Well, I suppose it wouldn’t be France without some kind of administerial nightmare to welcome me as a terrifying kind of initiation. How I got to this point without knowing how the French university system and its bizarre ‘inscriptions pédagogiques’ worked is beyond me. But apparently there are certain days in September, three weeks before the beginning of term in October, where I have to be in a certain bureau signing up for certain courses through certain departments and there’s no way around it: Il faut that I am physically present. Or, at least, this is what I worked out from all the French sentences thrown at me at the journée d’accueil. Having sorted this out and briefly mourned the loss of one Eurostar ticket, I am on my way to being fully signed up to courses at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3.
In the 2 week period between Hogmanay and the start of Edinburgh’s term, my friend and I went to Paris for a week. Neither of us had been before and considering my first two choices for my year abroad were to study there for my year it seemed the opportune moment. We had a great time seeing everything we’d seen in black and white pictures already. But I didn’t allow myself to be romantic about it; all the time I was thinking, ‘I could be here in September, this could be home’. A week after we got back my flatmate saw the placements on MyEd came screaming into the kitchen ‘YOU’RE GOING TO PARIS, YOU’RE GOING TO PARIS’. But ‘you’re going to Paris’ or ‘I’m studying in Paris in September’ have never felt like anything other than an abstract concept and neither really has ‘Paris’. It still doesn’t.
I guess what I’m getting at really is that, days away from moving to Paris what feels like permanently, I have an odd sense of calm. I know where I’m living, I know how to get there on the RER and I’ve been flashing my new student card to anyone who may vaguely care. I’ve even activated my account on the snazzily named ‘iSorbonne’, the Sorbonne Nouvelle’s equivalent to MyEd, which is such a novelty that I keep logging on to see if I’ve got any mail (I haven’t).
This calm may prove to last only through September until the storm of the first day in October. When I think about the first day in classes with real French students and real French lecturers, that’s when I get the butterflies of excitement and angst. I want everything out of this year I can possibly get. Yes, I want to run around pretending to be Simone de Beauvoir or Samuel Beckett or Zach Condon. Yes, I want to see in a Parisian Sunday morning with a bottle of wine and a friend on the banks of the Seine. And yes, I want to run through the Louvre at record speed with two dashing would-be Parisian criminals. But more than that I want my own Parisian experience. An Italian friend from school told me, ‘moving to another country, whether you have a good time or not, will change you in ways you didn’t even know were possible’. So I guess all I’m hoping for is to bring memories and meaning to that abstract concept, ‘Paris’.
So that’s all for my preemptive thoughts on the year abroad. I shall bore you with admin and French bank accounts and phones next week!