It’s been three months since my Erasmus adventure ended and not a day goes by without me thinking about something funny that happened to me whilst in France. I’m always recounting anecdotes to my family; such as the time I almost knocked a man down on my bicycle as he was stepping out of the boulangerie with enormous baguettes in each hand; or when I mispronounced words and ended-up saying crazy sentences. An Erasmus experience fills you with fond memories.
Before I set sail last October, I had never been away from home for more than a week. Needless to say, I had the time of my life and have benefited tremendously from my placement. On a personal level I am much more confident, I have had the opportunity to experience new things and places and I am much more open-minded in regards to other cultures.
My confidence has increased immensely in many ways. I now know I am capable of travelling to a different country and catching planes, trains and buses. It sounds like something rather basic but I never thought I’d be able to navigate my way around cities using a foreign language.
Working in the school also gave me a huge confidence boost. I taught in a technical college for fifteen to twenty-one year olds where the large majority of students were boys. On my first day at the school I felt nervous as I watched lads casually stroll through the gates in their hoodies and jeans, French rap music blaring from their MP3s. However, never judge by appearances; most of the students were really lovely and well-mannered.
I became more confident as I knew they enjoyed the activities I prepared. It really was so much fun working at the lycée and I feel as though I can take on any challenge now in my future career. If I can get seventeen year-old French skater boys singing Frosty the Snowman and overtly loving it, I can do anything!
The second major benefit of taking part in the Erasmus programme was the opportunity to try new things and discover different places. As I was in the Nancy-Metz region of France I wasn’t too far away from Luxembourg, which I visited several times. Luxembourg is an amazing country; so diverse in every way. And then there was stunning Strasbourg, known as mini Venice. But my own little town of Pont was the undiscovered gem with cobbled streets and Renaissance buildings.
Apart from travelling, I got to watch French league football matches and handball tournaments. I went to the French Ballroom Dancing championships, to 11 November war commemorations in a tiny village and to an occupational therapy open day at a grande école. All these things made my experience exciting, unique and unforgettable. I tried all kinds of smelly cheeses, saucisson, crêpes with just about everything on them, the nicest patisseries ever and guinea fowl.
I am now much more open-minded. I wanted to go to France to discover traditional French culture, improve my language skills and become a more adaptable person; I certainly achieved all this. But more importantly, I fully realised that the France of today is a very multi-cultural and mixed society.
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