Settling in here in Montpellier has been a tough but very rewarding challenge over the past 8 weeks. While I’m loving every second of being here, France is endlessly different to Ireland!! Life both in and outside of college is a massive change from home. Firstly, college life: The college is a little bit stricter than we’re used to at home. We’re required to use our student cards to sign in and out of each lecture...making attendance almost 100% mandatory for the majority of courses; something I haven’t had to worry about since 6th year.
That said, as I said in my last entry the courses are very similar to what we did last year in DCU, which makes understanding the lectures much easier!
I’ve also joined the college’s rugby team. It’s great to be back playing after a year and a half out with injury. It’s quite bizarre having to learn off all the positions and calls in French though. That said it’s a lot of fun. The standard is quite high so it’s challenging but enjoyable. I’m the only person on the team from an English speaking country. Two of my friends from Switzerland and Finland have also joined with me so it’s good that we’re all learning together and we can at least communicate between ourselves in English (unsurprisingly they speak perfect English). The rest of the team are ALL French though, most of whom speak little or no English. That said, 4 of them are actually in my class for college so I’ve actually become friends with them and they’re a great help for improving my French.
Then there’s the country and Montpellier itself. I’ve been to France before but only ever on holidays, never actually to “real France”. Montpellier is real France, with no tourists. The only foreign people are Erasmus students in the city’s many colleges. The culture here is very different and has taken some getting used to. Some things I’ve adapted to well, others not so much. For example, I definitely now drink coffee like a French person: espresso, no milk. I also now drink wine with dinner (white though, red’s still disgusting).
One thing I still can’t quite come to terms with is that the ENTIRE city, completely shuts down after 12pm every Sunday. It’s seen here as a “Family Day”. As a result only certain restaurants and bars are ever open on Sundays, and between 12pm and 6pm the city turns into something of a ghost town, with everyone at home or at church with their families. It’s quite eerie to walk around at midday – it’s quieter than it would be at 3am!!
The French in general have a much laid back attitude to life as it turns out. Some people have complained about that but in fact it suits the 6 of us from Ireland perfectly. College is intense but the rest of the city and the rest of our time spent here is quite chilled out and relaxed.
All my work to settle in was slightly set back this weekend as my mum and sister visited for a few days. I’ve absolutely loved the last 8 weeks, and frankly I haven’t even had time to think about the fact that I’m 1000km from home, or to be homesick. The 2 months have blended seamlessly into what feels like about 2 weeks. I’ve literally been non-stop since arriving: working in the bar, college, rugby, parties...it’s been a bit hectic to be honest, but has made settling in very very easy...it’s just like living back in the student house I lived in in Clontarf last year for 2nd year (only a bit smaller and much, much warmer).
There’ve been a few surprises along the way over the last 8 weeks, but that’ll have to wait until the next blog....