A year abroad: one month in

Moulins_-_Perspective3AS A FRENCH and International Politics student, it is obligatory for me and for the dozens of other foreign language students at the University to spend a year in a territory where the language of study is used during our degree scheme. I chose to spend my year working as a language assistant (other options are to either study abroad or to seek full-time employment) in France which entails working 12 hours a week as an English conversational teacher in a High School/Further Educational College; I have been stationed in a small town of 20,000 habitants in the north of the Auvergne department called Moulins (which translates into “windmills” in French and is also a geological term for a rock formation).

I arrived in Moulins midway through September after a 9-hour train journey from South Wales via London St.Pancras and Paris split over 2 days and was met at Gare de Moulins by the head of the English Department. I was then scheduled to start work on October 1st.

The first days in the historic town on the banks of the Allier river were spent getting to know the town and its narrow cobbled streets, along with meeting other assistants from the different lycées (High Schools) and colleges (Middle Schools) in the town and surrounding area which include English, American, Austrian, German and Spanish assistants; this multiculturalism creates a varied European aesthetic
, even without the French people we know when we all meet up for a café.

During the first week I also attended my first rugby training session for the town’s team F.C. Moulins XV and, as a member of Y Geltaidd and the University’s rugby club, I was adamant that I would continue to play rugby during my year in France. So far I have played two games, and one thing I can safely say is that the Moulinois are passionate, on and off the field, about their rugby. It was difficult to settle in at the start with linguistic technicalities a clear obstruction but with Samoan, Kosovan and Romanian players in the squad, we help each other out during training and matches.

After a fortnight of conversational classes, which included an introduction of myself and the students – which included teenage boys showing off about their drinking and smoking antics over the weekend and hipster French girls who are fans of Miles Kane, The Beatles and the Arctic Monkeys – a two week Toussaint (All Saints’) holiday began.

During the break I travelled to France’s second city, and her industrial capital, Lyon with other assistants from Moulins. There we watched Olympqiue Lyonnais beat HNK Rijeka from Croatia in what was the home side’s first victory in over a month. I also had the time to catch up with other French language students from Aberystwyth who are spending their year in the city as students.

After only a month in, the people I have met and experiences that I have had have been unforgettable; from an away rugby trip to the volcanic surroundings of Cournon, to searching for an apartment, to finding an African cave with a student from Leeds University. So here’s to the next seven months of eating fresh baguettes and strong cheese, drinking deep red wines, reading L’equipe on a daily basis and learning the language of love! Iechyd Da!