40 days in France: Year Abroadery

Hello Internet Peoples! I hope you’re all feeling fancy and fabulous as ever!

Today, as promised, I will get a move on with the blog au sujet de my adventures in France. It’s been more than one month since I got here, which is kind of incredible and very hard to take it! But thankfully it’s been pretty good so far, and there have been some great time where I’ve made memories that I know will say with me for a long time; until I’m a wee granny with no teeth and a lovely perm. Ahhhh.

So, to make this easier, I thought I’d give you a sort of week by week run down of what’s been happening while I’ve been living here. Be warned- I am incredibly awkward, and this could get very bridget Jones-y…

WEEK ONE: I left the land of whiskey and mild sectarianism on a rather bleak Monday morning with my parents, my boyfriend, and three suitcases containing my life in tow, and we boarded a cheeky wee easy jet number to land in Paris, France! I stress france because the amount of flipping times I search for journeys on Rome2Rio and it thinks “hmmmm, ‘Murica?” is mad! I have to say, for someone who hates flying, I actually had a really lovely flight!

I’m a great believer in smells triggering memories, and so when something big or new happens in my life, I like to buy a new perfume. I treated myself to some La Vie est Belle in the duty free to mark the occasion.

My prayers were answered (I said I enjoyed the flight but it didn’t mean the sheer terror was totally gone) and we landed safely at the CDG in the evening. My initial impression of France as we drove towards the city was 1, this place is insanely busy and 2, this is not one bit as picturesque as Madame Marin promised… But that improved throughout week!

My parents, le boyf and I spent three nights in Paris, and they were honestly incredible. We stayed in a little apartment on a tiny little street, which was very suave and modern and lovely, with one minor complaint- myself and Chris’s bed absolutely stank of poo. There’s no way to dress it up- that bed was just nasty. The sheets were clean, the house was fresh and shiny in every other way, yet that bed was just sheer toilet. Chris and I didn’t really mention the smell on the first night to each other, for fear that the other person had crapped themselves with the excitement of being in Paris. But by the second night, we really began to question the odour…

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Smiling through the pain.

ANYWAY! In Paris, we did all of the typical touristy stuff; we saw the Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, the Champs Elysses… you name it, we probably done it. And in the stye of typical flaneurs (or possibly nutters), no one thought to consult a map before we left. Ahhh, adventures!

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The Sacre Coeur
Galeries Lafayette
Galeries Lafayette

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For me, the most amazing part of the few days we spent was definitely on the second day. We got absolutely S O A K E D on the way out of the Sacre Coeur, as the heavens decided to open in honour of Northern Irish people being present, and once we dried out, we marched along soddenly to the Galeries Lafayette. It’s basically a huge shopping centre, where they have literally every brand you can think of, and everyone speaks flawless English (and Japanese!). We climbed up to the very top, and it was then I caught my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Bear in mind that this gorgeous big hunk of metal has been the symbol of France and studying french since I was in Year 8- it adorned every sticker and birthday card as far back as I can remember. I got a little bit emotional, as nerdy as it must be. It’s like when you get off the plane in another country, but it doesn’t really feel like another country? And then, it hit me.

After being soaked!
After being soaked!
First sighting of er, cap'n!
First sighting of er, cap’n!

After four wonderful days in such a beautiful city, we made our way to Compiègne, the town where I live. Compiègne is beautiful- very authentically French, with its cobbled streets and multitude of patisseries. It’s quite middle class, and very safe and pretty. I’ll do a separate post on it at some point, because i know people probably want to see pictures and I have plenty, believe me!

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The night we arrived, I went to the school where I work to meet the other teachers. The school is incredibly beautoful- I am so lucky to work here! The salle de profs is literally like Hogwarts. I have a pigeon hole!

We stayed in a hotel there for three nights, while my family moved me into my new room at the Lycée where I teach, and they helped me to get to know the town a little bit better. On the Sunday, we had our emotional goodbyes- it wasn’t just as bad as I thought, but that didn’t mean it was easy! I feel so blessed that I had my family with me for a week though- i don’t know what I would’ve done without them!

Watching my parents leave like "are you sure I can function here alone?!"
Watching my parents leave like “are you sure I can function here alone?!”

WEEK TWO: Week two started… eventfully. I was rudely awoken by the fire alarm B L A R I N G at half nine, and spent a good ten minutes running back and forth across my room thinking “Do I go? Where do I go?!” before realising that it could well mean my building was on fire, and that I should probably go and stand outside. I met Bekah (fellow assistant!) in the corridor, and we went outside to see what the flip was going on. Eventually, we were lined up on the grass with some pupils, while being eyeballed by just about everyone. Now let me paint you a picture here- i was not prepared for this. I had been in bed, asleep, in the quickest pair of pyjamas I could find. And those pyjamas were my massive QUB hoody (ten sizes too big), and the tiniest, tightest, most obscene aged 14-15 shorts you could imagine. Short shorts. So, I was making a great first impression.

