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Une université ouverte sur le monde! Caribéenne et amazonienne! Américaine et francophone! Française et européenne! En un mot : créole!

Coming to French West Indies and Guiana University


Mme Agnes AGLAS
M. Jean-Luc ALLARD
GradeResponsable administratif


Welcome to the University of the French West Indies and Guiana ( U.A.G.)

As you may already know, UAG, one of the 102 French universities, is not located on the European continent but 7000 kilometres away from France. However, UAG is particularly privileged as far as the original geographical context in which it evolves is concerned: it has 6 campuses on three different territories, namely Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Martinique which are known as DFA's (Départements Français d'Amérique) or DOM's ( Départements Français d'Outre-Mer).

  UAG is at the crossroads of the South American continent and the Eastern Archipelago of the Lesser Antilles. You may have to travel by plane or by boat from one campus to the other. It takes three hours by plane to travel from French Guiana to Martinique, and four hours by boat from Martinique to Guadeloupe (although only forty-five minutes by plane!).

  As you arrive on one of UAG's five campuses you will probably be charmed by the temperature and the vegetation around but, without a good preparation ahead, you might very soon be disappointed because life on the islands or on the South American continent is very different from what you have been used to so far.

  Most of the following information has been written by Dr Ben Fisher for the students from his university, the University of Bangor in Wales. Dr Ben Fisher has become a specialist in students' advising and it works!

  I have adapted his to document and added a few more details for you. So, please, read this information very carefully and your stay at UAG will be an unforgettable one.


Maryvonne Charlery, Programme Coordinator

Testimony from students over many years suggests that a lot of what you need to know is in here. Inevitably there are things that aren't covered, and conditions change. Comments from your own experiences are welcome at any time.

The year abroad is a big step, and it's perfectly normal to feel a little apprehensive about it. It's also entirely normal to feel homesick, or even a little tearful, when you first arrive, and the first few days or weeks are bound to be the hardest of the year. However, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER, TURN ROUND AND RETURN TO your university. You can make it - thousands of language students have done it before you, and Bangor students have an excellent record of making a go of the year abroad. Much of this information is to do with the dreaded French administration. So, two basic principles about paperwork:

  • Keep photocopies of everything. Make more as you need them.
  • Never, ever surrender original documents if you can possibly avoid it. Certainly you should only ever surrender the originals of birth certificate or passport if required to by the police (and nobody else). This is extremely unlikely to happen.
  • When you have to deal with awkward or obstructive officials, don't take it personally.
When will I hear about UAG?

Those of you coming on an ERASMUS programme or from a partner university are known of, since you a “formulaire de pré-inscription” is sent to you, as soon as your university sends the list of their students to the Bureau des Relations Internationales.  . Anyone who's applied to UAG and hasn't had a response by July should contact the Bureau des Relations Internationales (bri@univ-ag.fr) to introduce yourself. As you aren't going under an exchange programme, we may well be unaware that you exist. The same information applies most of the time to the university "lecteurs" (language assistants). The official notification of your appointment is a document called the “arrêté de nomination”. It is important to keep it carefully and make copies too. You will get all the necessary information   from the "Service du personnel" at the university. You will also need to make contact independently with the local CROUS (explained later) to have some information about your accommodation (www.crous-antillesguyane.fr/).

What needs to be done over the summer?

 Students at university should ensure that they know the fire exits from all lecture rooms and any safety requirements of the UAG.
It is in your interest to avoid making yourself noticeable as foreigners, by using guide books in French rather than English, studying maps before you go out rather than in the street, and using French when talking to other British visitors in public places, or, if you must use English, speaking quietly.

Check with the local Syndicat d'Initiative/Office de Tourisme on areas best avoided at night, and get your bearings in your new town before sampling any night life. Other French students of your own sex should be in a position to advise. It is quite common for night clubs to be at out-of-town - indeed rural - locations, so be sure you have safe and reliable transport; don't be afraid to use taxis, they're economical for a small group sharing the cost.

Should political/social demonstrations occur in your area, please remember that you are foreigners, and thus have no inherent right to participate, even if you sympathize. It has been known for foreigners to be deported for taking an active part in such demonstrations; it has also been known for students who have found themselves caught up in unrest to find it a more traumatic experience than they expected; what starts off as a peaceful, good-natured manif can turn nasty in a matter of seconds, and restraint is an alien concept to the French riot police (CRS). Above all, be normally sensible, just as one could expect you to be in your country. Every now and again one meets students abroad who seem to have forgotten the everyday commonsense care of self and property which is expected at home.

Travelling alone at night is not recommended. Women are likely to encounter more unwanted approaches from men than they are used to.
You might encounter aggressive begging. It will vary in character from the traditional beggar in the church porch to the apparently disabled individual who will distribute badges (pin's) in a café and invite you to buy them. A straightforward stony-faced “non” will almost always stop you being bothered; do not engage in conversation.

In Martinique and Guadeloupe, you run a risk of being robbed in some isolated places or on some beaches. Students have sometimes found that they can defuse a situation by speaking French or even Créole if they've picked it up. But do not put yourself at risk, do not «have a go»; belongings can be replaced, you cannot.

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