What Does It Mean to Be Settled? // Year Abroad Diaries #002

I’ve written quite a few other things that are a lot more intellectual than this is going to be, but my brain is far too big of a bowl of alphabet soup right now to even think about editing them. Also I’ve spent so long using a French keyboard at work now that I’m losing the ability to touch type on a British keyboard, and fuck trying to navigate writing something important when I make typos every other word.

I don’t want to say it too soon… but I think I’ve settled? I moved over here 4.5 weeks ago now and on Monday I have my 1 month review for my internship, so I guess my roots are firmly down now. I finally have a bank card (although not a PIN number, but at this point I’m past caring), a library card, a volunteering post and I know where I go to do my food shopping. It feels really nice to not feel like a constant outsider, confused by anything and everything.

But, being settled is more than just acquiring all of the things you need to exist as a person. It’s finally feeling comfortable in going about your daily life, not having to rehearse everything you’re going to say or do in your head before you do it. It’s coming back to wherever “home” is, however temporary, at the end of the day and feeling like you can rest comfortably. It’s making new memories in your new space, and it feeling not like a holiday but a period of your life in a different place.

That’s why I really feel settled. Yes, it’s nice knowing how to get to Lidl without Google Maps and where the nicest park is to run around in the evenings. But taking ownership of my little chunk of Paris and feeling like I belong in it is way more important to me, probably because community has always been part of me. I’m not built for just being in a place without giving it something in return, I never have been. That’s why I spent the evening teaching a little boy English verbs and making my best attempt at teaching comprehension in Spanish to a teenage girl. The latter was such a challenge and slightly chaotic at times, but another volunteer coming up to me at the end and saying “ton espagnol est impressionant” was the ultimate satisfaction, alongside her finally understanding what I was trying to tell her about colonialism in some bastardized French-Spanish hybrid.

No, it’s not my life in Durham, the life I truly love. But like, that’s fine for now? I’m missing out on some fun things in the next few weeks, and I can’t just sleep til midday whenever I want to, but I also get to do all these different cool things that I’d never get to do in the UK. Also, the linguistic payoff is second to none. There is literally nothing more satisfying as a linguist than “tu parles très bien français” or “tu español es bueno, no te preocupes”, even if I’ve tripped myself up linguistically 5 times in the conversation before. I thought by now I’d be over that feeling, but tbh I’ve been learning languages for half of my life and it hasn’t got boring yet.

Next step, continuing my quest to make friends and discover Paris beyond my quartier. Updates to come I guess !!

-Megan, listening to Hamilton (ok but I started listening to this whilst doing a Very Important Audit today at work and I felt a bit less ridiculous about the fact that Very Important Things are part of my life now)

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I Moved to Paris and Everything is Different. // Year Abroad Diaries #001

As they say at gigs, here we, here we, here we fucking go.

Your favourite unavailable and chaotic blogger is back. Nobody asked, I highly doubt anyone wanted, but when has that ever stopped me? As is concurrent with my life I’ve run out of other things to do and so I’ve come back to writing as a form of entertainment. I wish I could say it’s going to last this time, but we all know the reality is far from that. I’m opting for a much less “professional” “lifestyle blog” approach this time though, which should make it more sustainable. I love writing, I don’t do it enough, and I have far too many opinions to express, so here we are. 

Since I last wrote in February, a lot has changed. The big thing being that I now live in Paris, France; aka I’ve added another country and another house to the chaotic mess of half-nested places I inhabit in the North of England. That’s right, I have finally made it to my third year of university, and thus the ever-looming and slightly terrifying year abroad. And because I’ve moved to a completely new place, and because I’m interning rather than studying, I have absolutely zero friends to hang out with, so instead of telling them my thoughts I’ve ended up putting them here.

I’ve only lived in France for about 3 weeks, but already I don’t think I’d be able to sum up all the strange differences and bizarre learning experiences. Instead of being greeted by a napping housemate on the sofa with whatever shitty daytime TV is on at the time in the background when I get home, I’m now greeted by a 3 year old, whose incessant babbling I rarely understand. Instead of waking up 10 minutes before a lecture and arriving in a caffeine-infused haze, I wake up over an hour before work to catch rammed commuter trains across central Paris, and grumble when they’re inevitably delayed every other day. Instead of being able to get a pint for less than 2 quid in the SU every day of the week I treat myself to one €7.50 beer a month, because who the fuck can afford to get drunk in this hellscape of a capital? I only moved one country across but literally everything feels different. 

I am, largely, enjoying myself though. I’ve gone into it with an open mind when it comes to all of this chaos, and I’m treating it as a kind of sabbatical year, even though here in France I’m working a 9-5 internship everyday. However, that “grind” doesn’t feel like as much as it sounds. I spend most of it in an office, doing fairly simple tasks and learning something new everyday. It’s mentally demanding sometimes, sure, and I feel awkward from time to time interacting with my colleagues in my second language, but at least so far I’m finding it really refreshing. When I left England I left my third summer in my current job, and I think what must be my fifth or sixth year working in customer service. I was so exhausted and jaded by dealing with the general public day in day out, being on my feet for 8 hours a day and never having a routine. I grew too accustomed to that life, and it didn’t me anything in terms of personal or professional development anymore. Paris is.

Literally every day I have to deal with some form of bullshit that is forcing me to develop as an individual, and whilst at times it feels frustrating, it’s ultimately extremely rewarding. I haven’t really had to do anything that pushed me too far out of my comfort zone since going to university, beyond what I’ve done in student politics. In comparison, even the most basic of things are a learning curve here. I’ve had to battle with 4 different banks, figure out how to buy and cook a meal that isn’t canned beans and bread (vegetarians in France have been done dirty), navigate my way around the biggest place I’ve ever lived by far and adapt to everything closing at 13h on a Sunday. Oh and all that’s happening in a second language that it turns out I distinctly lack confidence in. So, basically, I feel like superwoman when I do a basic human task without fucking up somehow. It’s like being a really stupid baby again, only your parents aren’t around to conjure up your rent in cash when your bank won’t let you make any more withdrawals. 

In some ways it really should be getting easier from here. I’ve done all of the base set-up tasks and I’m starting to figure out what my routine is. I’m even getting back into running after my injury, and that in turn is helping me get to know my neighbourhood. However, I still don’t have any friends, which for now is fine because my girlfriend is here and I’m still enjoying the newness of it all, but when she and all my other pals go back to Durham in October I’m going to have to find someone to talk to, or risk living vicariously through Instagram and Snapchat until I can visit. So, that’s the task for this week: find friends that aren’t the 3 year old I now live with.

Hopefully by the next time I write I’ll be able to tell of all the new friendships I have blossoming. What’s more likely is that I embarrass myself in front of the first person I attempt to befriend and decide that maybe hanging out with 3 year olds isn’t so bad after all.

 

-Megan, listening to the new Taylor Swift album (you could say I’ve changed for the better yes)