MHRD, Government of India has now made it mandatory to pursue at least 3 internships for receiving a degree. An internship not only makes you industry ready or gives you the requisite experience to thrive in your career. I had an opportunity to undergo a research experience at Biomechanics and Bioengineering Lab, CNRS at Compiegne, France at the end of my junior undergraduate.
The French education system, unlike the British or US education system, is a bit complicated. Language may be a barrier when it comes to finding a lab. However, I have already discussed in my previous article to find a host lab for research in France. Getting funds is a major concern when it comes to international research internships. There are several programmes by the governments like SN Bose, Khorana, DAAD or Charpak Research Internship Programs that sponsor your visit to a lab. However, not everyone is lucky to get through this process. But that doesn’t mean it is the end to your destination. The labour in France guarantees you a monthly salary up to 550 Euros if your period of research exceeds 2 months. I am one of those who didn’t get through DAAD or MITACS, but decided to search for labs in countries with such labour laws. Trust me at 546 Euros/month for a period of 86 days of research internship, it covered thoroughly my airfare, VISA and stay. If you are lucky enough to get a cheap furnished housing, then it may cover your expenses on food as well. However, one must start the entire process very early.
- Letter of Acceptance: This is very important and it should clearly mention your guides, duration of the internship, the stipend and probably the topic of research.
- Convention de Stage: This is the detailed contract which clarifies the minimum number of hours of work, the agreement between the host laboratory, the student and the home institute of the student. This is a must required document for students who are recipients of ‘Charpak Scholarship’ to get the VISA. However, ‘Letter of Acceptance’ is enough to get a VISA if you are not lucky enough with the Charpak Research Internship Program. Moreover, some labs require you to send the documents by post as hard copy, while some labs are fine with sending them scanned copies by e-mail. One must ask them at least 2 months before the start of the internship. The entire process takes at least one month or may be longer. This is also essential to get the badge to access facilities of the lab after you reach in France.
- Housing: One can find the accommodation in CROUS. However, it calls for a security. One can apply to Cle asking the state to be a guaranteer. Sometimes, the professors are kind enough to act as a guarantee. As I browsed the accommodation options, I found that the CROUS student residence was priced at 249.00 Euros/month for a single bedroom (chambre) of 9 square metre and attached toilet facilities. However, the kitchen was shared and had no culinary sets. So, I decided to go with the privately shared flats in apartments. The rent was 205.00 Euros and the maximum amount for the services was 62.00 Euros/month. However, it was fully furnished with facilities for washing machine, utensils, coffee machine, induction cooker and microwave. Cooking can save some cents and this widens your budget to explore France and neighbouring countries. One can look for Lokaviz website, or websites of the host university. They have international student counsellor to help with housing. Proof of accommodation is essential to obtain VISA.
- Bank Account: Some labs require to open a French Bank Acccount to transfer the stipend while some labs are comfortable transferring amounts directly to your Indian Bank account through SWIFT code. Look out for collaborations between the banks and universities. I got 25 Euros as starting balance and a monthly deduction of 0.20 Euros on opening a bank account with ‘Societe Generale’. They issued me a ‘Carte Blueue’. It was a VISA JAZZ card, which can act as both credit and debit card and also it has additional functionalities like automatic toll fee payments, although it is not a concern with you.
- Mobile Number: It will be my humble request not to take Matrix Sim Cards. It didn’t work for me and had connectivity issues. However, the most important reason is the plans are expensive and you can always find much cheaper plans. I got ‘Orange’ SIM card. However, it was expensive at the sim cost 10.00 Euros/month and the call rates were unlimited local calls at 10.00 Euros/month and 3 GB data plans for 10 Euros/month. However, I realised later that one can get cheaper plans with SFR or Bouygues Telecom or some local telecom companies. As far as my knowledge goes, Bouygues Telecom can cost half as much as Orange and it provides international unlimited calls to some countries, although I am not sure about India.
- Clothes: South France is warmer throughout the year, but North France can be cold in May. June and July are hotter months with mercury touching over 25°C on some days. The days are longer than in most parts of India with daylight ranging from 16 to 17 hours during summer. However, the nights are colder with the temperature dropping down to below 10°C. I have travelled in regions around Paris and Lille and the temperature can reach below 5°C during the night in summer. So, if your host lab is in Northern France, do carry one light blanket, one jacket and rest clothes of your choice. Please don’t stuff with too many winter garments like me because most part of the day has sunshine.
- Food: Stuff yourself with Indian snacks and food. You will find mostly packaged food here. Having a good culinary skill can be a delightful experience for you. However, France is famous for its cuisines. One can find meals (repas) in the university canteens which range from 2.60 Euros to 3.25 Euros. Do look out for free coupons against your BUTC and CROUS number. One can find these numbers on one’s badge given by the lab.
- FOREX Card and International Debit Cards: I would suggest to go with Forex Cards as you don’t have to bother about the continuously varying exchange rates. Further, you can reload them at any time you want. I carried a Forex Card by Thomas Cook and I got really decent exchange rate of 70.8 rupees=1 Euro. This was just 0.70 rupees more than the market value.
- Money Transfer to India: Transferwise is probably the best money transfer option to India from your French Bank Account. The exchange rates are very competitive and they provide transfer at the current exchange rates. Further, you can avail transfers without paying any extra cost.
- Money Transfer from India: If you have a Forex Card or International Debit Card, then you don’t have to worry much. International Debit Card is an hassle-free option. However, transfer to Forex Card Account may need a person in India to visit the nearest Forex Card issuing agency. I didn’t go with PayPal as it had higher transaction costs. If you are carrying cash and none of the above two cards, do carry extra cash as the transfer from Indian Bank Acccount to Foreign Bank Account may take some time. Transactions using cards are usually faster.
I have shared about the transportation in France and effective way to travel in France and neighbouring countries during the weekends.