I hope you’ve all had a great term! Today’s topic is “Self and other’s” which is perfect as I just got home from my first semester abroad and it’s great to reflect on my experience so far. For the past 4 months, I’ve been living it up in the south of France as a student and part-time nounou. As this is my first blog post for you guys, I thought I’d introduce you all to my new home away from home, Toulouse. So here are 5 things that I find interesting about Toulouse:
- It’s the 4th biggest city in France.
- It’s known as La ville rose – “The Pink city” and that is due to the red brick that you literally cannot miss, as it’s everywhere you go. Some may argue that its a red city rather than pink, but I guess you must remember that the French like to make everything sound a little more romantique!
- The Toulousains say “chocolatine” instead of “pain au chocolat”. After years of saying “pain au chocolat”, coming to Toulouse and being told by the boulangerie lady that “ici on dit chocolatine” was a surprise. But, I must say that “chocolatine” has become part of my daily vocabulary and I much prefer the sound of it now. It always makes me feel like a true Toulousain when I say it!
- This region of France also has their own regional language: l’Occitain, which is a romance language spoken mainly in the south of France and you’ll always hear it on the metro and see it on every street sign. It’s quite similar to Catalan.
- It’s a rugby city! As a student from Cardiff, this made me feel at home! Supporting the Toulousains has been one of my favourite things to do in Toulouse! I absolutely love screaming “ALLEZ TOULOUSE!” in a rugby match!
Another thing that has made Toulouse feel like a second home, is the people that I have met. French, German, Colombian, Madagascan, American and Egyptian are just a few of the nationalities I have encountered.
I’m currently living in a flat with other five colocataires, between us there are 5 nationalities: Portuguese, German, French, English and Egyptian. This has shown me that studying abroad is not just about studying and immersing yourself in the culture of the country. From my experience, it has also been about learning about other cultures. For example, I was never very keen on learning German but since living with two Germans, I’ve found myself learning quite a few phrases and German is now on my list of another language to learn once I’ve mastered French…
Another factor that I love about living in France is their street fashion. When we think France, we tend to think chic and fashion. I knew once I moved to France I would be daily inspired by their style. They did not fail to impress. Two of the main things that have caught my eye are the very long manteaux and swanky glasses! However, I don’t feel as if I need to dress like them to fit in. Il n’y a pas de pression de groupe!
For some of you, the thought of spending a year abroad may sound exciting and to others it may seem terrifying. I felt both ways as I got on my plane to Toulouse, just me and my suitcase. As scary as it may sound, looking back at my first week here, I can honestly tell you that just from four months here I have become more confident and much more independent, as I have managed to find a part-time job in another country, dealt with the very complicated French administration, opened a bank account, and faced many other challenges- all in French of course! Those were all things that I worried about before I got here, but surprisingly once here, you just take one day at the time, and things fall into place.
In terms of feeling home-sick, there are days where all I want is a Sunday dinner and cwtches with my sisters, but facetime and a chat with the family now and then fixes everything. I do think being abroad for such long time, does make you appreciate your family more.
Luckily for me, through the babysitting agency that I am working with, the family that I have been matched with invite me for dinners at their house, which by the way last about three hours in France since everyone arrives 15 minutes late, then there is the apéro, a starter, the actual dinner, the dessert, some sort of liqueur that helps with digestion, coffee and then you just talk and talk.
These dinners and moments spent with friends here, make me feel very grateful for everyone that I have met in France, and a little happy-sad as I have met amazing people. But a little sad, as the last four months have flown by…And my time in France is nearly up! Also, I have met people from all around, and Toulouse is a city where there is always something to do and see, which is the perfect remedy for homesickness. It also makes me realize how fortunate I am to be taking part in this incredible Erasmus experience and to be living in such beautiful place.
I also feel as if France has prepared me for the next chapter of my year abroad, after all the challenges faced here I am ready to take on Granada at the end of January.
However, France is not quite over for me as the lovely family that I work with, have recently offered me a job in Toulouse as an Au Pair for the summer. This means that I will have an extra month in France, indulging on chocolatines and cheese for breakfast! Living with a French family for a whole month, after a few months in Spain will be perfect for my French before returning to Cardiff.
These last four months have been challenging, but so so rewarding!!!
As a little challenge for you all, there are a few words and phrases in bold… try and find their meaning!
Joyeux Noėl à tous !
Until the next post,