Education Personal Travelling

Ma Vie Lyonnaise: My Time in Lyon, France

From the beginning of September 2012 till the end of December 2012 I was living and studying in Lyon, the second biggest city in France after Paris. In this post/report I would like to share some of my experience I made during that time.

As this is only an excerpt of my actual experience, please feel free to write a comment or send me a message for more details.

– all views are my own –

The University

I spent my semester at EMLYON Business School, a school that has a high international and national reputation. The university is one of the French “grandes écoles”. It is a campus university located in Ecully, a part of greater Lyon. It also has remote campuses in Geneva and Shanghai, which I did not visit. Thus, in this report I am only referring to the main campus in Lyon.

The campus is quite nice, with enormous roof terraces and a lot of green around. The rooms and auditoriums are very simple and in a decent condition. However, the chairs have a lot of individuals in back pain after three hour lectures.

Communication at EMLYON is mainly based on its online portal, which is quite decent, as well as a very unusual system of stacker units, called “pigeon holes” where professors, administrative staff and student organizations are leaving certain information and compendiums of the class material.  I personally found this very strange, as I am not used to being spoon-fed.

The administrative aspect of the school is ok, but of course not perfect. Hence, be prepared to ask twice of seeing certain offices more often. 

Student organizations are a big part of university life. Almost every student is a part of something and sometime it seems that students do stress more on the activities and work in those organizations than on actual academia. Unfortunately I haven’t been part of any association and neither has one of my international friends. Thus, I cannot say if it is possible to be part as a foreign (exchange) student. Nevertheless, the iLink (International Link) association organizes a few get-togethers, especially in the beginning of the term, which helps getting to know other students and the city.

The Courses:

First of all, I attended all courses in English. Courses at EMLYON are about 50 percent in English and 50 percent in French, with a lot of courses (same topic) being available in both languages. 

The choice of courses is limited, as international students get to choose after the others. Also,  the selection process takes place at one time, a certain date at 12:00pm, if I am not mistaken, hence potential server issues and other technical challenges make it a not very pleasant experience. I was, in that regard, lucky as it worked on the third try and I was able to enroll in all classes that I intended to. It is however, also possible to change some classes on the first days of school, if the class does not comply with your program or if the syllabus is not appropriate.

As I was required the full 30 ECTS as an Erasmus student, I took six courses with five credit points. Nevertheless, there are also classes with 2.5 credits available, only spanning half a semester or with limited contact hours. 

My major, International Marketing and Management at Copenhagen Business School, made me chose electives that suit the general outline, obviously, but leaving me with a very wide scope of choice. Thus, I selected the following six courses as my electives for my semester at EMLYON Business School.

Before I go on about the specific classes I took, I have to say that teaching is very different from what most students in Germany or Scandinavia are used to, as it does not encourage independent learning, but rather has a middle-school touch with homework and mandatory class-participation. Thus, EMLYON follows more the US-American way of teaching.  

MK23A – Services Marketing

This class was one of the best ones I took while at EMLYON. The syllabus spreads from classical theories in services marketing like the servuction model to actual issues and challenges in various industries, from hospitality, through travel to software as a service.
The professor, Brigitte Auriacombe, has several years of experience as a marketing manager, especially in the hospitality industry, which gives the course quite some depth. But also the external lecturers spice this course up.

MK52A – Corporate Sustainable Development

This course, despite it’s very interesting content and contemporary challenges lacked a little bit of structure. Thus, I wouldn’t say I was really satisfied. Nevertheless, the course, lead by Carine Rial, was very interesting, especially with experienced executives coming in and, for instance, participating in a panel discussion.

MK103 – Branding

This was indeed a very interesting class. I’ve seldom seen a professor so deeply engaged in the content of his field of expertise. I can recommend taking this class,  especially if you are interesting in Marketing and related fields. Since I am interested in Consumer Adoption I found this course quite helpful for my personal development.
However, I need to note that Mr. Lionel Seitz, the professor of this Branding class, lacked a little bit of structure, which limits the overall knowledge sharing and transfer.

MK115A – Web Marketing

In the beginning I was very excited about that course. Having had experience in Digital Maketing beforehand I was curious to see the academic side of it. But in the end I was rather disappointed, which might have something to do with the high expectations.
Personally, I was missing depth and focus on different aspects of online marketing and rather than the broad discussion of the challenges and opportunities.

PG28 – Internationalization Strategies

This is was my favorite course at EMLYON. Even though I was hoping for some more in-depth discussion, as I had some Strategy courses earlier, I was quite happy, as the professor, Miguel Rivera-Santos, likes to challenge the status quo and tries to dig deeper once an interesting discussion starts.
Furthermore, the course had a clear structure and the objectives communicated in the beginning were all met. Thus, overall I can most definitely recommend taking this class. Another plus is the international experience of the professor, which comes handy in regards to the content as well as the diversity in class. 

PG49 – New Venture, Growth and Development

“This was by far the worst course I have ever attended. Not only did Ms ***** lack the appropriate teaching skills, nor did she seem to be knowledgeable in the field. Moreover, the form of evaluation was inappropriate. Connecting the universities’ reputation and its slogan in regards to entrepreneurship and new ventures this class is a disgrace.”
This quote from the mandatory evaluation for each course – unfortunately – sums up this class quite adequately. I find the topic itself very interesting, otherwise I wouldn’t have decided to take that course, but the teaching and the material discussed was quite suboptimal.

Sports & Sporting Facilities at EMLYON

According to the Website EMLYON has quite a range of sports, which they definitely do. You can do everything from Badminton, Tennis, Rugby, Football(Soccer), Martial Arts, Pilates, Zumba and what have you. But, contrary to what’s written online, they are lacking some facilities, respectively facilities/fields are quite far off.
Personally I wanted to play Rugby again, but it was impossible due to the training plan, which collided with my courses, the distant training facilities and the lack of a car. 

The University has a decent gym with a weight lifting room and a room for group sessions. Also, there are Tennis courts and a Beach Volleyball field, the latter in very bad condition.
As a student the indoor court is accessible all the time, except when there are official sporting events going on. Hereby one must be lucky as schedules are mostly for decoration. But if one really feels like doing sports, there are usually people/students around to play. Basketball and Football are quite popular. For strength training I recommend going in the early morning or midday. The evening however is usually too crowded.

Housing and Living

While at EMLYON you have the option to either live on or off Campus, as usual. The pros and cons for both are hereby quite obvious. If you live in the city you are closer to the Culture, Attraction and Nightlife. On Campus you are closer to Uni and are living with a bunch of other students in the residences. I myself chose to life in Le Galion, one of the two dorms of EMYLON, the other being le Drakkar. 

My reasoning for living there was pretty much based on the fact that I did not have time to look for a flat in the city due to work and that, based on previous experience from friends, with all strikes in France it is also safer and more convenient to get to school. Especially since it is mandatory to attend courses and you can only miss 1-2 times.

 After having spent several months there, I can say that it was a good decision. Of course, living in Ecully (where the dorms and school is located) makes it harder to get home in the late evening, but night busses go Thursday through Sunday. 

I can’t really tell much about living in the city, since I haven’t done so. But I heard from friends and acquaintances that they, as foreigners, had a lot of troubles getting things running smoothly. Especially utilities and Internet are quite a hassle, since nobody speaks English and it’s even hard to get something done in decent French. Thus, if you want to avoid having cold water or no Internet for some time, I’d personally recommend the dorms. 

Pricewise, living in the city can be cheaper (Le Galion is around 500 EUR), depending on where you live and what support you get. The CAF , which is a subsidy/support for living and housing by the French Government, can be quite helpful. For me at Le Galion it was about 90 EUR per month, but can be higher or lower depending on your situation. Nevertheless, I would definitely recommend getting it as soon as possible. At the dorms the administration can help you with the CAF, as the application is tricky.






The City and Nightlife 

Lyon, as most European cities, has a lot of attractions and possibilities to spend some nice hours or even days. Plus, the rich history leaves a lot of sights, especially churches, to explore.


One of Lyon’s most beautiful and interesting site is its old town, Vieux Lyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I can most definitely recommend having a walk there. With the Roman Museum, the Roman Amphitheatre, la Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, Cathedral St. Jean and all the little restaurants, bars, and shops. Furthermore Vieux Lyon has some secret passage from WWII, the Traboules, that connect most of the house. If you are lucky you can maybe get it. To reach the hill of Fourvière (above Vieux Lyon) you might want to take one of the Funiculaires, the hill railways, which are an attraction as well. The hill is generally quite lovely to get a nice view over the city, as well as, on a good day, to Mont Blanc.

