1-2 Hurts Just a Little Bit // Year Abroad Diaries #003

When I started writing these year abroad posts I was convinced I’d do them weekly, so I could look back at all the fun things I’d done. Might as well set myself up to be a constant disappointment I suppose.

I guess it makes sense to start with the bad, right?

I had my first big year abroad cry!!! From talking to friends over here I’ve discovered that this is actually quite normal, especially around the one month mark. For me it was caused by a lot of things; exhaustion, loneliness, feeling very anxious all of a sudden and probably in some part my girlfriend’s departure for England. It was shit, I won’t sugar coat it. Crying at 2am when you have work the next morning and being on the second floor of an apartment building where the only way to get some air is sticking your head out of the window is far from ideal. But, honestly I think I needed it. I think I needed that release of emotions to realise that I couldn’t just spend my whole year breaking down every time it got hard, and it did take a few days but I picked myself up.

How? Well, I had to get out and start doing things. A big part of that has been making friends, because I know myself, I am not very good at being alone for long periods of time anymore. I haven’t done so great at making friends with any French people yet, but I have discovered the 30 odd people from Durham who are also hanging out in Paris at the moment, and a few other British Erasmus people. It was awkward to start with, spending time with people I know just about well enough that it’s weird that we never talked properly until leaving Durham, but after a drink or two things always smooth out. The best thing for me was having people to sit down with and talk about the things about a year abroad that are hard, or even the things about Paris that are hard. I talk to my friends from home about this, but as much as they are there to support me, they can never truly relate to my complaints about the failings of French bureaucracy or how much I hate the RATP for so many reasons. It was nice to have something to bond over, even if it is just for a few drinks every now and again. 

What was slightly more unexpected was the reappearance of my creativity. I used to write poetry when I was younger, but I haven’t done for almost four years now, so I thought that part of my life was done. Then I took myself out for coffee the other weekend, planning on reading, but ended up pouring my heart out into verse. Since then I’ve written ten or so poems, about everything from politics to emotions and in everywhere from the laundrette to the Musee d’Orsay. I even went to a slam night on Monday, and oh my God I have never felt more inspired. I feel like I have so much to say all of a sudden, and finally the tools to say it all again. I think I would like to perform some stuff at that slam night before I leave. It’s a bit of an ask for someone with anxiety who hasn’t been on a stage since GCSE Drama, but I just have this feeling somewhere in me that says I need to.

I promise I won’t end with yet more doom and gloom, but I had another mild breakdown, this time a lot shorter. Last weekend I went out for drinks for a friend’s birthday, and came home unreasonably drunk for someone who’d only had four pints. And the next day I just felt like garbage. Not even in the sense of being hungover (although I was), but just feeling so upset and sad and overwhelmed. I nearly cried in a Metro station for fuck’s sake (and it wasn’t even Chatelet, a place so confusing it makes me want to cry on an average day). Alcohol is a depressant kids!!

The big upset this time was mostly because I’ve been obsessing over watching everything play out in Durham and not being there to experience it physically. I spent hours on Sunday morning just scrolling through what people were doing back home and waiting for people to respond to my messages. That’s not a fucking life is it. I live in PARIS for fucks sake, one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in Europe, and I have absolutely no academic commitments. I can’t waste that, so I’ve put limits on my social media for now at least and I’m trying to let myself build a life here, rather than spending a whole year miserable.

It is never going to be easy to be physically far away from the things and people I hold dear, but it also doesn’t have to be impossible. I feel like I’ve learned from my dramatic meltdowns and I’m going to go forward better as a result. Either that or I’ll have another cry again soon, stay tuned to find that one out.

 

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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)

My Relationship With Reading

I learned to read long before I went to school. My parents used to drive to our seaside holidays down South overnight in hopes my brother and I would sleep on the journey, yet I read in the light of car headlights driving by. By the age of 10 every librarian in my local library knew me by name. Yet since I started second year I’ve only read 2 non-academic books; what the hell happened?

As a child I was completely addicted to reading. I remember sitting up until midnight just trying to get to the end of whatever book I’d checked out of the library that week. My Dad would hear that I still had my radio on (because I was a weird kid that listened to the radio to fall asleep) and see my lights on when he was heading to bed, only to be met with the excuse of “I’ve only got a few more pages”. Sunday afternoons were reserved for going to the library and coming out with an armful of books, to the point where I was bored of the kids section and had moved onto the teenage section way earlier than was probably sensible. I loved escaping into a different reality and learning about different lives as I went, feeling as if I were worlds away from the very homogeneous environment that is rural Cumbria.

When I eventually got to secondary school I was suddenly made aware that I was a massive nerd. Reading a lot was a bit of an add on to the fact that I succeeded in school and was a tad of a teacher’s pet at times. For a while I flirted with the “yeah God reading is so uncool” thing and followed along with everyone else in denouncing books (which probably coincided with the emo phase I’m definitely not secretly still in). It obviously didn’t last very long, because I found social media and a whole community of people in Booktube that adore reading as much as I did.

But, since Sixth Form, I really haven’t read that much. I struggle to get through more than a couple of non-academic books in a term, which is quite surprising considering that a large part of my degree is reading, it just happens to not be in English anymore. In 2017 I only read 13 books. When I was 13 I’d have gotten through that in 2 months.

The thing is though that I don’t think I’ve necessarily fallen out of love with reading. When travelling I usually spend all of my flight time with a book in hand, and tend to take one out on my Metro journeys. I love waking up on a Sunday morning with a small workload and rain outside lending itself to lazing around in bed with strong coffee and a good read. I think the honest truth is that I just need to make more time for it, rather than spending the little time I have at home watching Netflix and oversleeping.

In conclusion: books are good and I want to read more of them in 2019. For some reason, I’ve pledged to read 40. If you want to watch me fail at that then you can check out my Goodreads, and if you’re interested in book-related posts; let me know!

-Megan, listening to The Wombats on Christmas Eve like a 15 year old anti-festivity indie stereotype

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!)