Study in Rennes: A Guide for International Students

Less than two years ago, I made the life-changing decision to study in Rennes. It wasn’t that I was itching to dive into the books again. Rather, it’s been a life mission of mine to explore the world and immerse myself in different cultures. What better excuse to tell my parents that I’m leaving home (yet again) than… that I was going to get a master’s degree? 

I’m sharing my story for anyone and everyone seeking information on studying in France – or more specifically, Rennes. This guide will cover details of my course, because I highly recommend it, as well as everything you need to know about life in Rennes. I’ll pay special attention to costs since that was a major consideration for me. 

Let’s get started. 

Why study in Rennes?

Let’s get something out of the way: you might not be pronouncing Rennes correctly. There’s just one syllable in Rennes. It’s something like “ran” or better yet, “wren” with an exaggerated, throaty “r” sound. 

historic center rennes
Timber-framed houses in the city center of Rennes.

Rennes is the capital of the region of Brittany, 1.5 hours by train from Paris. It’s a small city with a beautiful historic center dotted with museums, churches, old houses, and a variety of restaurants and bars. I love it for many reasons: the atmosphere is calm yet lively, the locals are nice, and the living costs are low – at least compared to Paris.

On top of that, Rennes has a large student population so I never feel like I stick out as an Asian. In fact, I can even find an Asian grocery store, a few Thai, Korean and Vietnamese restaurants, and a bubble tea shop (shout-out to Moon Tea!) for my boba fix.

brittany coast
One of my many adventures along the coast!

Best of all, Rennes is an hour from the magnificent coast of Brittany and all its treasures.

Universities in Rennes

I know how difficult it is to search for a course that meets all your requirements.

Luckily for those of us who want to study in France, Campus France is here to help. Its website allows you to narrow down your options based on your level (Bachelor, Masters or PhD), the region, the field of study, and most importantly… if you’re searching for a course taught in English. 

Yes, you can study in English, in France, as I did. 

But if you have your eyes set on Rennes, then here’s a list of universities in the city, with links to their programs for international students. You’re welcome!

My course & university

So, where am I studying in Rennes?

I am in IGR-IAE Rennes, a school of management part of Université de Rennes 1. My course, MBA in International Management, is a one-year program that is catered to students without a background in business. Yup, it’s legit. I have a degree in sociology and I’m well on the road to receiving a Masters in business administration. Surprise! 

igr iae university rennes
The main entrance of IGR-IAE Rennes.

What appealed to me the most about the course wasn’t actually learning business. (Sorry, Prof. Laura!) It was that it includes an intensive French language course. When I say intensive, I mean a month of full-time French classes plus ongoing lessons throughout the school year. After 300 hours of French classes, I can say more than “bonjour, je voudrais un croissant, s’il vous plaît!” 

The next appealing factor is the price. I paid €6,500 for the course fee. (It’s risen to €6,990 for the academic year 2020/21.) All in all, it’s one of the cheaper courses that I qualify for. I was also eyeing the MSc in Digital Marketing in ESC Rennes but I couldn’t bring myself to pay €18,200 for it.

Last but not least, my course includes a compulsory internship. Once you get over the anxiety of finding an internship, you’ll realize what an incredible opportunity it can be. Lots of companies use the internship period to access whether their interns are suited for a full-time position. You know where I’m going with this.

To sum it up, in just one year, I could be fluent in French (or so I thought), get a Master’s degree, AND have working experience abroad. I was sold. 

Application, visa and health insurance

Here’s a tip for you before we start this section: be patient and organized! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by French administration and paperwork. You know when you know.

First of all, where do you apply for admission to your university of choice? This depends on your nationality. If you are from the EU, the procedure begins at parcoursup.fr. If you live in a country that has a Campus France site, such as Singapore, you must enroll through Études en France. Other nationalities should register directly with the university.

friends rennes
Happy days with my lovely classmates!

After your acceptance by the university, you should begin your visa application process. I did mine through Campus France. You’re most likely applying for the student long-stay visa (visa long séjour valant titre de séjour). With this visa, you can travel around the Schengen area and work up to 20 hours per week. Once you have arrived in France, you will need to validate this visa online with OFII. You’ll find the steps here.

Another important procedure to kick-start once you’ve arrived in France is your health insurance or French social security. It’s mandatory, free, and you’ll get healthcare reimbursements from the Assurance Maladie health insurance system. You can do it online via the etudiant-etranger.ameli.fr website. You’ll receive your health insurance card, the Carte Vitale, about five minutes before you leave France (ha!) but don’t worry, you’ll get an insurance number in the meantime.

rennes riverfront
The gorgeous river in front of my apartment in Rennes.

