasmus society which is helpful. On the social side, do not worry if most of your friends are all Erasmus students early on.
The French are fairly difficult to befriend at first but it is important keep trying and they will turn out to be great fun, and of course the best way to improve language skills! The nightlife is fantastic, and there is something for everyone, although alcohol in bars and pubs is always expensive, especially in Vieux Lyon which is tourist central.
If one is prepared to make the effort in Lyon, it is a very rewarding place to spend the year. I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to live here.