It’s time to say au revoir: Partings, Parties and People Skills

This is a bittersweet post to write; on the one hand, I’ve miraculously survived for 4 months and am writing this ON THE PLANE (and trains) HOME YAY!! but on the other hand, Christmas kind of marks the end of an era. Do you want the good or the bad news first? (That’s a rhetorical question, you don’t get any choice. Bad news it is.)

Partings


I’ve been lucky enough to meet some super-awesome people this term, most of whom have just the one major flaw of inconsiderately being Not French. One particular group is departing en masse, which will leave me bereft, as I’ve been enjoying a linguistically disastrous amount of time with them, only for fate to cruelly and prematurely tear us apart. If you think that’s melodramatic, you clearly aren’t familiar with my attitude to goodbyes; I’m terrible at them, and react by going into either denial or mourning. To the survivors: please do not be alarmed if I cry profusely every time I’m in any way reminded of the fallen – this is to be expected.  

On the plus side, Suzi’s leaving! (Don’t worry Suzi, that isn’t in and of itself a good thing – miss you already.) However, it does mean I get to move into her FABULOUS apartment with her equally fabulous flatmate, and escape the hellhole that is French student halls. To commemorate this particular parting, here’s a tenuously-90s-romcom-inspired list of the various things I will not miss about my old accommodation. Unlike the original, it’s not in poem form as I’m to lazy to condense this much resentment into a sensible rhyme scheme. And it doesn’t end in a declaration of love.

Ten things I hate about Voie Domitienne


1. My room: 10m2 is not enough space for a clumsy hoarder, especially when it’s entirely filled by a desk the size of the moon.


2. The sinister metal blind and the plastic-coated mattress: The blind gives an overwhelming impression that the walls are closing in, and results in alarmingly rapid changes in temperature. I have on occasion woken up thinking that I was in a sweaty coffin. 

3. The internet: or frequent lack thereof. You’d think this would motivate me to be productive and sociable, but it instead results in entire days disappearing into a black hole of frustration and bitterness.

4. My corridor: which is always ominously empty, and usually smells of weed. 

5. The kitchens: Things I’ll have in my new kitchen that I didn’t have in Voie Domitienne: Oven, microwave, kettle, cupboards, utensils, fridge/freezer, bin, will to live. 

6. The campus: There used to be trees, but they cut most of them down. Now there’s just tarmac and a strong sense of the inherent futility of everything.

7. The deeply unpleasant walk from the tram stop: which produces the same effect on my mood as the abundant quantities of dog crap adorning the streets of Montpellier. 

8. The apparent impossibility of all amenities working simultaneously: They took the table and chairs out of my kitchen early on. Then they put them back, at which point the hobs stopped working for 3 weeks. Then they fixed those and my shower went on strike. Then they fixed that but took away the chairs again… you get the idea.

9. Demon Woman: who, yesterday, along with her evil cronies, stood and watched my five-minute struggle to single-handedly get my ludicrously heavy electric piano through the Acceuil doors. To be fair, she’d have had to lean over slightly to open the door, and I suppose she needed to conserve her energy for evil death-glares.

10. The barefaced lies: Voie Domitienne supposedly boasts a canteen, a laundrette, a gym, a multimedia room and WiFi. None of these things exist. 

In summary, despite the extra cash I’ve been able to irresponsibly spend due to paying minimal rent, four months was enough, and I am completely delighted to be moving. I will live the high life next term. And I will be able to make cakes.

Parties


The other silver lining of people leaving is that it means Fun End-of-Term Events. I’ve been attending a near-constant stream of these, aided and abetted by Amy, Chris and Harris during their visit, in which I’ve haemorrhaged money and drunk decadent amounts of wine orange squash. Here are some snippets of what I’ve been up to… (instead of revising for my pointless exams. One was at 8am. Yuck.)

Early Christmas dinner with these silly bitchez. My contribution was, unsurprisingly, cake. 



