I stayed in France from November 2009 to January 2010. The faculty is called "Centre de Mathematique et Informatique" of Universite d'Aix-Marseiile. Its abbreviation is CMI, this M stands for Mathematics, it is not a first guess for local people because M usually stands for Marseille or Mediterranean here. It is under modification of its organization, therefore we can also find it in "University of Provence"
According to a guidebook, Marseille is the oldest French town with 2600 year of history, its history began in 600 BC Greeks from Phocea in Minor Asia (present day Turkey) landed there, now it is very big city with old and new port at the Mediterranean Sea. It is at latitude 43 degrees north, which is same as Sapporo, Japan. At Marseille, it is rare to have snow but it is cold in winter, especially when the north wind, which is called mistral, blows very strong.
Expect for weekends and Christmas holiday, I went to the college every day. From the apartment house to school, I usually took a bus, a metro and a bus again, it took one hour in total. I had a monthly commuter pass. When the metro was in trouble, I managed changing buses and arrived at the college. I saw a variety of services in France often stopped not only by accidents but by labor strikes.
The building of CMI is in the eastern suburb of Marseille, the neighborhood seems to be hi-tech complex including a huge campus.
CMI is well equipped with student rooms and a library, a network unix machine, which my private account was issued on the spot.
The campus has a co-op, which provides lunch for students. It is not expensive. They have a noon recess from noon to 2 pm, so it helps to save the number of seats in the canteen.
I also had no difficulty in getting daily meals, I cooked by myself. The supermarket opens from Monday to Saturday, and it sells almost everything I looked for. I like supermarket chain "Casino" since it sells items at the reasonable prices. I enjoyed Arabic cuisine available at the supermarket. I was also amazed by the variety of frozen dishes. It is simple to cook with no failure if I set them in the oven properly.
Thanks to the professor Dermenjian, he looked for the apartment for my three month stay. The apartment made my stay very comfortable. The owner kept the rooms furbished and well maintained. The environment overall was too fortunate for my status, I am now suffering a huge gap between now and then. Dreams come true just only for short temporary time.
I was very lucky because I went to the concert of Particia Kaas on 14 November 2009 at Marseille. She is one of the greatest singers in France. Her songs are, I suppose, like ones of Miyuki Nakajima. I have been learning French language from her songs. For me, just listening to songs is easiest and effective method to learn foreign language. I have been listening to her songs repeatedly since I started learning French. It goes back to 20 years ago.
French people like to talk, so do I. I turned talkative even though I have only limited French vocabulary. I love myself for having such character.
Lastly I would like to tell you several tips for the Hokudai math students who will apply for ITP and reading this page.
You will find here the computer keyboard of French version is different from that of you usually use. It swaps key positions Q and A, W and Z, therefore engineers calls it AZERTY keyboard. M is right of L. It is better not to include QAWZM in your password if you are not accustomed to such type of keyboard.
In France you can use major international credit cards in many places but not all where they say OK. They have their own propriety credit cards system to prevent credit card skimming crimes. Many credit card scanner are only for credit card with IC chip. It is better to carry credit card with IC. If you don't have it, you should ask to issue new one. People in France usually don't carry much amount of cash to guard against pickpockets. I agree it is good habit not to carry a lot of money.
I believe you have your own portable phone brand of Japanese telecommunication carriers. You might also find in its manual saying roaming internationally available. But in fact it is using international calls to Japan. For example, if you call your neighbor in France with that Japanese brand portable, it costs equivalent to call internationally. Therefore I advise you to buy a portable phone in France. It is very easy to buy a portable phone in France. They sell like ordinary electrical goods. You first pay for the terminal. Next you buy a prepaid ticket and enter the number printed on it. A lot of people in France also use it prepaid, so it is not so irregular. You can buy and use the phone without bank account, which is difficult without residence permission.