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)

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University 101; My Freshers Week Story

Hello lovely people!

I’m back in Durham, I’ve rebuilt my pasta stocks and town is beginning to fill up with returning students –  it must be the start of a new term. Those of you heading to university for the first time will be eagerly anticipating Freshers Week, probably feeling a mixture of excitement and apprehension. The internet is filled with tips and tricks about how to get the most out of the week, so I thought instead of repeating that advice I’d talk about my experience in hopes that I can give you some peace of mind that it’s all going to be okay.

freshers

Every good story starts with an introduction, so here’s some context to my time as a fresher. I study Modern Languages at Durham University, and my freshers week was in October 2017. Freshers Week at Durham is a little different, as it’s a collegiate university, so most of the events are organised by the college JCR (think student body committee). I’m a student at St Cuthbert’s Society and lived in self-catered halls in first year.

Move-In Day

I arrived in Durham with my parents and then boyfriend who had come to help me move in, and I was terrified. After getting my keys and unpacking I completely broke down on my poor boyfriend, as even though I could not be more excited to start my degree I was very worried about making friends and settling in. But, after everyone left, I picked myself up and told myself it was going to be okay, and it really was!

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My room on day 1 looks so bare compared to how it was at the end!

My favourite story from that day is how I met my lovely Welsh idiot Ffion. She totally catfished me. I was in my flat corridor, when a random girl just turned to me and said “Hey, I know you”. I was extremely confused because I didn’t recognise this person at all. Until she said “yeah I know, I really don’t look like my Facebook profile picture”. Turns out we’d been talking for weeks beforehand after meeting on our college Facebook group chat! We continued bonding instantly, and Ffi became the extrovert I attatched myself to for the whole of first year.

I met the rest of my flat pretty quickly. We were 6 girls of 6 different nationalities, which has always been our little claim to fame. I bonded with my now college wife (more on that someday) Oana because she was wearing a My Chemical Romance t-shirt, and my American buddy Anna because I was belting out Hamilton far too loudly with the door open. You really do make friends in the most random of ways in freshers!

College Events

Each night throughout freshers my college organised a night out and a more chilled night. I went out I think 3 times; to a white t-shirt party (think signing shirts), a subject social and a space party. They were okay, but not really my thing, as I’m pretty uncomfortable going clubbing when it’s with people I don’t know.

 

 

Our white t-shirt party was the first event I went to, and took place in our lovely (and ridiculously cheap) college bar. That was the night when I met my now housemate Callum (you got your shoutout, do I get a pint in return now?). At that point I obviously didn’t know the bar has a card limit, so I ended up buying drinks for myself, Ffion and Callum when we’d only known each other for all of 5 minutes. I’m pretty sure we bonded over music, which makes a lot of sense considering at every party we have now it’s us two who dictate the music.

Durham being Durham, we also had a formal and matriculation that week. It was the first and last formal I left sober, and I’m pretty sure I was hungover throughout the entire matriculation ceremony (that’s the fancy one in the cathedral that makes us officially Durham students). It was also absolutely pouring down on matriculation day, meaning I had my first experience navigating wet cobbles in heels. There’s a reason why you never see me in my formal pictures with heels on anymore!

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Can’t get over how different I look just one year ago! (I’m on the far left)

 

 

That time I cut my finger…

This is the main story I have from freshers week, and the one which still gets told at almost every house party. I cut my finger on a potato peeler whilst washing up, and then didn’t stop bleeding for 2 hours. 2 HOURS! The flat had me bandaged up with my arm above my head for most of that 2 hours, as the porters were largely unhelpful and basically left us to deal with it. Obviously I did eventually stop bleeding, but it was a pretty embarrassing bonding experience with my flat. Pretty sure I didn’t go out that night…

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Final feelings

Freshers week was weird. You’re thrown into a new city with a bunch of people you don’t know, away from everything that’s familiar to you. You spend a week introducing yourself time and time again and having to be up for social events 24/7, something that doesn’t quite work for my introversion. I have some good memories from the week, but I also spent a lot of time sleeping and hiding from the world.

My main piece of advice is not to put too much pressure on freshers week. Yes, if you spend the whole week hiding in your room you probably won’t get much out of it. But, by the same token, if you’re not into going out and partying all the time you shouldn’t have to. Seek out chilled events and chat with people in the canteen instead. Freshers isn’t a universal experience and should fit whatever you’re into, so have a good time!

 

-Megan, listening to Badflower (tiny band, would reccomend!)