Today marks the end of my second week living in France. It’s been a confusing week at university being the first full week of teaching. Nobody really seems to know if they’re officially signed up to their courses, so I’ve been just going along and hoping for the best so far. As an Erasmus student, you pretty much get your pick of any course in the university, except for Masters courses, so I’m taking a course about political systems, two French literature courses, a course in translation and even a beginner’s course in Arabic, which will definitely be a challenge! Though my courses are interesting, it’s extremely difficult to keep concentration going for the entire length of the lectures, which can last anywhere between an hour and a half and three hours, most of mine lasting for about two hours on average. I have no idea why the French think this is a good way of learning, since it has been actually proven impossible for your brain to maintain a suitable level of concentration after an hour and a half maximum. As a result I feel that the classes can be a little counterproductive, but I’m sure it is just a matter of adjusting to the system. Luckily, Erasmus students from Edinburgh are required to take a minimum of 15 ECTS, half of a French student’s usual workload. I’m taking about 23 to leave room for (not unlikely) failure, and this feels like more than enough to be getting on with.
As far as making friends is concerned, I’ve been hanging around a lot with a group of English students, and it’s been really nice to discover the city together and to be able to help each other to figure out what on earth is going on at university. With regards to meeting French students, it has been rather more difficult, not because of my language abilities, but because student life here is quite different to that of the UK. There is far less focus on student societies, which makes me quite sad, as I really loved participating in societies back in Edinburgh. There are a few, but I’ve heard that they can focus too much on protesting (very French) and not enough on organising events. I may try to find out more next week and am particularly interested by the student radio station, but my language skills are not really good enough for me to broadcast in French just yet! I’ve tried talking to a few people in class but it’s kind of hard to make decent conversation in the gaps between classes. I’ve also been hanging out with a group of French masters students, which has given me a taste of student life in Montpellier, and it’s great to know people who are familiar with all the best places to go out.
When not at uni, I’ve been going out or doing something every night which is fantastic. I love the bar culture here in Montpellier, and there are some really great atmospheric places tucked away in its narrow winding streets. I’ve had dinner with my flatmate and her friends, in a burger bar which thankfully does a veggie burger, and the portions were absolutely huge. ‘Apéro’ in the park is also a great way to spend an evening, it’s basically a picnic where people bring loads of wine and snacks and just chill out together. I also had my first experience of a Montpellier club on Friday. To get to La Villa Rouge, one of the bigger clubs situated in the Montpellier periphery you have to take a bus at midnight, and the club stays open until 5. It’s a bit of a trek just for a night out but if planned well in advance it can be really fun with a big group of friends.
It is still pretty warm here, so we’ve been taking advantage of the beach at Palavas every weekend. It is situated a little way out of the city, and you need to take the tram followed by a bus to get there but its well worth the trip. Due to all the hurricane action the world has been seeing lately, the sea was quite choppy last week, so it was really fun to swim in the waves, and it’s a great hangover cure to just lie down on the sand in the sun for a few hours.
I’ve not actually travelled outside of Montpellier yet, but a group of us are planning to go to Barcelona at some point in the not too distant future. It’s been years since I’ve been to Spain so I’m really excited to start off my (hopefully numerous) European travels with a trip like this. In the meantime, here are a few pictures of my week so far. More to come soon!