16/06/2016, by CLAS
Last week I left Toulouse, bringing my year abroad to a close. My parents came to pick me up, loaded all my belongings into the car (which seem to have multiplied tenfold since I arrived nine months ago) and off we went.
Simple? Far from it. Leaving Toulouse was just like many of my experiences in the city: emotional, slightly late, with organisational skills leaving much to be desired. And like a true adopted Toulousaine, quite a lot of this was my own fault. I’d failed to tell my parents there was a market every Friday in the square directly behind my apartment. This meant the ‘loading bays’ were in use as a temporary carpark for the morning. My parents arrived at 11am, prime market time. And just to make things a little more challenging, the couple two floors up had picked 11am Friday as their time to move out as well (cue what I call ‘lift wars’, or ‘competition-to-see-who-can-monopolise-the-lift-most-successfully’). After a typically Franglais goodbye to my flatmate (involving la bise (très français) AND a hug (really not French)) a good hour after they arrived my parents and I set off on the long drive back to England.
So does that mean adieu to Toulouse? Definitely not, I’d love to go back! Au revoir, then? Hopefully. Provided I don’t have the dreaded law rattrapage (from what I understand, a 3.5 hour long one-size-fits-all resit exam in which students choose which questions to answer depending on which subjects they need to retake – eeewww)! So for now (I hope), my hurried goodbye will have to do.
If that’s the case, at least I can say it was befitting. For me, Toulouse was a city of last-minutes, an often chaotic place under the rule of a very un-British (and as I learned un-German, probably un-lots-of-places) attitude towards organisation. But I’m not complaining. Spending a year there has made me re-evaluate what I value, what I like and don’t like, and how I see France, Europe, and perhaps the world. It has made me realise how different one’s life experience can be, even when compared to another country which on paper shares many similarities with my own.
Toulouse makes me realise there is much more to somewhere than immediately meets the eye. And that the eye in question was often concealed behind the rose-tinted spectacles of a tourist (‘authentic’ restaurants which play only British artists as background music, employ waiters who speak fluent English and have an entirely English clientele? Since Toulouse, La Belle France has lost a little of its magic sparkle I’m afraid…).
Cliché as it may sound, living in Toulouse for nine months has helped me grow as a person in so many ways: resilience in unfamiliar situations, understanding cultural differences and adapting to meet expectations are just three of the skills I’ve improved in order to make the most of my time in the city. And I’m sure these abilities will prove valuable for life.
I think now’s the time to say un grand merci to everyone who has helped make my time in Toulouse so memorable and above all enjoyable! I wish you all the best and hope to see some of you again soon!