What is it like to study abroad?

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Recently, I had the chance to hear from some of my old friends. This also gave me the opportunity to interview my ex-flatmate, Sammy, who is studying abroad in Paris. Previously, for SCAN, I have interviewed European students who study outside of their home country, so it has made an interesting change to find out how a British student feels to be living and studying abroad.

Hello, Sammy. How are you doing in Paris?

Hello, I am very well, thank you. Paris is beautiful as always… How is Lancaster?

Well, it is currently raining… But you can probably guess that, since you lived here for two years before commencing your year abroad. Please tell us, what do you do in Paris?

I’m doing an internship as part of my course at the University. I study French and Politics and for part of my studying I have to take a year out and live in France. I am currently doing an internship at a culinary school in Paris. I work in the international department and I help with the administrative aspects of sorting candidates who apply for the programme.

That’s very cool! Are you going to spend the whole year in Paris?

Yes, but I have been in this culinary school for the past six months, so I will change to a new place next month. I will start another internship, similar to the one I am doing now. This time I will be working for a university here in Paris, carrying out similar tasks I have been doing while at the culinary school.

That sounds interesting! So far, has it been hard to be far away from home?

It was hard at first, even though I was in France as an “au pair” for about one year before starting Lancaster University’s course: I already had a bit of experience of being abroad. I already knew what being away from your home and country can mean, and how at the beginning it can be very hard. I think that is mainly due to the different lifestyles found abroad and the fact that you know that you cannot go home any time you want.

So, has this year abroad been a bit easier?

It has indeed, because I already knew the problems I was going to face, and I had already adapted to the French environment. Also, nowadays it is super easy to talk to your friends and family back home with FaceTime or Skype, or to go visit them every now and then.

I totally agree. And what about the language barrier? I remember at the beginning, when I moved to the UK, some people used to speak to me extremely slowly, probably to make me feel more comfortable. This sometimes helped, but sometimes it made me feel so stupid!

I know, because that happened to me as well… It is frustrating because you’re made to feel so dumb! Also, the language we speak daily in France is very different from the one I was learning in a classroom for two hours per week. When you actually live here, you are constantly surrounded by people that speak French so you have to push yourself, otherwise they won’t understand you!

Tell me about it… And what about Lancaster? Do you miss it?

I actually do! There is such a different atmosphere in Paris. Here, in this big and chaotic city you miss the calm that there is in Lancaster. Also, I miss the familiarity you tend to have in Lancaster with the people you know… I think it is difficult to find that familiarity with people when you’re somewhere new.

What about your lifestyle? Has it changed?

Yes. Now l feel more like an adult… I am not sure if I like that, because it means I have to do the same things every day. I wake up at the same time, from Monday to Friday, and I have lunch at the same time all week. At the University it was not like that at all: every day was different. So, the routine is a little bit boring, but I still like what I have been doing here.

Do you enjoy the French food?

I definitely love French food. And I like their way of eating, because in France a time to eat is also a time to talk and relax. Lunch is a big deal: the French sit and take a long time to eat, which I really like. Also, the food is much better. The bread is fresher and the pastries are more elaborate. Once, I had the chance to eat a five-course meal at the culinary school, so I was very lucky. I don’t remember all the courses, but I definitely had foie grass and a Mont Blanc cake, which is a dessert with chestnuts… and they were delicious!

Although you are clearly enjoying yourself, is there anything you really miss from home?

I do not miss the weather, even though it is not that different here in Paris. But I do miss Yorkshire pudding, and obviously I miss my friends and family. Also, I miss my dog and I’ve learned that apparently English people are famous for loving dogs. That’s their cliché. Once, I mentioned my dog to my colleagues and they said to me, “Oh English people, of course you always have dogs!” I found out that for the rest of the world we are known for loving dogs… and I guess that is actually true!

What about the stereotypes the rest of the world have for France? I have asked this of an interviewee before, but is it true that all French people have a striped t-shirt?

Not really. I think I have more striped t-shirts than any of them. Actually, I bought three today. They dress up very well, although everything has to go together: it is difficult to get all the colours to match.

Is there anything you have noticed has changed for you, while abroad?

Well, I am definitely more confident than I was. I think this is the result of being here to learn a language, because I have to express myself no matter what.

I agree. It is hard sometimes, but after a while you realise you are not afraid of exposing yourself anymore.

Yes. But at the beginning it is hard to express your personality because you cannot make the same jokes, or simply be yourself without thinking. So, I feel you are not completely natural. Maybe it is because I am thinking about what I am going to say next, but I feel I can never relax. So, even if I am definitely more confident, at the same time it is hard to be “on point” every minute of the day! I do feel that it is easier to spend time with English people.

I know. I feel the same about Italians. Being in England, I have actually realised how loud we Italians are. Because while I am in Italy and everybody speaks like me, then I don’t notice it. But the minute I step out of my country, I definitely notice how we Italians can stand out!

That’s true as well. What I have realised is how smiley and polite English people actually are. We usually thank a person several times in a conversation. Whereas, while you are abroad you realise other people don’t actually do it as much as we do. But I think it is a nice to be recognized as English for your politeness.

What a nice note to end on. Thank you, Sammy, for your time! Have fun in Paris, and Lancaster is looking forward to seeing you next year!

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