“You can never understand one language until you understand at least two.” – Geoffrey Willans
It’s all too easy to forget the reason we’ve come on a year abroad, especially in that first month when we’re busy settling in and adjusting to a new city and culture. But whilst I’m sitting here reminding myself (with the help of some inspiring quotes) why I’m here in Nantes, here are some of the things I’ve learned about Nantes, French universities, life…
Kitchens (in your uni accommodation)
There’s a sink, a microwave and four kitchen hobs. That’s it.
Gone are the days you can throw a pizza in the oven after a long day in uni (or a night out) and gone are the days where you can bulk cook anything and then freeze the leftovers (that might just be me who did that). I thought I was going to find this aspect really difficult but after ordering pizza pretty much every time I went out in the first few weeks, overcompensating for the lack of oven by eating more pizza than I usually would, I soon realised it’s really not that bad. I promise. Or maybe I was just sick of pizza.
Each room is equipped with a fridge so depending on how you look at it, it’s either a blessing (the days of anyone nicking your food are also gone) or a curse (some people don’t like the noise). I’ve invested in a kettle (it really was an investment, 16€ later) but otherwise, I’ve found the kitchen adequate.
Lastly (who knew you could write so much on the topic of kitchens? I should’ve written a blog just on this…), the kitchens shut at 22:30, so if you’re someone who’s likely to want a midnight snack, stick to something you don’t need to heat up.
These kitchen differences (or quirks) are by no means limited to Nantes University. This is the norm in France and most other European countries so enjoy those oven pizzas and midnight snacks whilst you can.
Lectures start at 8.00. Spare a thought for your French counterparts when the 9.00 seems bad.
And late finishes
My evening classes finish at 20:00 which I imagine will get harder as winter draws near but for now, this seems infinitely better than the 8ams.
Pas de panique. Pas de problème. Pas de souci. Pas de— Things are a lot more relaxed in France and this is simply a cultural difference which may take a bit of time to adjust to. After hearing the above phrases a dozen times when I was (meant to be) starting my first week at uni and didn’t have a clue where to go (or what modules I was actually studying), I realised, along with fellow Erasmus students, that there was no point in stressing and really, everything would be sorted in the end. And it has.
If I were to write a diary, this is how I imagine the 1st September entry would go….
‘I could barely open my eyelids when I woke up this morning because it appears I have suffered an allergic reaction to the make-up wipes I used last night. As it goes, I didn’t think amongst the swollen face and constant stinging, this day could get any worse. Yet this is day one of my year abroad and I really couldn’t just go back to bed and sleep off the pain. So equipped with a pair of sunglasses and a face that resembled a tomato, I spent the day checking in at the Guichet Unique (the first port of call when you arrive in Nantes) and then my accommodation, all whilst coming across as either hungover or rude because I couldn’t take off my sunglasses. Not to mention when I was at the accommodation, the office closed while I had been in my third queue of the day and I was informed I would have to wait until Monday for Wi-Fi. Not good.’
I was tired, grumpy and annoyed when I eventually got into my room and I remember distinctly thinking if this is what the year abroad was all about then I wanted out. But (call it clichéd, unoriginal, cheesy) things really do get better! I think the mixture of emotions had gotten the better of me and even that night when I was on my way to a jazz festival with some fellow Cardiff students (I was still wearing the sunnies), I already felt happier and settled.
I told you things got better.
Not long after getting here, we discovered a cute cat café in the centre of town (apparently there is another one!), and this was a definite highlight of my first week in Nantes.
If you don’t like cats…
I’m aware not everyone likes cats (sadly) but fear not, the tourist attractions, restaurants and bars we’ve discovered along the way are (almost as) great. A personal favourite is le nid (the nest), a bird-themed bar which can be found at the top of the tallest tower in Nantes. It has the most amazing views of the city and the cocktails are good.
This blog just about scratches the surface of what a roller coaster of a ride September has been. I could have discussed the mundane task of opening up a bank account in France, the difficulty of obtaining a travel pass or my experiences of a French lecture (don’t get too excited that I haven’t, it’s just given me ideas for my next blog…) but I feel this will suffice for now. Here’s another (hopefully inspiring) quote to keep you going until next time…
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela