Diaspora Life
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2014-2015 in retrospective: 1. The Bad

[Image description: A news stand with various large posters on the side in the middle of a shopping district in Lyon, France] 

I left Seoul on September 11, 2014 (even today, flights on 9/11 are cheapest within a 10-day radius). It was a 24-hour trip with a layover in Doha. There was 30kg of baggage in an American Tourister. It was a long way from Charles de Gaulle to Gare du Nord to Amsterdam Centraal.

For the first time, I was jetlagged – not just on time. I was sick for two full days – chills, cramps, headaches, cold sweat. I think my Dutch relatives have ever had jetlag, but they just let me be.

France was that much of a stress. It was a country whose language I spoke quite well but a completely foreign land where I knew nobody, whose social system didn’t seem coherent, and whose culture I wasn’t particularly interested in (Sorry France, I’m not interested in cuisine classique or nouvelle, wine or the Parisian catwalk).

I only went to France because I wanted to improve my French. Although I respect French culture as much as I do most other cultures in the world, it was my friend who had watched every performance of Les dix commandements and knew the lyrics to every Edith Piaf song (I’m more into British comedy, Icelandic rock, and Finnish jazz.). Not that I did not enjoy the culture I found in Lyon – the theatre, the opera, the music.

It was also a kind of holiday. Because of financial problems, I was one of the few students in my circle of friends who did not apply to study abroad during my Bachelor’s studies. And I knew I’d missed out on Europe because of how much I fun I’d have in international environments and by talking with multicultural friends.

The 9 months I spent in France were some of the most difficult times of my life (and I’ve been through the 7am-10pm high school life in Korea). It wasn’t just because of the decreasing sunlight.

My host family, a gem on paper, (madame was an herbal medicine expert, monsieur was a medical doctor) turned out to be a couple of maniacs so ridden with superiority that they did not allow their child to play with anyone in the neighbourhood lest she pick up “bad habits from the uneducated parents”or eat “non-organic food, which is basically poison”. I was forbidden from using the Internet after 10pm. After a month, they asked me to not use the toilet at night because it disturbed their baby and wasted water. When I asked “but what if I need to pee?”, they replied “we just keep all the piss in the toilet in the morning and flush it out together”. When I came back from the Asian market to cook them a Korean meal, they asked me to translate every ingredient in the products and curtly declined to eat any of it. Then they kicked me out for “not respecting their family’s routine” when on one weekend, I travelled without “discussing it with them” beforehand.

Then I spent 2 months in the only student housing which was available for under 500 euros on such short notice (French student housing are booked as far as a year in advance) – Habitatjeune Totem (Villeurbanne). A building whose windows rattled when it rained, whose outer walls were peeling or mossy, and whose paid internet service didn’t work at all. However, I have okay memories of this place – the price (260€/mo after ALS including all utilities), the location (bus stop and Casino supermarket located right in front of the building) and one kind staff made up for the shortcomings of the building. The bathroom also came with an actual bath.

After this I found a very nice place, Studilodge Cap Campus (Villeurbanne). Newly built studios fully equipped with individual kitchens and bathrooms, manager on site 5 days a week who takes care of the trash and corridors, but who turned out to be famous scammers who never give students their deposit back (they run an annual revenue of 3 million euros). You can read my opinion of this scammy business at Yelp. Please remember that you can always file a lawsuit against housing rentals in accordance with French law, even if you’re not in the country.

You can read about my 3-month battle over Studilodge’s scam here:

Post 1: Massive amount of helpful comments from /r/france

Post 2: After help from Internet, they realise I’m not a total idiot and decide to “exceptionally return my fees due to their services”

Post 3: I get most of my money back. They refuse to return 30€ and stop responding to my e-mails.

I also suspect that Studilodge is in cohorts with several private educational institutions, since for instance the Catholic University of Lyon vividly recommends Studilodge to foreign students on grounds that the two organisations hold a “partnership”, entitling CUL students of the 300€ “agency fee” (while there is no real estate agency involved – Studilodge’s manager conducts the EDLE and EDLS).

However, despite all the housing trouble I’ve had, I’m happy I did spend the year in France – I’ll be talking about it this Monday. But I won’t be returning to Lyon anytime soon.

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Internationally lost since 2000, Emily was born in Seoul, raised in India, and has been living and studying in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands since 2014. A translator and interpreter by profession, she enjoys talking and debating just about anything.

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