April 15, 2014, by Guest blog

The connections and friends I’ve made will endure and it is that which will keep the memory alive

Post written by Katharine Hughes.

Reading over my previous entries for this blog, it’s hard to believe I was writing about my first impressions only six months ago. I’m now down to my last two weeks here in France and I can’t believe it’s nearly over. With the departure of our German assistant yesterday, I think everyone has been forced to reflect on our time here in France as it reaches its inevitable end. The realization that our group of Assistants are travelling home, back to our various corners of the world, to resume studies rather than ‘work’ is a daunting prospect for most of us. Plans to visit each other are already underway and I for one am amazed and excited at the prospect of meeting the more exotic of our group in their homelands of South America and China (not surprisingly, the UK didn’t incite the same sort of excitement as the sun, sea and sand of Peru). The friendships I’ve made here have been unforgettable and have raised my expectations for travelling; meeting new people in different places on what I hope will become a life long journey of discovery. I realise we are all probably tired of hearing that from other people but you know that doesn’t stop it from being true.

Having recently visited a friend in a faraway part of France over the half term who, incidentally, is also assistantshipping, I’ve realised how valuable it is to be able to share experiences with others. Now I can’t imagine having forged any of the new experiences I’ve had here with anyone other than my group of assistants but the reality is that sharing an experience increases its value. Together, we’ve all faced and shared our own cultural challenges from our resident Québécois’s frankly incomprehensible accent to our American’s incredulity that France just stops working for a full 24 hours on Sunday.

Compared to my time in Germany where I was working on my own within a small firm, the opportunity to live and work in a bigger community has played an essential role in developing both my language acquisition and confidence with French. I have also had the opportunity to make more connections with the natives, such as, our school’s surveillants (imagine a sort of prison warden for a group of boarders at a high school… but friendlier and younger), teachers and best of all, the random acquaintances met on nights on the town (it might be the only bar in town but less really can be more in a linguistic sense if you have the right attitude). People make the difference, the more you meet the better your chance of getting to know the language and the country – it is as important to talk to the community as it is to the people you work with, connections can be made at any level, any time.

With the looming prospect of Fourth Year module choices marking the countdown to my return to England and University life, the past few months already seem a bit surreal. The life I’ve made for myself here will make the transition back to English life very difficult but the connections and friends I’ve made will endure and it is that which will keep the memory alive. But before I go back to Nottingham, there’s still Spain, three new flatmates and one long summer to make new connections.

Posted in Making connections