Sightseeing. The town is still shockingly beautiful. Incidentally, I’ll be living next door to this park as of January. 

Being edgy and French. We are definitely not tourists. Would tourists sit in cafés and look disenchanted in black and white?

The zoo, once again. I think the animals are starting to recognise me… The highlight of this particular trip was when I was unexpectedly interviewed for a local radio station, answering hard-hitting questions such as “Do you like the zoo?” (Answer: Yes, it is nice) and “What is your favourite animal in the zoo?” (Answer: The maned wolf. And the cheetah.) The Q&A’s I learnt for GCSE French have finally proved relevant.

Almost-victorious pub quiz, followed by an impromptu but fun night out to a completely empty club. The fun ended abruptly when Harris declared he had lost his passport and we’d have to go to Toulouse (several hours and 40€ away by train) to get a temporary one. We subsequently found it on my desk, saving me from an anxiety-induced heart attack.

Speaking of nights out, I’m beginning to think that “Erasmus = partying” cliché is true; I’ve spent more time in clubs over the last term than in the entire rest of my life. This is partly because, as anyone who’s met me for more than five minutes can probably tell, clubbing’s not really my thing. Contrary to popular opinion, that’s not because I don’t like fun – it’s just that my definition of fun is more along the lines of tipsy pub conversations and pratting about in fancy dress, than bodily contortions in a darkened, sweaty room full of strangers.

That’s not to say I don’t like going out sometimes – it’s actually often great fun – but I’m also handicapped by my inability to dance, due to the fatal combination of having to improvise and feeling like people will be judging the inevitably regrettable result. Therefore, unless I’m in a Zumba class, various conditions must be met before I can manage anything but an embarrassed shuffle. These are:

I must know (and like) the song 
AND 
I must be with people I know very well OR I must be very drunk.

This last usually entails a severe hangover, which is why I tend only to go out when it seems strictly necessary (although that’s surprisingly often here). Also, there’s always the risk that someone might take a video like this one:


People Skills


Finally – because hitting the half-way point provides an excuse for over-analytical musings – I’ve remarked that the other Erasmus cliché remains true. While I have the odd day where I’d rather gouge my own eyes out with a wooden spoon than have another stilted conversation with someone I’ll probably never see again (but then, who doesn’t?) my “interpersonal skills” have improved immeasurably, to the point that I’ll now cheerfully and immediately bond with near-strangers. I do conversation exchanges, for goodness’ sake. I’ve also become thicker-skinned than a rhinoceros as regards uninvited grammar corrections or looks that say “Why on earth is this foreign idiot asking me X question?”

Unfortunately, my memory for names hasn’t improved at the same rate as my networking skills, which doesn’t facilitate initial encounters, given that during small-talk I’m usually panicking about the fact I was too busy trying to look like I’d got their name to actually listen to what it was. Add to that the variety of possible nationalities and you get something like this: 

Me: Hi! I’m ʁowanne (this is the best approximation of my name that French phonemes can manage, the result if I pronounce it à l’anglaise being ‘wowa?’)
Can you remind me of your name? (ALWAYS account for the possibility you’ve already met and forgotten them.)
Them: I’m €•§¢ª#‘«® 
Me: Sorry?
Them#∑¢∞§€¶• 
Me: Ah, ok… How is that spelt?
Them: ø-∑-∆-†-≤≥
Me: Great! What a lovely name *makes mental note to ask someone else later* 

Despite minor qualms like this, the term has ended on a really good note. I’m ridiculously excited to be home, and am particularly enjoying being surrounded by people who understand queueing, but I’m actually kinda looking forward to going back to France afterwards. This is a huge step forward, especially given that there really have been some difficult times. I’ll miss the silly bitches who’ve helped me through them, but I’m also looking forward to getting to know the people who are staying a lot better. À l’année prochaine! 

Bonus picture: La Vallée de la Vis, where me and Susi (not Suzi, this one is staying – yay!) went with my walking group last week. 


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