As I am slowly but steadily approaching the end of my stay in France, I’ve decided to write something about my experience in here in order to treasure this memory in another way than just in my head and my heart
I’m a Romanian Erasmus student in Nantes, France, and I only came here for the second semester, so that left me with 4 months of constantly struggling to keep up with everything that goes on, with all of the changes in my life.
Unfortunately, time flew by so fast that I feel like I’ve barely had the chance to get used to everything and I need to go home soon (Gosh, where’s a tissue when you need one?). Seriously now, I feel really lucky to have spent this time here. Since I hadn’t really traveled before, this whole thing has made me see the world in a different way, I literally had no idea it was so big. Ever since I set foot in this country, my eyes have been wide open, in an attempt to not miss a thing, to make sure that I would not let opportunities pass me by and to live and breathe the French experience. I realize that this might sound quite idealistic, but it’s the only way I can describe the huge impact all of this has had on me.
I was amazed by everything. I came here by car, so the moment I crossed the border and as I was going down the highway, I had the feeling of “stepping” into another world. I love that everything is neatly organized, everything is clean and the countryside can be enchanting. I was also impressed by the number of castles everywhere. There are so many of them in the Pays-de-la-Loire region and I only visited three of them!
From the very beginning, the French I encountered have been incredibly nice and outgoing (except for some of my classmates, but that’s another late night story). I didn’t really expect to have such a warm welcome. I sure do expect to have one when I go back home though! It’s a good thing that I speak French, because I must say that they are quite terrible at speaking other languages, especially English. With the exception of the wonderful owner of this blog and a handful of other French people, most of them have a hard time speaking anything other than la langue culturelle par excellence. But not all of it is their fault, I guess it’s mostly because all of the films on their television are dubbed.
I don’t want to leave because everything is so inviting here, that you just feel the need to leave your residence and go out, explore the surroundings or simply have a walk by the river and spend a lovely afternoon reading, listening to music, dreaming and whatnot. There are so many parks and green spaces, that you can just join the rest of the people and lie on the grass, enjoy the sun and forget about the world. I never thought I’d fancy spending my entire day on the university campus. Maybe that’s what I will miss the most, the fact that one can take pleasure in studying here, whether it be in the awesome library or outside on the grass.
I couldn’t help but notice how everybody seems to be doing all kinds of sports here, especially running and bike riding, but also ranging from football, rugby, tennis all the way to javelin throw! I kind of feel bad about not doing anything except for lots of walking and sometimes swimming. People seem to have less of a stressful life here than in my country, I mean they really take the time to do something for themselves for a change, and so maybe they enjoy life more. For instance, no matter how terrible the weather is, the terraces of cafés are always cramped with people having their morning coffee (& cigarette!!) and a croissant or having a lunch break, taking their time to relax and watch the passers-by. They have an exquisite way of indulging in this habit of theirs that more often than not, you can tell a Frenchman from a stranger.
I was even lucky enough to be able to spend a week in Paris during the Easter holidays, so this struck me even more plainly than anywhere else. The difference is that Paris is waaaaaay more expensive. You cannot dream of spending a day in Paris without at least 25 euros in your pocket. Be careful, the croissants and the pains au chocolat can become very addictive! One bite and you won’t help but have the urge to buy one every day! All in all, even with the high cost of living and the difficulty of coping with this century of speed where we’re always in a rush, the French have a peculiar way of leading a bohemian lifestyle and it’s definitely catchy!
The architecture in Paris is mind-blowing. I think the building of the Louvre Museum is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my entire life. I hope I’ll get the chance to travel more and discover other amazing things like this.
I had a strange feeling during my stay there because there were so many people everywhere! I had never taken the subway before, so I was quite taken aback by everything, but I soon picked up the pace and I could imagine myself living there, at least for a few years or so. Also, have you ever been to the Paris Gare du Nord? It’s huuuuuuge! It’s the busiest railway station in Europe and it’s incredible! While I was there, I felt a rush of excitement and I really loved the whole atmosphere. There were people waiting, leaving, rushing to catch their train… and then some fellows of mine, as confused as I was, constantly looking at maps or signs so as to get an idea of how to manage to find their way out of that crowded place. At times, my faith in humanity was restored as I stood in awe of many many beautiful things and I asked myself how Man succeeded in creating them. Everything is special in Paris: the buildings, the streets, the bridges, the parks…they are all works of art. It’s really a must-see-before-you-die kind of a city and it has made me want to travel more and see other wonderful places.
I have one more thing on my list before leaving France, and that’s going to the ocean. I haven’t been to the seaside for more than 10 years now and I’m dying to go! I’m sure I’m going to burst into tears upon seeing it. To sum up, as overwhelming as it has been, I tried to do it the French way, to step back and learn as much as I could from all that has happened to me. It sure wasn’t all roses, but all bad things aside, just the fact of being in another country far from everything and anyone you know can make you feel alive. All I can do is advise people to take up the daunting challenges that they’re afraid of and take advantage of all the opportunities that they come across, especially if it involves travelling, because it sure is worthwhile!
– Virginia, the 20th of April, 2012, Nantes.