Tag Archives: advice

Advice from a Year Abroad-er

12 Dec

Hello lovelies!

I recently was reading some articles on thirdyearabroad.com, which is a fantastic resource if you’re prepping for a year abroad, travelling or even if you just love reading about what other people get up to on their adventures! The more I read, the more I nod along. However, I recently read a very well-written article by Craig that I mostly totally disagree with (soz Craig), so I thought I’d respond. Everyone’s experiences are different on a year abroad, after all!

1. French bureaucracy is a pain that is mostly unavoidable…

Unlike Craig, my bank account was set up within a day of arrival, my housing was sorted in a relatively smooth fashion and my MGEN paperwork all sorted. I can thoroughly recommend sending lots and lots of frantic e-mails before your year abroad starts, to your mentor or a teacher, but since I’ve arrived, it’s been pretty fuss-free. One thing to mention, if you don’t feel like you’re carrying around your identity in paperwork for the first week, you’re doing it wrong. Check again. Photocopy everything. Trust me.

2. Interaction starts with YOU!

I won’t lie, I found the whole first week a bit of an ordeal, and it quite frequently was overwhelming. However, the second week, I decided to really make an effort to communicate. Sure, there will be people that have no interest in talking to you, but do not be disheartened, it gets better! The teachers at my school are incredibly friendly, the people in my apartment building are always throwing a ‘bonjour’ my way, and I’ve even started to have little conversations with the shop assistants now. Breakthrough!

My advice if you’re an assistant like me is to find the other assistant in the school, if there is one. The Spanish assistant at my lycée speaks zero English, and I speak even less Spanish, so we have to communicate in French. She is the best person to talk to, because I don’t feel scared about making mistakes, and we’re both patient when the other person is trying to find a word or do the classic Erasmus-rephrasing!

3. CAF

Yeah okay, it’s a massive pain. There’s just no way that you’re going to beat the system here, but my apartment building is a foyer, which means that when the aid eventually comes through, they’ll give me the difference back on the rent from previous months. Result! The best thing I did was listen to the assistant from last year and contact the foyer. It’s safe, resonably priced (even before the CAF), in a nice part of town and there are tons of social activities. There are loads all over France, but here’s the one for where I am in the Basque Country, just in case.

4. Transport is cheap, but you might have to swap buses eighty-five times to get somewhere..

It’s not quite the €10 a month that Craig says it is in Toulouse, but it is cheap. Travel anywhere on the bus system in the area for 24 hours and it will only cost you €2, which is awesome, but be prepared to change buses to travel some distance…and never, EVER get off of a bus by the front door. A bus driver will shout at you in a very agitated voice. Use the back door!

5. Different teachers want COMPLETELY different things

I’m not an Erasmus Uni student, I’m a language assistant, so Craig’s number 5 doesn’t really apply to me, so I’m going to talk about being prepared for the total inconsistency of teachers. I teach nine hours at a lycée and three at a collège, which is basically a middle school. The lycée has a pretty large English department and about 1800 students, so I work with seven different teachers. Some gave me lesson plans, some said ‘do whatever, just make them talk!’, some tell me five minutes before the lesson what they want me to talk about, some give me a topic, some give me resources. It’s taken a few weeks to get used to doing what they want me to do, but before that, I planned every lesson just in case. Don’t expect all the teachers to want or do the same things. Sometimes I work with four students, sometimes it’s fifteen, sometimes it’s seven. It really depends.

My advice if your teachers are like mine is to prepare lessons just in case, you don’t want to stand in front of 10 18-year olds with nothing to say!

6. An Erasmus society is not always an option!

If you’re an assistant, it’s quite likely that you’re going to be in a school with maybe one other assistant, and that it’s going to be the only school in the area. A lot of assistants get sent to small villages that are quite isolated. Make friends with the teachers or locals first and the other assistants or students will be a bonus! If you’re introverted, it can be difficult to take lots of risks with a society. If you’re homesick, you might not want to socialise with people who don’t speak your language. It’s really difficult to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. I would say that a good place to start is your induction with your académie, add eachother on Facebook to stay in touch with people. Plan visits from your English friends so you can show them your new home. It’s totally possible to have a great year abroad without having a society there to organise activities!

7. Your language level probably is better than you think…

Before I left for my year abroad, I would maybe rank myself a 4/10 in French. I was petrified that I would just not understand people, and that’s occasionally a reality. Think about it, you’re moving your whole life to a completely new area, alone, where everyone speaks a different language to you. It’s scary stuff!

The first couple of days were a whirlwind of paperwork, formalities and information overload. But I made it through, and probably understood 90% of it. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat themselves or talk slower, but I can confidently say that I’m living in a foreign country, speaking a language that is not my own, and that it’s not a disaster. I’m pretty proud of that. I’m probably a solid 5/10 in reality. 🙂

Now I’m off to get a chocolatine. Which is a pain au chocolat here in the south of France. All I know is that they’re definitely better in France, and as Craig said, you should definitely be jealous!

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Taking some time…

10 Apr

Hello lovelies! 

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Birthdays, MOTS, back to work, time to study…I haven’t really felt like I’ve been able to keep up. This week, I’ve made sure that I’ve taken time for myself, to take some pictures, to sort my washing out, to go food shopping, to check my budget. I’ve been feeling a bit crap, been lacking motivation for my diet and have been feeling generally a bit bleugh. However, I have found that taking a break has helped. Three days ago, I didn’t even think I could get the revision plan done. Now I feel a bit more confident that I’ll be okay. Thought I’d share my top 5 things to do when you’re feeling down or even just a bit lacklustre.

