My reaction to the realities of the year abroad was probably similar to many: Panic like a headless chicken, cry a bit, manic denial laughter, excessive research, excitement, more panic (OK, maybe the manic laughter was just me). I now have two months to go until I move, and I am still oscillating between excitement and nerves. There is so much to sort out, and it’s easy to become bogged down in all the formalities and forget why you’re doing it in the first place. I’ve created a list that I can read in those times of panic which will hopefully stop me from pulling the entirety of my hair out. If, like me, you’re going to France, lucky you! You already have a list of things to look forward to, but I suggest making a list like this for when things get stressful (and trust me, they will!)
Top Ten Benefits of Moving to Toulouse…1. French food
Cheese. Cheese, cheese and more cheese. I’m going to eat so much cheese I’m probably going to turn into a roulade and have to be wheeled onto my flight home. And then there’s the bread, the chocolate, the fresh fruit and vegetables. France is renowned for all of these, and apparently in Toulouse there is a fruit and veg market on certain mornings, which will definitely be a change from the “PUNNET OF PEACHES FOR A PAAAAND” markets I try to avoid over here in England. Apparently Toulouse is famous for its sausages, which, as any of my friends know, I am obsessed with. All giggly innuendos aside, I do really love sausages.
2. The wine
Another exciting part of France is the quality of the wine. I’m not saying that you can’t get a good quality wine over here in England, it will just cost you a fair few pennies. Being a budgeting student, the most fancy I can get is a nice bottle of Tesco’s wine for a fiver, which tastes like a mix between vinegar, stale grapes, and awful hangovers. Yum. But, take a cheeky trip over to France and you can pay less for a wine that is a hundred times better, without the vinegar and stale grapes! However, I cannot promise that you won’t get a hangover.
3. The freedom
Granted the first time you step off the plane, the feeling of freedom will most probably be eclipsed by screams of “Where the hell am I?!” But once you’ve (hopefully) found where to live, you will be free to roam the city as you please! There’s something incredibly refreshing about not knowing where you are, and seeing as I’m not the best map reader I like to play the ‘try-to-find-your-way-back-without-getting-hopelessly-lost’ game.
4. Possibility for reinvention
With the freedom of being in a new country comes the freedom to reinvent yourself. These people have no clue what you’re like; you have the opportunity to leave all your embarrassments (ahem) behind, and start life afresh. If you wanted, you could travel to Uni on a scooter wearing a cone bra and have everyone call you “Madonna”. Seriously, however, if you wanted a year to find out what you’re about and test it out, the year abroad is perfect.
5. Making new friends
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt at Uni, apart from numerous French grammar points and lines in novels I’ll never read again, it’s that you have to put in the effort to make friends. It’s easy to get by with close friends, but what do you do when you have to start from scratch? This is a great time to test your personal skills, and make friends from different countries and backgrounds.
6. The beautiful sunshine
My choice of year abroad destination occurred as follows: rule out all of Northern France, choose ideal place. As an English person, the thought of going anywhere remotely sunny fills me with the giddy excitement of a child at the seaside (which is about a two hour train ride from Toulouse).
7. Different cultures
I love the British culture; I love our Anglo-Saxon stoicism, I love our penchant for queues, and I love how every problem is solved with a nice cup of tea. However, your year abroad gives you the chance to step out of what so many people call “the British bubble”, and experience new and exciting cultures. Not to mention some of you lucky people who study two languages, and therefore get to fit in even more!
If, like me, you haven’t had the opportunity to be a “gap yah” student, your third year abroad is perfect for experiencing different places. Toulouse is in a great location to visit other places, here is a website which details just some of them. And if you want to go further, you can casually pop into Spain for the day. Barcelona day trip, anyone?
9. Extra year of Uni partying
Everyone knows that the final year means less partying. This is the prospect that your friends back home will be facing, whilst you’re jetting off overseas to even bigger, better parties! Pass the sangria!
10. Oh… and learning French of course
Hands up if, when you tell someone you do a language degree, they ask wide-eyed and eagerly, “Are you fluent, then?” Facepalm. The year abroad will bring you a massive step forward to that Holy Grail moment of every language student’s life when you can finally answer triumphantly, “OUI!”
There they are: ten reasons why putting up with the paperwork, stresses and annoyances is worth it, and truthfully, they weren’t too difficult to come up with.