November 4, 2013, by Guest blog
It was only when I arrived in northern Brittany that I realised how unprepared I really was
The past few weeks have undoubtedly been an enormous learning experience for me. After choosing to undertake a British Council Assistantship in Brittany, I spent the weeks before my arrival in France excited to be teaching English as a foreign language, especially as I hope to become a teacher in the future. On the ferry to France, I felt certain that my Year Abroad would begin as smoothly as possible. However, it wasn’t until I arrived in the town of Lannion, in northern Brittany, that I realised how unprepared I really was. Having never lived away from home before, I had no experience of living alone, let alone taking care of myself in a foreign country, and the prospect of dealing with important matters in an unfamiliar language has at times felt impossibly overwhelming. Luckily, since I’ve started working at the lycée, I’m finally starting to get accustomed to life in France.
When people think of Brittany, they often imagine it as France’s version of Cornwall, and, despite my distaste for stereotyping, I’ve found that this is a surprisingly accurate association. The traditional architecture of Lannion town centre, the region’s pride in its agricultural heritage, and the relaxed attitude of the Breton people, amongst other things, have all felt familiar to someone who has spent many Summers in Cornwall, and this sense of nostalgia has been comforting to me. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Brittany lacks its own idiosyncrasies. Indeed, from what I’ve experienced so far, the people are incredibly patient when I struggle to express myself in a foreign language, and on the whole very welcoming. In particular, I’ve been surprised at how freely the teachers of the lycée give me their contact details, in case I ever want to “stay for dinner” or even, in one case, just to “watch some English TV for a change”.
On the other hand, the tranquil Breton lifestyle hasn’t always been fun to deal with for someone who is used to being always on the move – Cornwall may be relaxed but Brittany is especially so, particularly when it comes to public transport, which makes travelling around the region tricky. Similarly, the typical two-hour lunch break, not to mention the fact that many shops are closed on Monday, have at times been incredibly frustrating, especially when I had just arrived in France, and had countless things to do before I could even start my placement.
For now, though, I’ve decided to simply accept Brittany for its differences, rather than to hopelessly continue living my English lifestyle in an entirely different country. After all, submitting yourself to another country’s way of life is what the Year Abroad is all about.
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