I spent the first few days wandering around the town, getting a mobile phone sorted, getting my banking sorted, all of the super exciting things like that. But if you’re reading this and you have me on Facebook, you’ll know that for a good week and more, I had no wifi. Every day i would march across campus to the technician office, to find that there was no one there. Nobody. Personne.

This became the bane of my life. Forget crying over being far away from friends and family, I was crying over lack of connection to the cyber world. Grrr.

Terrence the dog, our most favourite French pal!
Terrence the dog, our most favourite French pal!

Other than that, my second week saw me starting my first day officially, and heading to Amiens (a nearby city) where there was a huge meeting for all new local assistants. This was easily the most boring day of my life- being talked at for six hours? All in French? And then being fed a manky school dinner? Non. Juste non. It was cool however to see Amiens, and my breakfast at the Holiday Inn was very exciting too. Mmmm, complementary.

Hanging out with the other assistants in Amiens!
Hanging out with the other assistants in Amiens!

WEEK THREE: Week three saw my first full week of work. Well, I say work, it wasn’t too stressful at all! Most teachers wanted me to turn up to their rooms, and introduce myself to their classes, so the pupils could ask me questions and get to know me a little bit better. My favourite question was definitely from the kid who asked “Could you please say the word ‘écureuil’, Miss?” Something a little bit different than “So, do you have a boyfriend?”

My students are all aged 14-21, and can I just say, their level of English puts our levels of French at those stages to shame. They are all so fabulous, and I regularly tell them that. My little étoiles!

My first full week was exciting, and not as stressful as I’d thought. I know it’ll take some time to get used to the room changes and names and face, but I feel like I’m getting there. It helps that all of my students regularly scream “ELLE EST TROP MIGNONNE”- she is too cute. I spent most of that week blushing!

WEEK FOUR: Again, a full week of work. This week, I got the internet sorted! And I started work on my social security and my CAF! So everything felt like it was falling into place a little bit more. I also starting tutoring during this week, which was very exciting and something I’d never done before. Everything started to seem a little bit more familiar! Bekah and I also went to the palace, which was very exciting, and Chanel (another assistant!) and I discovered the wonders of Pimkie, a local clothes shop which is so cheap yet so amazing! This was a week filled with macarons, bread, trips to Carrefour (a HUGE shopping centre outside town), and many random new discoveries (ie trying the local Dominos, and the hunt for flavoured ciders!). Even better, at the end of that week, Chris came to visit me!! We hadn’t even been apart for that long, but it was AMAZING to see him, and show him my new friends, and all of my new discoveries.

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Finding the local Irish bar
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Carrefour trips!
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Chris!!

WEEK FIVE: This was the first week off! In France, there’s a two week holiday called Toussaint, which meant it was time for a break! Bekah and I decided to use this time very wisely, and went on a little trip to Amsterdam! We took the train from Paris Nord at seven thirty in the morning, and spent four days there, flaneuring until our little hearts are content. I will be doing a separate post on our trip, because in a few weeks I’m actually going back! Canals, boats, hostels, Wagamamas and interesting smells… That sums it up!

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WEEK SIX: This was proobably the hardest week.. If you read my last post, you’ll understand why. But it’s now the end of the week, and as I type this, I know I really ought to be asleep. I start work again tomorrow! How exciting! I’m actually a little bit nervous, but I know how much I’ve enjoyed the role of “teacher” so far, and I can’t wait to get straight back into it. This is a great opportunity, and I’m going to make the most of it. Things are looking up 🙂

So it’s November, and I’m so excited!! I feel like the start of a new month is giving me the time to reconnect with myself and my heart, and things can only get better. It was my one year anniversary with the boyf yesterday, and so he’s coming out at the end of next week so we can celebrate by heading into Paris (only forty minutes by train by the way), which I cannot wait for (ending a sentence with a preposition? Ohhh I don’t know about that)! My great aunt is also coming to visit, and we’re going to Amsterdam together. The Christmas lights go on and the market opens- there is SO MUCH to be excited about, so I’m counting my blessings. Things can only go up from here.

So, that’s been my life so far! I’m going to do separate posts on various aspects of my life here, and I’m even thinking of doing a few videos to go along with it… I dunno! Let me know what you guys think. I’m always open to new ideas!

As ever, thank you for taking the time out to read these, I love it so much, and your comments literally make my life. I love you all!

Amber xx

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