Article source: "Vivre avec 250 euros par mois : des étudiants précaires témoignent", TF1 Info, 20/09/2021.
Drop-out rates are climbing and more and more students are suffering from emotional distress. The indicators have never been more alarming than they are at the start of this academic year. Several studies demonstrate growing financial insecurity among French students. TF1 News spoke to a law student in this situation. She has a student grant and was able to find a small flat on the outskirts of Paris. But once her rent of 400 euros is paid, she only has 90 euros left to live on for the rest of the month. "I also have to pay for my travelcard and my phone," she told the TF1 evening news.
In normal circumstances, one in two French students has to find part-time work to get by. But after more than a year and a half of a pandemic that has slowed the activity of entire industries, the job applications are piling up. The law student we interviewed said she had applied for around twenty jobs but had not received a single response. “I hope I’ll find something to help me,” she said, “otherwise I don’t know what I’ll do".
Four or Five Hours a Day in Public Transport
At the Jussieu campus of Sorbonne University, in the centre of Paris, we spoke to three other students living on maintenance grants. Each of them have to make do with 250 euros per month. And even with a part-time job, finding accommodation remains difficult. “If you want decent housing, you have to pay at least 700 euros a month,” explained Arthur, “but, as a student, that’s not possible. We can’t find 700 euros every month, even if we ask our parents. Some do, but how many can afford it?"
So Arthur still lives with his parents. Every morning he comes to university on public transport, and every evening he takes the metro and then the train to finally reach the countryside after a long trek. He can spend up to four or five hours in public transport each day. “Sometimes, you come home, it’s late, you sit down to eat and you tell yourself that you won’t be able to do this every day. It feels like I’m starting to get a bit destroyed by this. This is no way to live. It’s not possible."
To make ends meet, Arthur does some private tutoring in the evenings, before going back home. But with the crisis affecting his family, he needs to support his own parents. “When you have three kids, it’s not always easy to make it to the end of the month,” he said, “we try to eat properly, but I sometimes have to help my parents out. And I'm not the only one. This happens to many students."
Half of French Students Suffering from Anxiety
Students are becoming more and more psychologically fragile. This observation is confirmed by two college nurses we interviewed. They said that, according to academic studies, one in two young people suffers from an anxiety disorder. “Of course, young people are anxious in the run-up to exams or when they have uncertainties, but now anxiety is becoming persistent and sometimes harmful in their everyday lives. It is harmful to their self-esteem, to their ability to build a career or imagine a future for themselves," Saphia Guereschi explained. As a consequence, requests for psychological help are piling up and causing dangerous backlogs throughout the country. “It can be a one to two year wait,” says Samia Bounouri, “we feel helpless."
Queues at Food Banks
On top of all this, there is an increasing need for food aid. As evidence of this fact, about twenty university towns up and down the country have sought assistance from the nonprofit organisation Linkee. In Paris, when a small amount of food was being handed out on the day of our report, the queue outside the foodbank stretched for several hundred metres. All sorts of different people could be found standing in line. Apolline, for example, a master’s student at the prestigious Sciences Po (political and social sciences) school in Paris, challenged many preconceptions. “Just because you’re a Sciences Po student, it doesn’t mean you have money,” she said, “last year was tough too. I don’t have a grant, even though I’m completely independent financially. I don’t get any help from my parents. Wondering what you’re going to eat every evening is an extra burden that is pretty heavy to bear."
Linkee has been relying on donations from dozens of food retailers to allow it to continue operating in the face of spiralling demand. 90% of recipients on the day of the report said that they didn’t eat at every mealtime. "Skipping meals when you’re already stressed, and when every day is a challenge, is not an option," foodbank volunteer Kimberley Paluschka explained. Every month, in Paris alone, 200,000 meals are now distributed by the association. Founder Julien Meimon had not expected such high student demand. "Now that we’re here, we have to do our part," he said, before concluding,"these students are the future of our country. Abandoning them would be like abandoning a very important part of the country, because it means abandoning our own future, and we can’t do that."
Translated by Léa Urban and Marine Brément
Editing by Sam Trainor