It’s been too long since I updated my blog with tales of my adventures. Things have been busy over here and i’ve been running primarily on caffeine, adventure and the buzz of being surrounded by all things French. There have been some real highlights, some definite low moments and many a musing about the journey of a language learner and how it is so much more than just linguistic development. I’ve got so much that I want to share and discuss, it’s just a matter of finding the time and the headspace to do so. So for now, here is what I have gotten up to over the past month.
I have FINALLY sorted out my classes and am now a fully fledged student at the University of Pau. I am making lots of French friends, just about keeping up with the pace of my lectures and I am learning all the time. I am relishing every little conversation that I have. A couple of weeks ago I was petrified to even open my mouth and would only really speak when spoken to, whereas now you can’t shut me up. I think i’m just worrying less about being ‘perfect’, which is a big step for a self-professed perfectionist like myself. Being able to communicate and connect with people in their mother tongue has always been what brings me the most joy with language learning, so getting to do that on a daily basis is the dream.
I have also had the opportunity to do some exploring. A few weeks ago now I spent a weekend in the mountains with my church family over here. It was so wonderful to get to know people in a way that isn’t always possible in the hustle and bustle at the end of a church service. We ate together, worshipped and basked in God’s creation with a ‘balade’ in the mountains. It was in that moment standing on a mountain, surrounded by people who have welcomed me so warmly, that I felt so deeply moved by God’s grace, compassion and generosity toward me. He has taken me on such a journey over the past few years and there’s something about the backdrop of His vast creation which makes the work He is doing in me and in my life all the more vibrant and colourful.
Next stop was a trip to San Sebastián with some of my friends. Dipping my toe into Spanish waters (not literally) definitely whet my appetite for what is to come next semester. Overhearing the robust and rounded syllables of Spanish conversation made my heart flutter, even if I had no clue what they were saying. The little city was so charming with its sea views, cobbled streets and bars stocked with pintxos (amazing bar snacks typical of the Basque Country). It was the perfect place to mosey around, gawp at our surroundings and enjoy ALL the food and wine (paella…need I say more?!)
Add to the mix time spent exploring, wine tasting, spending time with friends and studying (of course) and that pretty much sums up my month. Oh, and I just spent the most wonderful week with my family. It was a joy being able to give them a little peek into my life here, fit in some exploring of the mountains and the coast, catch up on two months worth of cuddles and to just spend time being family. A week to remember.
But it’s not all been peaks, paella and positive vibes. There have been days when I have felt so homesick that I have just wanted to get the next flight home. There have been moments when it has all felt too much and anxiety has started to seep in. And there have even been times like the other night where I have nearly pooped my pants in fear. An unforeseen bus strike, a forty minute walk home and a dead phone is not what you want when you are lost in a foreign country at night. Add to that far off screams and a man pulling up in his car (even if it was just to ask for directions to a kebab shop)…I thought my time had come. It was all okay in the end thanks to some kind people giving me directions home and a miraculous revival of my phone, but it is safe to say that I did some serious Phoebe-from-Friends running to get me back safe that night.
And yet I wouldn’t change any of it. Like I said in my last blogpost, I am here to experience, so experience is what I’ll do, whether it is good or bad. I’ll leave you there for now but know that I hope to write a few more ‘what I have learnt on my year abroad so far’ blog posts soon so keep your eyes peeled. The next couple of weeks are also looking jolly and bright so I can’t wait to tell you all about that too. But for now, I’m signing off and I wish you well.