Thursday, October 21, 2010

The pros & the cons of France so far

The year abroad for everyone is bound to have ups & downs & its certainly been exactly the same experience for me. There are some days when I'm so happy to be here, willing to integrate with everyone & practice my French & then there are other days where all I want to do is sit in my room and catch-up on British tv, not speak French & criticise everything thats wrong with this country!

So what have I enjoyed so far: Well the school that I'm teaching in has been very friendly & most of the teachers always ask me how I'm doing & some even want to learn English from me & insist on talking to me in English in the staff room. Most of the teachers here are so polite & bonjours and ça va's are always exchanged in the staff room. The English teachers especially seem geniunely happy to have me here and don't see me as a burden, for example I've been asked to help a teacher with her English, asked to help the students with Model UN & have been invited for drinks/dinners by various teachers.

The foreign language assistants too in the area have been so friendly & I hope to have made some friends for life out of this experience. We are a group all in the same boat & especially when you are down, it is nice to spend time with them.The city too is beautiful & although it wasn't my first choice, I'm pleased I'm in Reims now as opposed to some dumpy area in the middle of no where! I also love the food, the pattiseries, the fresh bread! Having said that lots of it is soooooo expensive that I haven't really been as adventerous as I want to be!

But what have I disliked about being in France- The bureaucracy here is too too much. I must have signed more forms in 4 weeks than I have in my whole life. France doesn't need to raise its retirement age, it needs to cut all the bureaucracy & red tape - that would save millions of euros in my opinion! The strikes have been a massive inconvenience. For those of you who don't know, the French government is planning to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. I don't have a strong opinion on the issue but it seems to be the sensible thing to do in order to save money & help France's economy, however the majority of French people are so angry about this issue and have taken to the streets. There has even been violence in many parts of the country even involving school children. When I went to witness the strikes last week, there were people from all walks of life there including pupils from my school & teachers! Whilst I love seeing people engaging & partipating in political activities, the strikes have become an inconvenience for travellers & they are not going to change a thing because the law will be passed! But the strikes are a part of French culture so I better get used to it!

French people can be unfriendly although for the best part they are lovely, warm people. However, I have had one or two experiences in shops with French people who have been rude to me and classified me as a foreigner. But I'm not going to let one or two people give their country a bad name & ruin my year abroad!

Crossing the road here is a nightmare too!

For those of you who know me, I like a good moan about England & always say how I want to live abroad, I have to admit there are some things in England I take for granted & I'm going to appreciate them a lot more when I return home: these include easy access to fresh milk, good mobile phone contracts, cheaper calls abroad, a good old Indian curry & cheaper things!

However on the whole, having lived abroad for nearly a month now, I'm glad to have the opportunity to spend some time away from the UK & would like to live abroad in the future and who knows maybe in France!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Year abroad so far!

I've been meaning to write a blog for some time now but still hadn't gotten round to doing it. I'm Samir and I'm a third year Politics & French student at the University of Bristol. I am currently working as a teaching assistant in Reims. I only work 12 hours a week so there's plenty of time to doss around & experience French life to the max! I've been in France for 3 weeks now & am absolutely loving it. Every experience has its positives & negatives and I've definitely experienced good days & bad days on the year abroad so far.

So where to start- Reims is a great city & its only an hour away from Paris on the train. Its in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France & has a population of nearly 200,000. I consider it to be fairly small as its smaller than both Croydon my hometown & Bristol where I've been living and studying the last 2 years. Its an important city in France as its where champagne is made & its cathedral is where the French kings were crowned. In addition, it is where Nazi Germany surrendered the war. There is a fair amount to do here too which is good & I'm hoping to keep busy as I don't work very much.

I'm teaching in a lycée called Jean Jaurès named after a socialist leader assassinated during the First World War. Its a pretty nice school and is known as one of the better schools in the area. It has an internat which is like a boarding house but its for girls only although boys also attend the school. The teachers here are very friendly & welcoming and I have to admit I'm very happy here so far. So far I've been to almost every English class to introduce myself & answer questions about myself, UK life. Its been a bit repetive but I've been asked all sorts of questions from 'Do you like football?' to 'What is your view of the special relationship between the United States & the UK?' The students here seem very well behaved and geniunely interested in learning & improving English.I'm living in a studio flat on the 5th floor of the boarding house. Its a pretty big room with a little kitchen & a bathroom. The room looks a bit bare at the moment but I'm sure it will look cozy when I've put pictures and all up!

The training itself for the job was rather boring & I don't think I gained very much from it but I had the opportunity to meet lots of other assistants from all over the world. The training was for assistants from all over the academie. Our academie includes schools near the Belgian border and ends near Dijon so its quite large. I've made assistant friends from all over the world including the UK, the US, Germany, Spain & even my native India! It was nice to meet so many great people & we went out in the evenings and I've had the opportunity to get to know many of them since.

So far I've been to the cathedral twice, been to the Moet & Chardon champagne house in Epernay which was an awesome tour! I also went to a chocolate exhibition in the city which was fantastique although I spent so much money on random items of chocolate. This last weekend I went to Paris to meet friends and relax & see some of the city so I feel I've done a good amount so far! We also have our October half term holidays coming up known as the Toussaint Vacances and I'm planning to visit Luxembourg & Belgium with a friend from university. I'm very much looking forward to a bit of a break & an opportunity to travel.

That's all for now but I will write soon!