And just like that half of the great, two-part adventure has expired – to start with my customary movie reference (although this will be the last because I am actually starting to annoy myself with this rubbish) – I have already chopped off Lucy Liu’s smug face and am currently cleaning the blood off my yellow jumpsuit in anticipation of a similarly epic part two.
Firstly though I will briefly sum up my final thoughts on my time in France, starting with the exams; having only previously had one exam in France, which I only realised I was meant to sit five minutes after it had started, I had little idea of what to expect in terms of what is required to pass an exam in France compared to in Britain. The truth is I will not know definitively until I get my results, but I would say that it is important to go to as many classes as possible and make sure to understand the key points in every class – the classes are pretty info-heavy so even if you miss bits and pieces revising is straightforward if horrendously time-consuming, meaning for people like me with the attention span of a stoned goldfish it gets a bit repetitive after a day or so. Nonetheless after this struggle there are only certain curve-balls that the disorganised university pitchers can throw. One of these came up in a History exam when, after a term of doing nothing but analysing historical sources we were given a source which may as well have been written in hieroglyphics for all I understood of it, which forced me to write a historical essay for the first time, in the exam. Perhaps fortunately, this paper seemed to be just as difficult for the French students, which Sherlock Cubie worked out from the subtle clues left by the girl who had to be carried out by the lecturers in a flood of tears, before returning only to sit shaking uncontrollably for a minute and then deciding that she could not go on. Reading between the lines I think she found the paper almost as hard as I did. Overall though the work was interesting and the courses were original and not too pretentious (allowing for the fact that I am still an arts student), especially when compared with some of Edinburgh’s fourth year options, for example ‘The cinema of the self” – if I wanted to watch the grey image of an emaciated manic-depressive smoking a cigarette in the bathtub all day, I would just hang out in the Art College halls. So overall the work was difficult but interesting enough to merit the occasional hard graft.
My lasting impression of the place is also a generally positive one; the south of France is a much sleepier place than Paris and the quietness and proximity of countryside meant that it reminded me of Scotland without the obesity levels (which I attribute solely to the higher price of beer and comparative lack of ‘Subway’ and ‘Dominos Pizza’, which make up a good sixty percent of a student diet in Edinburgh; I (not obese despite what my friends and family like to say) lost something like ten kilos over the four months because of these absences.
Sometimes Albi was a little too tranquil to contain my, at times, gale-force personality, which perhaps explains some of the more unsavoury night-out incidents of the semester, although it was not that major a factor as I managed to avoid the ignominy of arrest, deportation or “waking up in a phone-box with a truck driver’s penis in my ear”, so even small towns in France allow one to continue to live the kind of apocalyptic student lifestyle common in Britain without repercussions. Which brings me to my last night in France. After a not-great exam I, with the help of my old friend alcohol, decided unconsciously to pull one last groundbreakingly moronic stunt and slept through my flight, which resulted in an eight hour stint in Gatwick airport, curled up in a ball between two stag parties, relieved that there was not anything in the vicinity that I could be handcuffed to, until I was able to get home at around nine o’clock the next morning.
Although a cheesy segue, I feel like the reason I allowed myself to drink nearly to the point that the pink elephants start to dance in front of my eyes (I think that’s quite long enough without some kind of pop-culture reference, it’s all I have…that was ‘Dumbo’ by the way) was that I felt so comfortable among the friends I made in France. When people are lumped together with no known common ground other than a subject they study at university a number of things can go wrong, for example between my two female female flatmates who fell out into a kind of cold war of which I occasionally got caught in the middle (being subjected to Katy Perry blasting from downstairs at five o’clock in the morning in an attempt to deprive each other of sleep was the worst breach of the Geneva convention that I suffered) but I still got on with both of them, and with pretty much every student I came into contact with some of whom I think I will remain friends with for many years to come, for which I am extremely grateful (WOOSE!).
So all in all it was a momentous term in France, and although I have used this forum to mock and bemoan the quirks of the experience, that is just because they are more entertaining to write about, not because there was any aspect of the trip I did not absolutely love: I would not have changed a thing…well maybe I would have caught my flight back.
I will continue to Blog about my second semester in Malaga in Spain, so look out for more calamitous attempts at life very soon.