Imagine your first day at school… but a million times worse. In school, everybody starts the same day and usually all speak the same language, so despite it being a scary stage in our lives, it’s manageable. Unlike school, entering a new city is much more complicated.
Despite having learned French for seven years throughout secondary school and the past two years in university, no amount of lessons or seminars can prepare you for what’s in store. Yes, I can talk about immigration, global warming and a bunch of other unnecessary topics, but day-to-day life, including setting up a bank account and sorting out rent is another world away. I’m on my own, in what was for me, a completely new city and there is nobody there to hold my hand.
I was lucky as I spent my first weekend in Paris with my parents, so I had a hand moving all of my clothes (and as you can imagine, I had quite a bit), and any other luggage I had, which was a huge help. As well as this, we did the usual tourist stuff so I could try and see as much of Paris as possible in three hours, and had the most wonderful weekend filled with plenty of eating, drinking and shopping (no blogger could resist the Champs- Elysées). Despite knowing that the farewell was edging closer and closer, and our clock was ticking, nothing can prepare you for the heartbreak you feel when you say your final “Au Revoir”. I was officially alone… in a city I’d never visited before, whilst my parents were travelling to the one place I wanted to be more than anywhere in the world- home. So as they made their way to the ‘Gare du Nord’, I went in the opposite direction to my new accommodation.
I’m currently living in what the Parisians call a foyer, which to us British students, are very similar to university halls. Foyers are open to young workers/ students from all over the world who all share one common language- French. Like I said, if being the ‘newbie’ isn’t difficult enough, it’s even more difficult trying to make new friends in a foreign language, with people who have been there much longer than you, thus know each other already, and with a much higher level of French than yours.
The first time you enter your new room is the hardest part of all, as you slowly unpack your clothes and knick knacks from home, whether they’re pictures, plaques or good luck cards, you realise that this is now your life.
Yes, you’ll feel isolated and completely alone, but this is normal as everyone closest to me keeps on reminding me.
I cried (a lot). Close to half a dozen tissues later, it was time to go and explore Paris, and to start making the most of the next 6 months of my life, and what better to cheer me up than shopping? Google maps at the ready and a bundle of transport tickets in my handbag, I was ready to go. I spent a few hours browsing through stores, getting to know which of the French stores are affordable, and which ones to avoid, and after a small spree in my new favourite homeware shop, ‘Maisons du Monde’, it was time for a sit down. And that’s where I was writing this post; sat in a coffee shop off one of Paris’ most well-known squares writing this blog and sipping on my first ‘Café au lait’ à Paris.
Looking back, this weekend has been a massive whirlwind, from experiencing the highest of highs exploring Paris with my parents, to the lowest of lows when you realise that it isn’t a city break, it’s a 6 month adventure which has only just begun. This next week will surely take it’s toll, and I’m sure it won’t be the end of the tears just yet.
“Will it be easy? Nope. Worth it? Yes”