Bonjour à tous ! On April 30th my placement as a language assistant in the South of France sadly came to an end. I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by! The end of my year abroad also means that this is my final blog – I hope you have found them useful and have been able to take something from each of them.
Looking back at the year abroad seems crazy, as it feels as though it was only yesterday I was nervously getting on a plane from Bristol airport. However, after 7 months working in France I feel completely different about the whole experience (and can’t even believe I was scared in the first place!).
My time spent in France has taught me so many things: about the country, the language, the people and also about myself. The year abroad isn’t just about living and working in a foreign country, it is also about learning to cope in new situations, working and living with new people, adapting to a different culture and learning to embrace all the new things that come your way. For me, the most interesting thing was actually how different France is to the UK. Before I went, I naively thought that France wasn’t overly dissimilar to the UK, but there are actually many differences. These differences, whether obvious (like the language) or subtle (like the fact shops shut early and are almost never open on Sundays) really make you realise, at times, that you aren’t at home. As stupid as that may sound, sometimes it’s a great feeling to be somewhere completely new and knowing that you can learn to cope with living there. In fact, I became so comfortable living and working in France that it was almost strange to think about coming back to uni next September.
Talking about university, I now need to think about what next….
The year abroad is invaluable in terms of the things you learn when living in a foreign country. First of all, we have the obvious: the language. The difference between my French when I landed in France and now, is huge. Not only that, but throughout the year one big thing that has improved is my confidence – at the end of the day people are going to care less if you try to speak and make a mistake, than if you sit there awkwardly saying nothing.
Throughout the year, it is also inevitable that you will face some awkward and difficult situations, but this year really does throw you in the deep end, which in turn actually prepares you to deal with these situations. For example, in order to be paid I had to open a French bank account (which seems easy enough). After visiting nearly every single bank in my town and being rejected by them all, I finally went into another bank, got an account and I even got a job offer from the woman working in the bank, who wanted me to tutor her daughter. So even the most stressful situations can always turn out positively!
Embracing a new culture is another skill that comes hand in hand with living in a different culture. As I said before, France isn’t overly different to the UK, but there are certainly subtle differences that really make you realise you aren’t at home. However, as the year went on, I began to feel more and more comfortable in France and it began to really feel like home. Alongside this, interacting with people from many different places and backgrounds really enriches your understanding of other cultures.
With all these newly acquired skills and a year spent in a foreign country, it is time to think of what I want to do next. Funnily enough, this year has taught me that I definitely don’t want to be a teacher . As much as that sounds very negative (and as though the year was slightly counterproductive) it is actually a good thing. I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, so I have never looked into anything else. However, after this teaching experience and realising that it’s not for me, it means that I can focus all of my energy into looking at what else I can do!
In September, I will be heading back to Cardiff to finish my degree in French and English Literature. As final year is obviously worth so much, as you can imagine it will be a stressful year! However, like I said, the year abroad definitely prepares your for stressful situations and how to get through them.
In terms of what I want to do after university, I think languages will open some doors. Having spent time in France, it has really hit home how neglected language learning is in the UK. The students I was teaching in the two secondary schools had a higher level of English at the age of 13-15 than I had in French when I’d finished A Levels (18yrs old). This really demonstrated that languages have a much higher importance in foreign countries than in the UK, which is something I would love to change!
I also believe that having one language is great, but to have multiple languages is always a bonus. Therefore, after finishing this degree I would like to devote more time to learning Spanish – and I am even considering applying for the British Council teaching programme in Spain for a year!
Either way, I think it’s safe to say that this year abroad has been one of the best years of my life and has been invaluable for the things I’ve learned. Even if I were to start a career that had nothing to do with French, I truly believe that this year abroad prepares you for so many situations and I would recommend it to anyone!
I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blogs, and I’ve attached some photos of my time in France!
Bonne continuation à tous !
Me with one of my classes (you can’t tell which one I am – as most of my students were taller than me despite the 6yr+ age difference…)
Voyage Scolaire à Londres !