Josie is a third year languages student on her Year Abroad, spending fourteen months travelling from Spain to France to Russia, and recounting tales of her battles with the day to day dilemmas of living in a foreign land.
Well, I’ve almost been living in Millau for a month now, and I feel a lot more like I’m settling in. It’s been a very big change from where I’m used to living – even my home town, Oxted (which is smaller than Millau) seems different, as it’s a mere half an hour train journey to go up to London so one can escape to a big city quite easily! Although I’m still very much more of a city girl, I’m beginning to make the most of Millau.
The town is, especially during summer, very big on sports. Hiking, paragliding, rock climbing, canoeing – you name it; there’s probably a club for it here. However, being one of the least sporty people ever, I have had to take a different route into extra-curricular activities! As I said in my last blog post, making friends is probably the most important thing to do when in a new place, and to do that, I recommend getting involved in stuff outside of work/university/whatever you happen to be doing.
The people of Millau have made this very easy for me and my fellow assistants, as they are all so lovely and welcoming. The teachers at the schools we work at have kindly invited us for meals, on outings to museums, and informed us about things to do in the area. One of my housemates and I have just joined a ‘Couture Club’ – basically a sewing society, and we’ve already drawn up and cut out patterns to make a bag each.
Couture Club is run by the wife of a teacher that my other housemate works with, and she picks us up each Tuesday to take us sewing in the next town over, and then drops us back off at home afterwards. Alongside all of these new friends, we are also planning to use travel mediums such as ‘Covoiturage’ (French for car-share – a website shows other people driving to the same place as you, and you contact them, give them some money, and have a nice chat on the journey) and CouchSurfing (a now quite well known website which tells you if there’s any sofas to sleep on in the place you’re visiting, instead of having to book a hostel) to make even more new friends.
Thanks to the abnormally long school holidays this year – several people have informed me that it is the first time that both the autumn and spring holidays have ended up being two weeks long; I have lots of time to explore France and the surrounding countries. During Toussaint, I am going to Toulouse, Barcelona, Frankfurt and Amsterdam – a not necessarily well planned route but one full of friends I want to meet up with (and a band I have been waiting years to see – Bon Iver in Amsterdam!). I’m taking full advantage of my time off and the various different modes of transport on offer here, from Covoiturage between Millau and Toulouse, to a million-hour coach journey to Frankfurt.
Top tip: don’t do what I did and wait till last minute to book transport. I’m well aware things get more expensive the closer to the date of travel, but my desire for spontaneity (plus the fact that I haven’t been paid yet) means I’ve put it off. Oh well – money spent on travelling is money well spent!
It seems weird to have time off work already as I’ve only just begun to get into a routine. I find teaching hard, but after a training day and lots of chats with teachers, I have more of an idea of how to lead lessons and how to keep the pupils interested. The key is to have flashcards, games, and a lot of patience! I’m sure I will be learning as much about teaching as the children will be learning of the language itself.
As for the house – the housemates and I have done our best to make it cosy. We raided a home ware shop – I would call it a mixture between Wilkinsons and Ikea – and bought posters and fairy lights, and, with those and our photos, it’s now quite homey. There was also some ill-fated furniture rearranging involved; next time I think we’ll measure the floor space before trying to fit two double beds in one room! With our new décor, a growing DVD collection, a good helping of comfort food (Brie, crisps and sweets), and a couple of care packages from our parents, we are successfully avoiding too much homesickness!
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Image by Joaquin Pons Sampedro via Flickr