Every time I went on a week-long school holiday as a child, I was homesick. It’s therefore come as quite a surprise to me that I have successfully finished my first three weeks living in Montpellier, in the south of France. Much as it seems, in many respects, like an extended holiday, it is slowly dawning on me that I am here for another twelve weeks, and that somehow I have to live, study, pass exams, and generally survive here.
I’ve been thinking of writing a blog for ages, and I wanted to come up with something a bit different from the usual day-to-day diary of events. Let’s face it, there’s only so many times I can write about going to the beach in Autumn without being at risk of sounding very boring and very smug.
Everyone else, it seemed, had already come up with something to write about in the first week, and yet I was here, nearly a month in, still so busy sorting my life out and muddling through the basic aspects of administration that I didn’t have time to sit down and actually think through what I wanted to write about. That was the point at which it occurred to me that I really wished that someone with actual experience, not a departmental administrator in England, would tell me exactly what I was up against, and how the hell to deal with it.
I still haven’t found that elusive person. But I’m hoping that I can put everything from my own experience (and yes, even three weeks in, it’s been a real experience) together and write something down that could be useful to someone, somewhere! It could be people already studying abroad, panicking that they’re alone. People just about to arrive at their placement. Second years throwing themselves into year abroad preparation. University applicants worrying about applying for courses with a third year abroad. I can live with the fact that actually nobody may find it useful – but it’s a therapeutic process for me and at least I tried...
So here we go. My guide to living, studying and surviving abroad. Hopefully I can also act as a useful guide to the culture and people of Montpellier, and, later, St Petersburg.
As a disclaimer, if I make the experience sound terrible, it’s probably because the bits you never get advice on are the things that go spontaneously wrong. But honestly, I know already that this is one of the best things I’ve ever done. And actually I’m hoping that this will just help iron out people’s problems, rather than put them off. After all, what could be better than living somewhere where you can hit the beach every weekend, when it’s raining and autumnal in England. Ok, that’s the last smug mention, I promise.