School of Law and Politics
Erasmus+ study placement
Where did you go?
I studied French Law in Toulouse, France for a year.
What motivated you to take up a Global Opportunity?
I wanted to experience something new and having lived in Wales my whole life I wanted to leave my comfort zone. I chose the Law and French course knowing that a year abroad was an obligatory part of the course and it’s fair to say I’m glad I made that call now. I also wanted to improve my French language skills, something that isn’t easy to do unless you’re living and breathing the language in the country itself. In addition to this, a chance to meet people from all over world and learn about new cultures was definitely a reason I took up a Global Opportunity.
What were your top three highlights from your year abroad?
There were numerous unforgettable experiences on my year abroad and it’s very hard to narrow it down to 3 highlights. However here goes…
- Meeting people from all over the world: Like many people at Cardiff University I tend to stick to my own group of friends who are all very similar to me in terms of their interests and hobbies. However, the community of international students abroad allows you to meet people from all over the world that have different interests, habits and humour. I found this extremely enriching and it has definitely allowed me to develop as a person and see the world differently. It’s also very handy having contacts for free accommodation across the world!
- The opportunity to explore a new region/ country: Although I was based in Toulouse, the year abroad gave me a chance to see parts of France (and Spain) that I’d never seen before. The cheap yet efficient transport links in Toulouse allowed me to explore San Sebastian, Bordeaux, Castres, and Montpellier amongst other places! The lovely sun made this travelling all the better. Being close to the Pyrenees, I was also able to go for ski day or weekend trips, something that isn’t possible in the UK!
- Being a sports fan there’s nothing I like more than exploring a new sporting culture. As well as being able to play football for a local team, I was also able to add to my growing list of football and rugby stadiums! I thought us Welsh were obsessed with rugby but the people of the South West of France definitely give us a run for our money. The atmosphere there was amazing and I have some incredible memories of watching sport during my year abroad. It was made even better by the fact that Stade Toulousain (the local team) won the French league. A big party of 50,000 people followed on the main square… quite a night!
Of course being in France, the wine food and weather wasn’t bad either!!
How has your placement benefitted your studies or your future career?
Naturally as a Law and French student it has allowed to me to be more confident in oral French classes whilst my French grammar skills have improved too. However it has also been beneficial in numerous other ways as I begin to look for jobs. The fact that I have lived abroad, showcasing my resilience, problem solving skills, my ability to adapt to new surroundings and cultural awareness, is highly attractive for future employers and it’s definitely something that stands out on a CV. Having already contacted certain companies regarding future employment I know that this year abroad is one of the things that they found most appealing. There’s no doubt that the confidence and communication skills developed on your time abroad will stand you in good stead in all aspects of every day life whether it’s at work or just in a social setting.
What is the one thing you wish you’d known before you left?
I woud have loved to have known how much I would enjoy myself to calm the pre-year abroad nerves! Whilst there are of course certain practicalities I would have loved to have known about, such as how difficult it is to set up wifi in France, I think it was all part of the experience and knowing everything beforehand would have taken away from the experience. Not knowing what to expect was part of the adventure and it was the necessity to adapt and find stuff out yourself allowed me to develop as a person.
What would you say to a student who was unsure about spending a period abroad at university?
I can understand that moving to a different country, be it for 3 weeks for 12 months, is a very scary thought (it is for everyone) but it will 100% be an unforgettable time whatever happens. The opportunity to travel to these different places, being supported by a bursary, is not likely to arise in the future due to work commitments and lack of financial support so I would certainly encourage you to grasp the opportunity. It really is a once in a lifetime experience, go make the most of it, go explore the world! I am not however naïve enough to think it suits everyone and I would defiitely recommend speaking to as many people as possible that have been abroad (preferably to the place you’re planning on going) to see whether you think it would suit you. Speaking to others and living their experiences can give you a real sense of whether it is the right opportunity for you. But ultimately I would say that both short-term and long-term advantages of spending time abroad considerably outweigh any problems you might have and I would recommend embracing any opportunties with a positive mindset: think of what you could achieve from the experience instead of what might go wrong.
What are the top 3 things to do in Toulouse?
Rugby, rugby, rugby! No, in all seriousness there’s a wide variety of things to do including:
1. Visit Place du Capitole, its surrounding streets and the river. The city’s main square and the surrounding area is very impressive. Steeped in history the Capitole building itself is extremely interesting and dates back several centuries- a visit inside is recommended. The surrounding area, that leads to the Garonne river, has been renovated recently as Toulouse aims to become a UNESCO world heritiage centre but it also manages to maintain its chic, French charm. Visiting the area of La Ville Rose towards the river is definitely recommended particualry for sunset when there are spectacular views. As you sip a nice glass of red wine at La Daurade, on the bank of the Garonne, the pink sunset will reflect on the river- you’ll find it hard to beat a sunset in Toulouse. There are several bars along the river (including Chez TonTon which is a famous local bar) or on the main square.
2. Visit Toulouse’s Airbus factory: This city is synonymous with the aviation industry and Airbus recently celebreated the 50th anniversary of its plant in Toulouse. There are several tours available at the Aerospacia museum, whatever your knowledge of interest in the aviation industry. It would be a shame to visit Toulouse and not see how Airbus works!
3. Travel the region: Toulouse is located in the south west of France and is surrounded by beautiful areas. The north of Spain, the Basque Country, Andorra and the Pyrenees are all nearby making weekend trips away extremely doable. In addition there are several quaint towns and cities worth visiting in the Occitane region such as Castres, Albi, Bordeaux and Montauban, whilst bigger coastal cities such as Montpellier, Biarritz are also within a few hours drive away. Being a major city there are also cheap flights from Tououse to most European cities whilst the TGV runs to Paris too. Exploring is made easy by Toulouse! You may however want to make sure that you don’t arrange a weekend away the same time as a big rugby game for Stade Toulousain. Whether you’re a fan of rugby or not I thoroughly recommend you going to watch a game at the stadium. From the pre-match build up (there are usually several brass bands playing outside at the stadium as the home and away fans mingle together) to the final whistle the atmosphere is unique. I’ve been lucky enough to have been to games across the world but it’s hard to rival the Toulousains passion (and knowledge) for rugby!