Despite hearing a multitude of horror stories about Cuques (specifically the unrenovated halls with communal showers and toilets), I decided to take a room here. Anyone who has ever tried to find an apartment here for the same low low price as halls will understand my pain and several month's worth of wracking my brain as how to find the money to cover the obscenely high rent and living costs in Aix, and Provence in general.
So my place is basic, it's a single bed 'dorm room' in halls. We share toilets and showers on a floor of people.....which isn't as bad as it sounds: There are plenty showers and toilets for a whole lot of people to get naked and wet at the same time and they're cleaned and maintained by the staff here, twice a week I think. At least I don't have to scrub toilets......I'm getting every penny's worth out of my rent in reality! The rooms have mini-fridges, biiig windows with shutters and plenty of storage space for all of those photo frames with pictures of you and your cat that you so desperately needed to bring with you to Provence.
Kitting my room out cost me around 130€ for everything including kitchen stuff and food and some more clothes and most importantly, lots of bedsheets and comfy pillows. The rooms here are given as just that. A desk, a chair, a fridge, cupboards, bathroom area and a mattress for your bed. No blankets or quilts or any 'luxury' items come for free here....
Also, this academic semester in France is the first time i've ever lived in halls, and it's a great experience as well as a great way of saving money (which I want to use to travel more). It's also, of course, an enormously good way of throwing myself head first into social situations and ways of learning the language with real natives: Erasmus students here are an enormous percentage, seemingly, of the student body, so finding French students with decent banter is of course imperative. I found myself some casual alcoholics. They're awesome.
The first night I was here, as I already said in my previous blogs, I was invited out to the hill at Cuques, and from then on met tons of people and my boyfriend too. It was a great night and living in halls really is good for that sort of situation. I recommend finding your Erasmus group for halls anywhere in Europe. The groups here work quite well and it's from there/that that I met the casual alcoholics who I see almost every night now.
However i've noticed that it's very work-orientated here. There doesn't seem to be such the same social-leaning to French halls as to UK halls. My direct neighbours here are phantoms who I never see, although I have met an awesome Spanish guy called Jorge who lives right next to me, and a guy called Raphael with the best taste in music ever. I'm trying not to generalise too much, but it's a lot quieter here than compared with UK halls. I don't mind that at all though...one of the reasons I didn't want to live in halls in UK was for fear of just losing myself in a mad frenzy of drink and drugs. (of course I didn't need halls for me to do all those things either ;) )
So for anyone coming to study in Provence, take heed. Cuques is good.... as long as you don't mind being asked for a cheeky tenner off your neighbour because his girlfriend wants to buy some crack cocaine. True story, bro.