Here I am already at the end of my third week as a Montpellier resident! Life still has its ups and downs but I am generally settling well into the rhythm of la vie française. This week has been rather eventful to say the least, and I don’t really need to mention that not much work has been done.
My opinion of the university is still far from positive, but I feel like (most of) the administrative hell is over and done with. Having said that, it still remains to be seen if I am fully registered on my courses. One course I am particularly enjoying is my translation course. Despite having to rise before the crack of dawn to reach uni for the unholy hour of 8.15am, I really enjoy the French to English translation sessions with Mr Myers, a Londoner born and bred who is both humorous and on occasion intimidating. With absolutely no intention of sounding xenophobic here, I particularly enjoy the ten minutes or so per lesson he devotes to singling out the Americans in the class and generally tearing their dialect and customs to pieces, in the most humorous ways possible. Many of the suggestions they timidly put forward during class are met with an incredulous ‘would you ACTUALLY say that in America?’ and a quizzically raised eyebrow. His reactions are generally greeted with hilarity by the majority of the students, even the Americans, who I can’t help but feel sorry for seeing as they seem to have pronunciation problems as it is. Don’t get me started on the French accents.
Society life is very much lacking amongst French students, however, I did manage to attend a student radio meeting, which looks like it might be a very interesting project to get involved in. I met a lot of French students, and in fact, I seemed to be the only foreign student there, but the organisers seemed enthusiastic to have an English speaker on the team. While there seems to be no official, regular meetings (of course), I like the idea that students are free to propose and organise the programs and schedule pretty liberally, and I may have bagged myself a spot on a kind of ‘music news’/cinema program, which I’m looking forward to starting.
When I’m not spending 15 hours a week in university, instead of doing my reading I tend to spend a lot of time trying to wrestle my bank card from the hands of my bank without much avail. It has been a good two weeks at least and I still have no bank account, and thus no access to much needed financial transfers from the UK. Well done France. Since I have been generally going out and doing something every night, the cash funds are dwindling, meaning I really have to tighten my belt a bit from now on. I’m even thinking of getting a job as a childminder, as anglophones seem to be particularly well paid to look after children here!
At the weekend, my boyfriend came down from Paris to visit (he’s French in case the Paris tip didn’t give it away) and since he knows one of the players on Montpellier’s handball team, he managed to bag us some tickets to see the Montpellier-Nîmes match on Friday. Not being a very sporty person, I was unsure of what to expect, but Montpellier are the best handball team in France, plus we had passes for the VIP lounge after the game where there would be free alcohol and food in abundance. So why would I say no? I took my friend Jenny with me as we had a spare ticket, and I have to say it was a lot of fun! There is a brilliant band and the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic; the enthusiasm of the Montpellier supporters was infectious. Time flew by as we were enjoying ourselves so much, and Montpellier won the game (of course).I fully intend to go to many more matches donning a MAHB tshirt, and who knows, I might even be able to get some more free tickets!
The rest of my week has consisted of picnics on the roofs of tall commercial buildings, attending conversational exchanges at quaint bookshops, going to circus themed bars and checking out the various tiny nightclubs in Montpellier’s centre. I have to say that I’m still finding things hard to get used to, and I miss Edinburgh student life with all my heart, but I think the key to making to most of this experience lies in taking things for what they are and actively seeking opportunities and experiences. I have already made a fair few French friends, but it has certainly taken time. It is no easy task to distance yourself a little from the locus of Erasmus students and English speakers, as much fun as it may be to hang out in a big group together! Obviously conversation can be awkward at times, but I actually think my French might have improved already. Despite not doing any uni work.
Oh and did I mention I just booked tickets to Paris for the end of October? Good times ahead. Good, but very broke.