I had thought about starting a blog, but I was completely unsure if it was something that I wanted to do (another commitment… je déteste les engagements) but I thought that it would be a good way for me and those interested to keep up to date with what is going on. For those who don’t know, I will be teaching in the wonderful city of Aix-en-Provence, and as I write this, it is my eighth day here (it took me four attempts to type ‘eighth’ there… it’s huitième to me).
If any future assistants or those who are thinking about studying abroad are reading this, I would like to initially warn you of the difficulties that this entails. It is only my 8th day, so I don’t have much to say about the full year but the first four or five days are extremely difficult, more difficult than you could ever imagine. Every one says that you will have bad days and that the first two weeks will be hard, but you cannot prepare for the difficulties you face. I found myself crying on a French bus for no reason, not wanting to get out of bed in the morning and just plain contemplating wether or not this is what I truly want to do.
The first week is an extreme test of character and bravery. It doesn’t seem like it, but moving to a foreign country to study or teach is an extraordinarily brave thing to do and now I understand why. However, it is also exceptionally enriching already, so I wonder how I will feel after one month, three months, six months of being here. I can only imagine.
I arrived in Paris after travelling from London by train… by myself… with a 40kg suitcase and backpack. The French lived up to their arrogance by being completely unwilling to help with any questions I had. It was a very memorable start to the séjour. However, I got over the initial shock very quickly as I stumbled on to my train to the place I would be spending the next 10-12 months, Aix.
The train journey was emotional, to say the least. I felt an overwhelming sense of fear but also encouragement, I knew I was capable of making the best of this opportunity. I was picked up by the granddad of my au pair family, who spoke no English whatsoever. After a whole day travelling, speaking French is harder than you think. I attempted to make small talk, and he told me my French was good (bonus!!).
Over the next few days, I met my au pair parents and children and I met some Erasmus students at the same time. It was very difficult to immerse myself in Aixoise life when I lived a 20 minute bus journey away and this was the thing that I struggled with the most.
I bought a phone and a (very, very expensive) gym membership for home comforts and I found myself making contacts through the gym and other language assistants have now begun to arrive, making it a lot easier for me to have common interests with people here.
If you had asked me in my first four days if I was happy, I would have said I wanted to go home. If you ask me now, I would say that I am truly making the best use of this opportunity and I am genuinely enjoying every second of it. Part of me wants to be in Scotland for such an important time and I miss being in Glasgow with some of my best friends a huge amount. However, I am living my dream, meeting wonderful people, basking in heat, swimming in outdoor pools, being hit on by French men, eating baguettes with pâtè and fromage, speaking the language I love and having an amazing, amazing time.