Accommodation in Paris
3. If you're not keen on renting in the private sector, here are a few useful links: Les Estudines - Résidences pour étudiants et stagiaires, CIUP: La Cite' Internationale Universitaire de Paris - you usually get placed in "residences" according to your nationality and it's easier to make friends! FIE - Foyer International des Etudiants - girls-only residence in the heart of Paris (St-Germain des Pres), 5 minutes walking distance to Paris I and has 24/7 security.
4. This is going to be obvious but please BE RESPONSIBLE. Yes, it is going to be a fun year away from home and you're finally going to be independent but it is NOT worth getting into trouble, legal or of any kind. Things are not going to blow over easily and the average French person DOES know his/her rights and will not hesitate to claim them, so make sure that you do know YOURS too.
5. Be clear with your landlord/lady when you move into the flat as some might be bad apples and rip you off because a) you're a student b) you're not French.
6. Keep ALL of your accommodation documents (contract, inventory and whatnot) in a special file. It will be YOUR responsibility to make sure that all the bills are paid and all other obligations are met. READ your contract especially the small-print. Know your rights and what obligations are expected of you as well as what to expect from your landlord/lady.
7. Take pictures of everything when you move in to use as proof, just in case. When I moved out, she claimed that I'd broken a chair and wanted to be repaid for damages. Seriously who wants to argue over a measly fee of 10 euros for repairing an Ikea chair but don't be afraid to put your foot down. I sent her a nice email saying I am very sorry that it is broken and I know that because a) I noted it in my copy of the inventory b) I am enclosing a dated picture. She was sensible enough to apologise but some people can get very pushy. One of my friends had her former landlady wanting to sue her for supposedly-unpaid bills and when she asked for a photocopy of the bills, her landlady threatened to sue her. She insisted on seeing them because an accusation via email did not consist of proof that she didn't pay her bills. A couple of weeks and nasty emails later, the landlady dropped the issue as she had (finally) realised that my friend wasn't about to be ripped off.
8. If something breaks, contact your landlord/lady immediately. My toaster started making sparks and I put it away in a cupboard, emailed my landlady telling her that I'd buy another one and expect to be reimbursed, which she did (and had to anyway because it was on the inventory list).
9. So basically, be smart. Don't feel pressured to pay for broken/damaged stuff just because you can't express yourself as clearly as in your mother tongue.
10. And finally...apply for the CAF! The Caisse d'Allocation Familiale (social benefit) reimburses part of what you pay depending on how much income you earn, whether you're sharing or living alone, how much your rent costs and how big it is. For my 3-room F1 flat with a monthly rent of €950 including internet and electricity (living alone and no part-time job), I was reimbursed the handsome (monthly!) sum of €200. So basically my rent was only €750.
Tip: one of the reasons to settle in mid-September is because the CAF runs a special bureau in the Cité Universitaire (Boulevard Jourdan 75014, RER Ligne C Cité Universitaire) that is solely dedicated to students until end of October I think. The "normal" bureaux welcome the unemployed, people with big families, temp workers, teenage-parents and people with health problems too – so the queue will be a bit long.
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