1. Catch up. 
             Whether this means with friends or family, with bills or paperwork, catching up with things you’ve been putting off can boost your mood straight away. I’ve been home twice in the last month, and I feel so much better when I’m surrounded with friends and family. I’ve also rung the tax office, done some washing and tidied up a bit. I feel more organised and so much better. (I saw Divergent over the weekend and was impressed. Maybe more impressed with the slushies that me and my bestie Andy got for the cinema….bad?)

2. Smile more. 
               Genuinely smiling and wishing people well is a wonder-worker when it comes to feeling more positive. Even if you don’t plan on doing anything more than popping to get petrol, prepping a positive attitude can change your whole outing. I recently went of a food shop and felt amazing when someone actually returned my ‘have a nice day’ (working in customer service trains you). Don’t forget, people have bad days and have to work jobs that they hate, being a good customer can make it more bearable.

3. Pamper!
              Considering this is predominantly a beauty blog, this one should have been obvious. Whether it’s a long hot bath, testing out a new face mask or just shaving your legs, you often have a clearer head and more refreshed (both mentally and physically) after a soak. 

4. Make yourself up. However you want.
                This might not work for everyone, but I’ve found that putting on make-up and actually doing my hair nicely is such a relaxing experience for me. It always perks me up! If the mood strikes, you could also take a few selfies…see below! I think that the whole idea of ‘selfie shaming’ is ridiculous, and it’s how lots of girls end up with a lack of confidence in their looks. Bare faced, totally glam, all faces are beautiful and if you feel gorgeous then you are allowed to show that. It’s a display of confidence, own it!

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5. Do absolutely nothing.
                         Yep, you read that right. Do nothing. Chill. Lay on the sofa all day. Stay in bed with Netflix and a hot chocolate. Eat Doritos like they’re going out of style. The next day you’ll feel a. full of energy and b.motivated to actually get some stuff done. 

I hope my little tips have been a little help. One more day off then back to work. Hopefully I’ll have a nails related post up for you soon!

Have a lovely (relaxed) day/evening, wherever you are… 
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5 Things To Take From First Year

23 May

Hello lovelies,

Tomorrow is a big day for me. I will take my last exam, a French oral, at 11.15, and then my first year of university will be over. This year’s been quite the journey for me. I think anyone that goes through a major life change can vouch for that. It’s been incredible, and scary, and difficult and enlightening. A few things have remained constant, and a few things will be revelations.

1. The love and support of my friends from home is paramount. 
Since arriving at RoHo, my perspective on friendship has been drastically altered. You really do have to find the people who care, because so many just won’t.

2. The desire for me to support myself is key for me to succeed.
This year has only reinforced what I already knew; I want to be able to support myself financially and be independent. Whether that means paying rent at my parents house once I graduate, moving abroad (a definite possibility), or just getting a 9-5 job and living in a little flat, I know that’s what I want to be doing. I think me and my best friend have that in common. Something that our surroundings, our upbringings and being around each other our whole lives has taught us.

3. Not everyone will want to hear your opinions. 
I thought that university would be my kind of, cultural stomping ground. That I would find people who had the same and different opinions and that we would all get along. More often than not, you don’t find people like that. In my experience, there are five types of University students.

a. The drinkers/partiers.
b. The loners.
c. The activities whores.
d. The overachievers.
e. The workers.

Most people are a combination of two or more, and if I’m honest, I’m probably more of a cheerful and sociable b/e combo. If you don’t find those other people who are the same combo as you, you’re pretty much destined to fail. I think I’ve given all five a try at some point, but I just fit best into a schedule. I’m jealous of those who can just throw caution to the wind and do whatever, I tell ya!

4. It’s okay not to be okay!
Although I haven’t been clamouring to go home constantly, I have experienced bouts of homesickness. The worst thing is when you’ve got a project due, an essay due, lectures in the morning that you haven’t prepared for, no money and nobody to give you a big squishy hug! I had one maaaajor meltdown this year, where I actually Skyped my Mum and sister at 6.30am before they headed off for work/school and just cried about all my problems. It’s okay not to be okay for a bit. You will pick yourself up, dust yourself off and be on your way relatively soon!

5. It’s okay to have a change of heart.
I’m not planning on giving up on my degree, but it’s definitely different to what I was anticipating as I made my journey from a quiet Kent village to…a quiet Surrey village last September. If you get to Uni, and you KNOW you don’t want to be there, then it’s okay not to be there. I think I had so much pride, or will or something at the beginning of the year that I didn’t really realise how this just wasn’t for me. It didn’t click. And I’ve tried loads of stuff to keep me going, like joining clubs and really trying hard in class and doing extra research, but there’s not really anything (especially in Drama) that excites me. What’s keeping me going now is that I have an income and I have a year abroad to look forward to. And that’s really good enough for me.

So there are the 5 top things I have learned this school year.
Definitely going to be indulging in some serious retail therapy tomorrow! I’ve not even set a budget! :O And there will be a haul, don’t you worry!

Now,if any of you would like to give me suggestions of what to spend my hard earned cash on, I would LOVE TO KNOW!
Have a wonderful day/evening,and I shall speak to you all soon!
Christie xoxo

ImageI made this on recitethis.com. Just in case any of you lovelies have something inspirational you’d like to keep with you too!