July 21, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge
Strong connections which will be difficult to leave behind
My year abroad is sadly now drawing to a close – at the time of writing it’s the start of the two week Easter holidays and when I return to school I only have one week of teaching left. Reflecting on the past 7 months, I feel really happy with the new friendships and connections I have made with people of all ages and nationalities who will no doubt remain good friends for many years to come. Perhaps most importantly though, I have now formed a stronger connection with the country of France itself; I feel so much closer to the language and the culture I am studying at university thanks to the fantastic experiences I have had here.
It sounds clichéd to say that it’s the people that really make your year abroad special but I cannot overstate just how significant it is that you are open to making as many new friends as possible when you arrive. If I hadn’t gone to the welcome meeting for language assistants I would never have made so many connections with people from different parts of the world. I feel lucky that my region had such a large group of assistants who were willing to meet up on a regular basis and travel around together. I’ve been able to share some amazing memories with them and broadened by cultural horizons at the same time – when else would I have got the chance to travel with an Australian and a Canadian and share an apartment with a Mexican?!
Outside of this mostly English speaking group of assistants, I have connected with plenty of native French speakers, helping me to improve my skill with the language and ensuring an ‘authentic’ French experience. Aside from the obvious friendships I have made with my colleagues, all of whom were very welcoming and helpful upon my arrival, I have also formed strong bonds with my students. It has been so interesting to be able to discuss and explore our cultural differences during lessons and rewarding to see their progression over time. I hope to keep in touch with some of them and intend to let them know they can always email me if they need help with anything English-related. In addition, thanks to occasionally taking car shares while travelling, I have met French people of all ages from different backgrounds. It has been fascinating to hear about their lives and discuss our cultures.
It’s going to be very difficult to say goodbye to a country to which I now feel connected, where I have made some lifelong friendships and developed both as a person and in terms of my ability to speak French.