Unlike most people, I can’t say I was particularly excited in the run-up my Year Abroad. To be honest, I never really bought into the hype of it all. As great an opportunity as it is, I was completely aware that the transition from Sheffield would not be smooth. Even when you subtract the obvious, like speaking French twenty-four seven and dealing with France’s notorious bureaucracy, there is so much to worry over.
Two months down the line, I can honestly say that it has been even more difficult than I’d imagined. That being said, I am having the time of my life.
When I arrived I stayed in an AirBnB, to get my bearings before you can move into your accommodation. My host was the most welcoming person I have yet to meet here. In fact, she, her friends and I are all going to ‘boire une verre’ in the next week or so. The real difficulty came in finding somewhere more permanent, as housing here is expensive and difficult to find. Estate agents are also unhelpful and charge extortionate fees, so I ended up in student halls after two weeks staying at the local youth hostel. That was an adventure all of its own.
At least in Aix, Student accommodation is great. My room is similar to one in Endcliffe, costs just 250€ a month, and I have a great view. Despite sharing a kitchen with around 30 people, I can always get into the kitchen to cook. Clearly the French culinary reputation does not include university students. I would recommend students coming to Aix to apply for halls with CROUS. There are a few rules that we don’t have at home, which can be irritating at first, but the saving is well worth it.
Registering with the university was as disorganised as expected, as was choosing my modules. Nobody knows what is going on, or anyone else who might. Is it possible to find them somehow, I ask? Is there a database or a web page that tells me everything I need to know? All signs point to ‘Non.’ Even getting our student cards and our usernames/passwords for the computer systems took a month and a half.
Despite all this, culture shock, and perpetual homesickness, I am really enjoying it. I have met so great people from all over Europe and from even further afield. Polish, Bosnian, Italian, German, even Californian and Columbian: the Year abroad community here is so diverse. The student culture really isn’t so different here either, you’ll be happy to know. The French like drinking just as much as we do, and a good few of the clubs here are open until 4 or even 6 in the morning.
Since coming here I’ve had the opportunity to do so much that everything becomes a sort of blur. This past weekend? Well, on Saturday I climbed a mountain. Sunday I was sightseeing around the nearby Gorge de Verdon. Next weekend, who knows?