July 21, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge
Making connections as a flatmate and as an European
The strongest connections I’ve made in terms of relationships this year has undoubtedly been with my flatmates. I live with 3 other assistants in a flat rented to us by the ESPE (like a primary teacher training college) in the Académie of Nice. Together we are four girls from four different countries – Engand, Ireland, Scotland and Spain, brought together by the common desire to improve our French.
We’ve shared the experience of being an assistante – sharing colleagues and pupils, moaning about our timetables, borrowing each others’ lesson ideas and comparing ideas about the French education system. We’ve shared the experience of living in France – recounting daily tales of embarrassing language errors and going through the tribulations of CAF and Sécurité sociale together. We’ve shared the experience of exploring the area – enduring SNCF delays, swimming in the Mediterranean and wandering around Provençal towns. Living together has meant that we’ve also watched endless episodes of Friends (dubbed into French, producing hilarious quotes such as “Ca va toi?” = “How you doin’”), played many a card game and had some weird nights out together. These are relationships that have made this year not so scary, and are why I’ll remember it most fondly.
On a more general note, interacting on a daily basis with people from different backgrounds and cultures has really made me feel a much stronger connection with the idea of being a European. I’ve noticed the European-looking nature of the French education system, with my lycée organising trips to Strasbourg, Stockholm and Prague in an effort to allow pupils to understand and partake in the benefits of the European community. Being able to take advantage of free-entrance to all EU citizens under 25 offered by museums and galleries, as well as access to a variety of state benefits and, most significantly, the Erasmus+ grant, has given me first-hand experience of cultural and economic exchange throughout Europe. I’ve met people who passionately love their country and want to promote it to everyone they meet, and others who are keen to leave their homeland for opportunity elsewhere.
It’s great that as Europeans we share an identity that allows us to celebrate and explore our differences, learn from each other and become more understanding, interesting and empathetic as a result. While this connection may appear to establish itself naturally, at a time when this European identity is under threat, particularly at home in England, I’ve realised the necessity of promoting and encouraging it, so that it may continue to blossom for future generations.