This was not my week. Last week’s holiday was a veritable black hole for productivity, but instead of leaving me revitalised and raring to go, caused me to forget that I am a student, and while this is admittedly not the most taxing of vocations, I should still know things like the time and day of the week.
This brings me neatly to my first blunder of the week; missing a class. Back in Edinburgh missing class is not a big deal at all, in fact, during the cold winter months (any time between July and May) attending every class becomes the subject of a great internal moral struggle -think Smeagol and Gollum or Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin – and, like in the movies, the bad guy normally comes out on top. Not in France; here registration is much stricter; every absence is scrutinised, every misdemeanor punished, which meant that on Tuesday I had every intention of going to my eight thirty lecture for fear of retribution if I missed it, only to be thwarted by my oldest foe: technology. I have never understood how things like mobile phones work and have long since convinced myself that technology is just a clever repackaging of witchcraft and not to be trusted. This mistrust has slowly deepened to the extent that I thought for a while that the game ‘farmville’ on facebook was the first stage of a plot by computers to enslave all of mankind in a ‘Matrix’ cum ‘Terminator’ type apocalypse. I am sharing with you now these musings,which I will undoubtedly some day jabber to a shrink while rocking back and forth in my straight jacket, because it was this kind of logic that leads me to the conclusion that my phone betrayed me. I thought I was being super organised by setting the phone manually to daylight savings time, only for the devious cad to turn itself a further hour backwards, meaning that when my alarm clock went off at eight o’clock, it was really nine.
With this ordeal out of the way I enjoyed a rare triumph as the university rugby team, combined with the engineering college with whom we share a playing field, secured a rare victory and with it bragging rights the next day. Which brings me to another massive difference between this university and back home; Edinburgh is such a big institution that there are no real stars among the students; the most well known ones are probably those who do PR work for nighclubs, and everybody hates them. Here however the set up is more like that of a secondary school, especially among the younger students, with different cliques that wander the corridors staunchly ignoring eachother.The sight of two of my particularly useless rugby colleagues smugly wearing full tracksuits as they waited for a class reminded me forcefully of the jocks from ‘Glee’ and got me thinking that, in this context, the Erasmus students are probably about level with the glee club on the food chain here, except luckily for us French students do not drink squishies and the older students are much more welcoming than the younger ones. Again I am not sure if this is a French quirk or simply the result of going to a small university, but it does not lend the place the friendliest atmosphere sometimes.
The doom and gloom continued as the history lecture we missed on Monday for the bank holiday was rescheduled for Wednesday at half past eight – a day I normally have off – and the rest of the day was spent making an inept attempt at an essay plan only to discover that French students are taught a different was of planning essays and that my pages of ramblings may as well have been written in lipstick on a piece of toilet paper for all they were worth.
On Friday we got to watch a film in our French as a foreign language class called ‘L’auberge espagnole’ about an Erasmus student spending a year in Barcelona. It is actually a very funny, and if you allow for the fact that it is a film and therefore a slightly romanticised version of events, extremely well-observed – particularly one English character who is the kind of uptight, soggy biscuit that reminded me pleasantly of at least one girl in each my classes back in Edinburgh.
On Satrday seven of us went to a party organised by a friend of ours who spent last year on Erasmus in Prague and has taken us under his wing on the condition that we live up to his image of Erasmus students as the heart and soul of the party. Unfortunately I took this duty too far and ened up drinking the wide range of spirits as though I was at an all you can eat buffet and wanted to sample eveything. I think my state could best be summed up in the words of Sir Edmund Blackadder: “The eyes are open, the mouth moves, but mr Brain has long since departed”.The result was a reenactment that scene in ‘Famiy Guy’ when they have an ipecac drinking competition. I am still in some physical pain, but feel mainly a grim sense of justice that I got what I deserved for mixing whiskey and wine.
That’s all folks. I hope to deliver you some better chat next week.