Take note that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of paperwork. You may need to put a bit of effort to apply for housing subsidies, student accommodation insurance, civil liability insurance, and so on.

The living costs in Rennes

How much money do you need to live and study in Rennes? Let’s dive into the components of your living costs. 

Rent: The residences run by CROUS offer the cheapest accommodation for students in Rennes. The rent for a little room (9 to 12 square meters) is about €250/month. Alternatively, you could opt for colocation and search for a room on Leboncoin or even Facebook Marketplace. It’s possible to find something good for about €300/month.

supermarket vegetables
Beautiful veggies in a supermarket in Rennes.

Food: For the most economical lunches, students dine in university restaurants called Resto U. A complete meal with a starter, main dish, and dessert costs about €3. If you’re eating out, you could pay anywhere from €5 for a sandwich and €10 for fast food, to €20 for a three-course meal in a restaurant. Personally, I spend about €300 on groceries and a bit of eating out each month.

Transport: Rennes is served by the STAR public transport network, comprising bus routes and a metro line. A one-hour ticket costs €1.50. Students can also get a STAR transport card for anywhere between €30 to €55 a month, depending on your age and the duration of your subscription.

rennes bus

Entertainment: To be honest, I don’t really know. A €7.99 Netflix subscription was enough for me. But of course, there are movies, theatre shows, festivals, and the students’ favorite – bars – to spend as much or as little as you want.

Banking: You’re better off with a French bank account during your stay. Your first year with a French bank is likely to be free, as was mine with BNP Paribas. For international banking transfers from your local bank to your French bank, I highly recommend TransferWise for their speedy transfers and super low rates. Use my affiliate link to get a fee-free transfer!

Phone: As for phone and internet, you have options like Free, Orange, SFR and Bouygues. Prices vary depending on seasonal promotions. I went with Free for €8.99 and 50GB of internet per month.

rennes thabor park
It costs nothing to take a walk in the ever-changing Thabor Park, Rennes.

In sum, I’d say that you’d spend around €800 a month: €300 for rent, €300 for food, and €200 for other expenses. Of course, you could end up spending more if you live luxuriously, or less if you cut corners here and there.

How much does it cost to study in Rennes?

Now that you know my course fee and living expenses, I can pretty much tell you how much it costs to study in France. Well, at least for me. If you do the maths, it’s €16,100 for the whole year. But you might have to throw in a bit more for miscellaneous fees, like €50 for the student visa and €91 for the campus CVEC tax.

That said, I think it’s a pretty good deal.

If you look at the National University of Singapore (NUS) where I studied, you’ll find that it costs a whopping S$65,000 (or €40,400) for a full-time MBA. And this is not even inclusive of GST, or your living expenses. I know it’s not a good comparison considering the prestige of NUS and the salary returns that an MBA from NUS will offer you, but you get my point: studying abroad can be cheaper than you think!

Internship in France

Lots of students come to France with the intention to eventually work and live here. And you know what, it’s totally doable.

First, let’s talk about the internship. My course comes with a compulsory internship. In previous years, all students succeeded in finding something, either in France or elsewhere. My cohort is a special case: COVID-19 came along so we had the option to do a thesis instead.

As for me, I got lucky. I found an internship – in a marketing team, in an American company, in Rennes, which is quite an achievement considering there aren’t many companies in Rennes that would accept someone with a basic level of French like me. Ultimately, it takes a lot of perseverance to find an internship. You must keep your head high in the face of rejection after rejection.

My internship was overall a fantastic experience. I was part of a multicultural team; we functioned in English (thank god) but our meetings were in French (send help!) I saw how marketing campaigns were executed from start to end. It was pretty cool and I learned loads. Money-wise, I was paid about €1,200 each month. In case you’re wondering, there is no unpaid internship in France; the minimum internship salary is about €600.

old houses rennes
More traditional Breton architecture in the city of Rennes.

Work in France

If you prove your worth during the internship, you could get an offer from your company. Otherwise, you can still apply for a carte de séjour – recherche d’emploi at the end of your studies. This is a one-year residence permit for job seekers. Once you’ve found a job, you can apply for another type of residence permit. And if you’ve lived in France long enough, you could even become a permanent resident.

But I think I’m going too far…

All the best!

I believe I’ve covered the basics of how you can study in Rennes and end up living in France, as I’m doing right now. If you have any questions at all, drop them in the comment box below.

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