NB – There are about to be a lot of posts, potentially in the wrong order, as the author misunderstood how to use this. Apologies!
If you’re reading this, it means I finally got the internet in my room! On writing this, however, I remain internet-less. I feel I ought to get writing before I forget everything that has happened over the last few days.
I’m going to be completely honest and say that the first twenty-four hours or so were difficult. I arrived on my own and in retrospect I wish I’d taken someone with me. Fortunately I bumped into someone from Edinburgh and soon everyone from Edinburgh had found each other. I think we’re all quite conscious of only talking to each other, and therefore speaking in English; but it’s so good to have a support network of people who understand how you’re feeling.
I’ve been lucky enough to have some lovely people in my halls and so I’ve had ample opportunity to try out my French. It’s been surprising how much I’ve been able to say and most people have been patient when I’ve struggled with the language. That said, after saying hello to one of my neighbours, I cringed a bit as I heard his mother say, ‘ah, la petite anglaise!’. I suppose it could have been a complement, but I’m not entirely sure that it was. Overall though, I would say that thus far Erasmus has proved to me how lovely people can be! One girl on my corridor even offered to take me to the supermarket with her and her dad in their car.
Before you go to France, everyone tells you how much they love their paperwork. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I spent the majority of Monday initialling, signing and filling out forms. I’m genuinely concerned about the number of passport-sized photos the French now have of me. What could they possibly want to do with them? Was George Orwell actually thinking of France as he wrote 1984 and not the USSR? People always say that the English love queues, but in order to fill out the various forms, you usually have to stand in a queue for at least an hour.
Student life in France seems very different from student life in the UK. I was in a self-catered flat in Edinburgh, so I assumed the set-up would be fairly similar here. It was a bit of a shock to find a long corridor which has one kitchen (I use the term ‘kitchen’ loosely; here it defines four hobs and a sink) to thirty students! There’s also less space to socialise with the people you live with and the other facilities are more basic. On the other hand, my rent is half what it is in Edinburgh, so I ought not to complain. Along with the Erasmus grant, I feel quite flush for the year.
I’ve just realised that I’ve barely mentioned the city itself! I chose Strasbourg primarily because I like medieval places and beautiful cathedrals. The centre of the city certainly gives you that! The cathedral is stunning and you can see its spire for miles. There’s a wonderful mix of Germanic and French styles; sometimes it’s as if you are in medieval Germany and then you turn a corner to see some grandiose nineteenth-century French architecture. I’m lucky enough to live minutes from the European Parliament and Court of Human Rights, although it is a little far from the centre and the university.
When we met with the year abroad co-ordinator for Strasbourg she told us the first week was the hardest. I’d say that so far, that has been the case! As classes start though, I think things will get easier and I’m looking forward to meeting more people and seeing more things.