You have probably stumbled across this blog entry because you have made the very exciting yet terrifying decision to spend your third year abroad. Congratulations! If you’re anything like me, you will have a lot of questions. I still do for sure – even after you have filled out the necessary paperwork, dotted the ‘i’s and crossed the ‘t’s on each and every inch of red tape required, and are simply sitting tight waiting to go, you are likely to remain just as much in the dark as you were at the moment you decided that a year abroad sounds vaguely like a good idea. At least, that’s how it feels to me at the moment. Of course, not all of this is entirely true. In all this Erasmus related preamble, I have completely forgotten introductions – I’m Yasmin, studying for an MA in French and English Literature with the hope of someday becoming a journalist, and am about to spend the academic year 2011/12 at Paul-Valéry University in Montpellier.
I would be lying if I said I was completely unprepared for such an adventure. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to visit the university and the surrounding area at the beginning of May as a birthday present from my lovely mum, and I must say it was more than enough to make me fall in love with my future home. Montpellier is wonderfully temperate, full of beautiful architecture, the locals were welcoming and friendly, and every street boasts a selection of charming little cafés and boutiques. Between wandering the labyrinthine streets at the heart of Montpellier’s old town in an attempt to find vegetarian restaurants for lunch (good luck with that in France) and half heartedly cramming for my impending exams, I found the time to visit the university itself and to talk to some of the staff there. The buildings themselves are far from impressive and could definitely do with more than just a lick of paint, but amid such luscious greenery under a sweltering clear blue sky, it hardly seems to matter. Furthermore, the staff at the international office were wonderfully friendly and luckily seemed to understand my far-from-perfect French. I even got some advice as to which of the university lodgings were the most ideal to apply for, so I would definitely say that this was a trip worth taking. On top of all this, I got to know my way around the city and probably one of my more invaluable experiences was learning how to use the tramways.
My brief trip to Montpellier has certainly helped me to further outline my expectations for my Erasmus year. I expect to come back fluent in French, wiser, more experienced and a heck of a lot more tanned! It seems like a lot to ask, but it seems like all of the above might just come true. Despite being really scared at the thought of starting all over again at a new university, I will take this as an opportunity to make a new set of friends and to learn many new things about culture, language, and any other miscellany that may be thrown in along the way. I can’t wait for my friends here in Edinburgh and my friends from back in my tiny hometown in Wales to visit, and above all, I can’t wait for a much needed change of climate after such a disappointing Scottish summer!