So I’ve officially been living in France for 7 and a half months now and I just want to ramble a little bit about how I’m feeling and what’s been going on recently and generally just have a (digital) chit-chat with readers of my blog.
I’m gonna start with something that happened yesterday (14/4/15). Basically, I was meeting with a French man who works for an English language school to start teaching classes once my current contract finishes. We were speaking in English but I said certain words in French (that I can’t translate to English) and a few phrases or expressions. He then rhetorically asked if I spoke French, following it up by saying that I don’t have an accent when I speak French.
… (this pause is for you to wallow in astonishment)
Anyone who studies languages will know how important and incredible this small sentence is. I cannot describe how rewarding and incredible it is to hear those words from someone who is a native of the language.
For anyone who knows pretty much nothing about language learning and just follows this to stalk my life (love you), this experience does not happen often at all. Especially in Aix-en-Provence, one of the most bourgeois and pretentious towns in the whole of France where nobody gives a toss what you do and only really cares about how cool they look.
So, you could say I’m feeling pretty chuffed with myself. One of my New Years Resolutions was to do something that involved the French language everyday (that didn’t include just chit-chatting with Alex/my friends). I’ve kept that up and have either studied grammar, vocabulary or sat mock exams online, or, more recently, I’ve read books and watched TV shows.
[A side note for anyone studying French; Motus is my favourite TV programme ever and it’s sooo good for learning new words and it has definitely ameliorated my spelling and pronunciation of the alphabet. Also, all my students find it hilarious that I watch it so it also gives you (un)cool points. Thanks Rachel!]
This brings me on to my next ramble about my growing love for reading, which seemed to disappear with high-school exams. I started trying to read again in about November, which my beautiful parents picked up on and therefore bought me a Kindle for Christmas. Since then, my love has grown and grown and is now at the point of no return. If I’m not watching Motus, I’m reading.
Recently, I read a book about a French student taking a year out in America, of which the title (translated to ‘The Exchange Student’ or something thereabouts) attracted me. It was truly excellent and I’d recommend it to anyone. Currently, I’m forcing myself to finish ‘La Peste’ by Albert Camus, one of the most famous writers to come from France. I only have about 50 pages left and I cannot wait to finish it. I adored his novel ‘L’étranger’ so I’ve bought his other essays/short stories on the same theme and hoping I will enjoy them more.
Probably surprising to some of you, I am also on my second day of studying Italian. After two years of wanting to do it and being scared, followed by seven and a half months of not finding the right time to start, I’ve finally bit the bullet and just gone for it. The final straw was when I was casually looking at salaries for potential graduate jobs when I noticed there was a great position for recent graduates within the EU commission, which sparked a huge interest in me. I noticed that you need two second languages at a decent level to apply for it, so here I am! Here’s what I know so far:
“Buon giorno, mi chiama Jennifer, io sono professoressa et io sono di Scozia.” – Hello, my name is Jennifer, I am a teacher and I am from Scotland.
All in all, I’m feeling very grateful at the moment. Perhaps this is because it’s been 28 degrees for the past week. However, despite the beautiful weather, I have a lot going on for me right now. The French government have just given me a great sum of money, I move in with Alex in a couple of weeks, my parents will be coming out to visit again soon, I am going to Morocco soon and just everything is great.
I do feel a little nostalgic that my work is over so soon and I will miss (some of) my kids. This is my penultimate week teaching and since I take half classes every week, all of them are parties from now on. It’s not good for the bank but it’s fun and I want the kids to remember me as their Scottish best friend when I leave.
The past seven and a half months feel like a huge blur of all of my friends faces with wine glasses in their hands, airports and airplanes and just being out in the world. It feels so great to feel like I’ve done some really important things in this time. I’ve explored places I never even thought I’d explore and it feels so good to not be stuck in the same place, with the same people, with the same talk of the same things .
My mind and my view on life have honestly completely changed. What I thought I wanted before I came here is not what I want now. And I know that what I want now can change again, and I’m happy for that to change. I’m happy to go through life not worrying about the future, to just live and live life spontaneously. If I have the time and money to go to Spain for a weekend, that’s what I’m gonna do. Putain, pourquoi pas?!
Another very important lesson I’ve learned is to be aware of the potential that I have. I’ve never been a hugely self-confident person, even when I pretended to have lots of self-confidence. But I feel more assertive in my decisions and in what I want. Whilst still trying to be a kind and thoughtful person, I do things for myself a little more and I do things that I know will take me further. I can see how difficult it is to progress in life without motivation and without having that something else. And I am going to work my hardest over the summer and over the next two years at university to make sure I’m the candidate that a company wants to fill a job with and to make sure that I take care of myself and be happy with who I am and what my skills are.
This is definitely in part thanks to the people I’ve met whilst I’ve been here. These are people who I instantly share things in common with through our love for the language and for travel. Instead of dire n’importe quoi (talking nonsense), I have real conversations about travel and places and things to do and the origins of wine and cheese we love (thanks Caro/Dignes-les-Bains/VIP’s of Dignes-les-Bains). I appreciate the friendships and the relationship with this beautiful, kind-hearted Frenchman that I’ve built. And my heart will always remember this year as one of the best of my life, and I will also always have a love for my beautiful city, Aix-en-Provence, one of the best cities in the world. And it’s not even over yet, I have another four and a half months to enjoy my life here!
À bientôt, xx
P.s. I have some great blog posts coming up that explain more about specific experiences over my whole year here and general posts about life in the South of France, which unfortunately I haven’t really done up until now.