Other nice spots are La Croix-Rousse, with a good view over Lyon as well and some decent cafes and bars, the riverbanks of the Rhône and Saône. The banks are especially beautiful on a warm summer evening with some wine and cheese.

Furthermore, the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) and the Place des Terreaux, with the fountain as well as the Opera close by are worth a look. Lyon also has a huge park in the north-east of the city, the Parc de la Tête d’Or, which has a free Zoo as well. 



Lyon has quite a variety of sports clubs in the city. Personally I have seen an Europa League game, Olympique Lyonnais (OL) vs Sparta Prague, at Stade de Gerland, which was pretty alright. Wasn’t a very pleasant game, but it is definitely worth seeing. Especially if you are into Football (Soccer), it can be quite interesting as Lyon usually plays internationally.
Being a Rugby fan I also had to see a game of Lyon Olympique Universitaire (LOU), Lyon’s professional Rugby Union team, which, at that time, competed in the Pro D2, the second league in France, coming back after a year in the first division. Thus, if you like Rugby or if you want to experience something new, I can definitely recommend it. But you might want to go early, as it can get quite cold in November.
On a side note, both the Rugby Stadium, Matmut Stadium, and Stade de Gerland, are easily accesible via public transportation (metro).


For the shopaholics Lyon has some sweet spots as well. First of all, the old town, Vieux Lyon, has some artistic and souvenir shops, just if you feel the need to get some of that. Then, of course, the inner city from Place Bellecour to Hôtel de Ville has all the shops you would find in a European city of that size from the big chains like H&M to smaller, independent shops. But if you are more into malls, near the main railway station, Gare de Part-Dieu, there is a big shopping mall with everything you probably don’t need.
As an FYI, near the school there is a small shopping center with, for example, a Carrefour, a Decathlon (sporting goods), Billabong, Orange (phone shop), and what have you. Saône
At the Saône river close to the old town and Place Bellecour there is also a traditional Framer’s market every weekend, where you can get everything from Apples to Oysters.


There are numerous bars and cafes in Lyon, where you can grab a coffee, cocktail or simply a good pint of beer. Hereby the old town (Vieux Lyon), the Croix-Rousse area and the streets around Hôtel de Ville are quite nice. 
My favorite locations are the Cavern, The Smoking Dog, both in Vieux Lyon, Les Berthoms, Beer Bars in the old town and the city hall area, Boston Café, an Irish Pub/Club at Place des Terreaux. The Smoking Dog and Les Berthoms I can definitely recommend to any beer lovers.
If you are into Monday night partying the Cosmopolitan (close to city hall) has a special night, where you can find a bunch of Erasmus students. However, since I’ve only been there once I can’t really speak from my own experience.

Fête des Lumières

Lyon’s most famous attraction is most definitely the Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières), a four day long event honouring the Virgin Mary. Especially on the main day, December 8, you can find thousands of people on the streets, so be sure to reserve a room for your friends and family.
As you can see in this YouTube video of the show at Place des Terreaux, the whole city of Lyon is covered in lights, with special shows, music and other activities. Furthermore, a lot of Lyon’s inhabitants put candles on the street and in their windows, which make the event quite unique. 


Lyon’s location makes it a pretty sweet spot for travelling around France. The south of France, the Provence and Camargue, the Alps as well as Paris (TGV connection) itself are easily reachable. Since I have seen a fair share of France beforehand I actually went to visit a friend in Leicester, UK. Thus, low-cost airlines flying from and to Lyon make it also fairly affordable to visit some other parts Europe. But if you want to stay in the region, Annecy, Avignon or Toulouse are definitely worth a visit.


In October the iLink student organised a field trip to the wine region Beaujoulais, including a tour at the wine museum Le Hameau Duboeuf and a small wine sampling. Even tough I am not that much into Wine, I was pretty impressed and would recommend going there if you get the chance. Also, on the third Thursday of November the Beaujolais Nouveau is released with a lof of festivities going on. Unfortunately I did not get the chance to go due to class, but from my friends I heard that this is very nice as well.

General Advice

Paperwork. Paperwork. Paperwork. Get copies, Photos, international birth certificates and what have you in advance. You will need it for everything. I was given that advice and it really made things (a little) easier.

Also, be open and experience the diversity on campus and especially in the dorms. You will see quite some different cultures and personalities. 

That was it so far, if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me. Cheers!

In case you are fluent in Spanish, my Mexican friend Javier made a lovely video about his experiences in Lyon and France in general // Javier Arias – Lyon, Francia


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