Bonjour à tous!
This was an article in The Evening Standard that I came across on the way back from a day trip to London last week (by the way, so weird that London is now a place that I make day trips to instead of live). It was really comforting to see that other people are thinking the same things as me because, with my 3 and a half year relationship on going and Made in Chelsea and The Great British Bake Off just beginning, ‘should I take my partner and can you get iPlayer?’ are very similar to my top two questions. The article didn’t give answers but I’m sure I’ll figure them out. It also introduced me to thirdyearabroad.com, a site I’d heard of but had never had time (ahem) to look into. It’s really useful and I’d advise anyone doing a year abroad to have a browse if you’re unsure of anything!
So, today is the day before I leave! I can’t quite believe it! Packing was less of a harrowing experience than I imagined it would be, even though I had to make some horrible sacrifices. Essentials such as tea, two pairs of running shoes and a bobble hat made the cut, while shampoo, conditioner, a handbag and two packets of strepsils were dismissed.
Reluctantly bringing French Grammar in Context along for the ride, ugh.
Other than packing, my final fortnight involved a swift dose of food poisoning (thanks Borough Market), practicing being French by making a tarte tatin and seeing as many family and friends as possible. I managed not to get emotional until Katie and Dilara got me a going away card and a bottle of sparking wine and Rupert posted a card and some euros through my door…
I’m feeling both more nervous and more excited than I was two weeks ago, if that’s even possible. I’ve seen some amazing photos of Montpellier on Facebook from girls who are already there, found some other year abroad blogs and spoken to people who know the city, all of which have made me a lot more excited. On the other hand, I’ve also found an article online for American students of Mount Holyoak College, Massachusetts doing a year abroad in Montpellier which is so paranoid as to be verging on hilarious. It is 78 pages long and though I haven’t read all of it, I thought I’d give you the highlights. It includes motherly year abroad advice such as:
“Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and make sure you have a balanced diet. Drink plenty of water. Sleep at least 8 hours per night. On school nights you should go to bed at a reasonable hour so you will be able to get up for classes in the morning.”
Thanks, mum! More awkward advice about the birds and the bees followed:
“Be careful about “saying goodbye” to an American boyfriend before you leave for France, if you return to the USA for the holidays, or if he comes to visit you in France. Strong emotions can make you forget to use caution, and this is in fact the primary cause of pregnancies in female college students who study abroad.”
There was also some actual advice about Montpellier and the university, mostly about how we, as girls, should expect to be sexually harassed and/or mugged:
“Working hard doesn’t guarantee anyone of an “A” or even a “B”.”
“Travel in small groups (at least 2), and please do not go off on your own until you know your way around – even during the day.”
“Avoid dark, deserted streets – your risk of being mugged is obviously much higher if no one is around. On the other hand, you should also be wary of large crowds because it is easy to have your pocket picked.”
“In order to avoid being bothered, simply avoid looking people in the eye when you are walking in public. Look down at the ground, walk briskly and for goodness sake, don’t smile at anyone you don’t know!”
“If you are speaking in English with your friends, I advise you to speak very softly in order to avoid standing out.”
“In southern France cities, people see city life as a “contact sport” – you may be bumped into, brushed against, spoken to when you don’t feel like chatting and maybe even a little bothered by some men.”
“What is the best target for a man with mauvaises intentions? It is an attractive young woman walking alone very late at night – preferably a foreign woman who is intoxicated. You should never, ever be this woman because there is no chance you will make it home without being harassed…or possibly worse.”
And my personal favourite:
“Don’t look young men in the eyes and smile unless you are prepared for the consequences.”
It was a very amusing read. Obviously this information was meant for American students and not for me, but what a load of bullmerde. I really hope it’s bullmerde anyway. If those are the kind of warnings they need to give their students (I would class all of the above as ‘common sense’) then Massachusetts has risen to the top of the list of Place I Want To Live.
And last but not least, I have a very exciting update for my Year Abroad Bucket List (Montpellier edition) for you! The additions are:
- Look fashionable at least once and post a photo
- Go on at least one longish sightseeing run
- Join a gym
- Learn to cook properly
- Try a conversation exchange
- Try to make some money by offering English tuition
- Visit all the clubs in Montpellier
- Be mistaken for a French woman, however briefly
- Buy something from a classic French brand (Chanel, YSL or something slightly more affordable)
- Choose a café to become a regular at until the staff know my name and my coffee order
- Visit St Guilhem le Désert
My flight leaves at 11:20 tomorrow. I’m hoping to get into a routine of posting on this blog but that might not happen for a while as I guess the next few weeks are going to be a bit crazy!
That’s all for now. See you in France! Eeek!
Bisous, Annie xo