October 20, 2013, by Guest blog

When in France…

Post written by Katherine Hughes

Like stepping into a scene from Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have landed a teaching placement in the rustic town of Alençon in France. Having spent the last three months in Heidelberg, Germany and just settling into the culture and routine there, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my travels to France but, having been in Alençon for three weeks, I already feel comfortable and love the rustic houses, cobbled streets and little boulangeries which appear in the centre ville.

Although not the case for everyone, I’ve been lucky enough to have accommodation provided by a local lycée. Don’t get me wrong, Lycée Alain could never be mistaken for a five or even two star hotel. My room’s the approximate size of a shoebox covered in a very unusual shade of green with the toilets and showers located in blocks at the end of a massive corridor but for 90 euros a month and, most importantly, sharing with other assistants, I can’t complain.

Just like re-entering university halls, I had the same anxiety over leaving my room to go to the communal kitchen as every fresher and, thanks to the IT guy conforming to French stereotypes and taking two weeks to grant me internet access, I had no excuse but to meet my fellow assistants who also live in my apartment building.

Living in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft: flat share) in a university town during the summer months meant I didn’t have the same chances to socialize in Germany as I do here. What’s more, I feel my ability in the French language (although merging to form an embarrassing combination of German and French in the first few days) is improving much more quickly than my German did as, with other people in the same situation and with the same goal of trying to learn the language, all the assistants speak French together.

The entire town is very quiet on Sundays with very few shops open but, after my time in Germany, it’s not a massive culture shock.  With the French population scared of being without baguettes for an entire day, the boulangeries and tabac shops are all that’s open which is a great start to the day. Already familiar with the majority of patisserie shops in the area, I’m pretty certain I’ve consumed my body weight in pastries. I subsist primarily on pastries, cheese and bread but when in France…

Other than the piles of paperwork that need to be given in, signed, res-signed and photocopied for pretty much everything from the setting up of a bank account to renting a bike, my first few weeks have been pretty amazing and I can’t wait to make the most of my time in France and develop my fluency of the language as well as immerse myself in the culture of this amazing country.

Posted in First impressions