April 14, 2014, by Guest blog

I didn’t feel as though I was leaving for ever

As I have just spent the last week waving goodbye with teary eyes and a snotty nose to the first 7 months of my year abroad, it seems natural to reflect on the relationships I have formed.

Having been set up with a French family by my mentor teacher prior to my arrival, some might say that I had it easier than others during my first few weeks abroad. While some assistants may have spent a lot of time trying to make new friends and establish connections, I was already living with a family of 5 and had seemed to have gained all of their acquaintances by default. From the very outset, I had a network of support in my new home town.

During my first 3 months in Le Barp, I worked on cementing the connections that had naturally fallen into place. Friends of the family had asked me to give English classes to their children during the weekend and I continued with these classes right until I left the town for good. I made sure I arrived at school much earlier than classes started and I always stayed and ate lunch with the teachers – this is something that I believe truly helped me in creating friendships in the work place.

At christmas, a curveball was thrown my way. As you may already be aware, my living conditions and relations with my host family had changed slightly and I no longer felt comfortable living in their home. In hindsight I made a rather hasty and irrational decision to leave and attempted to find somewhere else to live. Had I not worked so strongly on my friendships in the work place, I would have struggled to find new accommodation much more than I did. As soon as I made my decision, I got in contact with my mentor teacher and luckily enough she recalled that as well as my first host family, one of our colleagues had also expressed an interest in lodging me. I got in contact with this woman and luckily enough she was still happy to have me. This was the beginning of a completely different experience in Le Barp.

With more free time on my hands, I increased my tutoring classes at the weekend and began babysitting for another colleague at school. I began to feel more independent and confident in the community and rather than being an addition to someone’s family, I became a person in my own right.

During my last week in Le Barp I was showered with gifts from the teachers and the children in the schools where I worked. Everything that they had to say touched me deeply and I was thrilled that many of the teachers and children asked for my details so that we can stay in touch. I will also say, however, that I didn’t feel as though I was leaving for ever. I feel strongly that I have made friends for life and will definitely return to see them.

Whilst reflecting on her own time as a Language Assistant in England, my mentor teacher told me that she had experienced a 3 month period of transition. By this she meant that it had taken her at least 3 months to adapt to her new surroundings and settle in. I completely agree with this and can only say that it is a shame to have to leave Le Barp just when I finally feel like part of the community. I couldn’t walk around the town with out stopping to say hello to the baker, the florist and whoever else I crossed along the way.

Now it’s time to start from the beginning again as I will be moving to Paris to commence the second part of my year abroad.

Until next time,


Posted in Making connections