This post is going to be a bit different from the others I’ve done here for the travel writing program. I’m not going to be responding as directly to the prompts given; rather, I’ll be using them as more of a jumping-off point.
I mentioned cooking because this has been one of my biggest challenges so far. I’m currently in my second year of university. Before leaving home I knew how to make basic food: noodles, wraps, etc. and last year I ate primarily at the dining hall or pre-made/cooked foods). In the UK I received a stipend to help pay for cost of living but it would be really hard to stretch I had decided to dine out all the time. This meant that I had to start doing a lot more of my own cooking. I’m not a chef by any stretch of the imagination, but I was getting better at it and was consistently having meals that were getting healthier and better for me. Then I moved to France, and my kitchen situation changed entirely. This was one of the hardest things for me when I changed schools and countries: I went from a UK kitchen with an oven, stove, microwave and even a toaster to a French kitchen that consists of: a sink and a stove with four burners. I found this really tough because I’d gotten into a good routine with oven-cooked meals and using the microwaves for fast, pre-made heated meals. Changing to use just a stovetop has been hard but I feel like I’m learning more and cooking more with the stove (meat is still a bit of a struggle and I only have a 1.5L pan for water so I have to borrow my friends’ shallower pans for most other things…)
The language barrier hasn’t been too big of a struggle so far (for me personally). I had a period over winter break with family in France where I was able to get my brain going in French gear, which definitely helped. I was also able to take some French language classes at the uni that are great. Interestingly enough however, is that most of the international students speak English when we’re together because it’s the common language that everyone feels most comfortable in. Thus it’s hard to get in spaces of full immersion, but it is also nice when I want to speak English.
I’m loving the dual placement option, as I’m able to be at two different universities for my year abroad and have so many incredible, unique experiences. It is hard however, because I miss my friends from home and also my friends at Essex. Missing friends and family is totally normal, but it hasn’t got me less excited for this coming term when I’ve got a lot of cool plans lined up. Overall, this term I’m excited for my classes (masters seminars!), meeting new people from all over the world, and seeing more around Europe (and potentially farther…) – so basically everything, again.