Okay, how has it been that far, my first month abroad? It’s surely a question impossible to answer in one sentence or to even express in one single word, but in general it’s been four weeks charged with different emotions of all kinds, from big excitement to sadness, from motivation to exhaustlessness.
The image that just happened to pop up in my mind was the one of a rollercoaster and I think it fits the situation quite well. Up and down, up, up and down…
I can exactly remember myself sitting in the train, thinking of how it would be like and I must fairly admit that it’s been exceeding all of my expectations that far.
But where should I start?
Firstly I have to agree with all the persons who have been slobbering about Strasbourg when I was telling them about my upcoming EVS. It’s an absolutely beautiful city, not too big and not to small, with an adorable old part of town and many exciting things which just wait to be discovered.
My accommodation is close to the center, the “Foyer de l’Etudiant Catholique” is in walking distance from the cathedral, but it’s also only a three minute walk to the next tram station. What is even more practical: I can just go everywhere by bike. This is one fact I really, really love about Strasbourg, everybody is going everywhere by bike. YAY!
In the student accommodation I’m sharing a room with another student. It’s been a girl from Nigeria for the first weeks and we really got along well, but she’s about to leave and a new student from Spain will come soon. We’ll see how that will work, but I’m confident that there won’t be any major problems. It is for sure different to share such a small place without any privacy with a person you barely know, and I had quite some concerns about it at first, but it works really good. Although it took some time to adapt to the new rooming situation, I feel really comfortable now. I got to decorate my part of the room in order to make it look a little more like ‘home’ and even the things which seemed a little bit awkward at first (e.g. the weird toilet-shower cabin in the middle of the room) are normal and part of my everyday life now.
I try to manage the situation as good as possible, which also means that I sometimes have to put my own needs and wishes aside, but there has been a good living-atmosphere without any major problems that far and that’s the aim.
The “FEC” itself is very valuable, and I really enjoy living there and spending my free time with the students. It’s not been very difficult to get into contact with others, and I already met many open, curious and interesting new persons. The fact that the new university year just started is also great, because there are many people who are just as new as me.
I’ll surely not forget the evening on which I just got out of the shower, wearing my pajamas and a towel covering my wet hair, when suddenly a group of about ten persons was standing in front of my room, welcoming me among the new “Fecards”.
My first weeks with AMSED, my hosting project, have also been very interesting. I got to know a lot about the organization itself, the team and the work. The people are very open and helpful and I’m happy to have them as my colleagues. Besides work they invited me for a barbecue, we went to eat together and they invited me to go out and drink something on my birthday.
Although I haven’t been there for a long time, I could already do some little tasks, which was really cool. One major event was an international youth gathering in Rosheim, organized by AMSED. The topic was “Combating discrimination against Migrants and Roma minorities” and I had the chance to participate.
During the days before the seminar I worked a lot on its topic in order to be well informed and to be able to share detailed knowledge with the other participants. I made a little presentation on the current situation in Germany and I prepared a quiz for the intercultural evening but unfortunately I happened to be sick for a couple of days, so I couldn’t present my work. But I made sure it would be added to the seminar’s internet platform (http://www.tccombatingdiscrimination.blogspot.fr).
Although I missed day 3-5 due to my sickness (I went back to Strasbourg to recover), I had no problems to join the group later on. Everybody was very open, friendly and fun to work with. I really got to meet some great people I’ll surely stay in contact with, although they’re living in other EU and non EU countries (Spain, Turkey, Romania, Georgia, Macedonia, Palestine, Morocco, Algeria etc).
It was a great experience to work in different groups, to exchange ideas and to get to know more about the other habitant’s cultures and languages. I also got to know much about the topic itself, the program was full of interesting presentations, workshops and a great trip to Strasbourg, were we got to visit the European Court of Human Rights.
Although it have been ten days of intensive work, I’m really glad that I got the chance to participate and now I’ll start my work on Monday even more motivated and with many new ideas.
By the way, the seminar helped me also to ameliorate my French skills! It was a bilingual youth gathering in English and French, so I had the chance to practice both languages which was awesome. It was a little bit difficult for me to always switch between English and French in the beginning, but from day to day it became easier.
In general I can say that it hasn’t been that difficult with the French language in my first week as I had expected it to be. Of course, I’m still having troubles to understand people when they are talking in groups and really fast, but it works quite well.
Especially in the first days I came home in the evenings and I was happy to speak English with my roommate, because my head was just so full of new words and impressions, therefor it was really difficult for me to concentrate. But it’s getting better and better and I’m always proud when I get to handle a tricky situation in French, e.g. at the train station, in the pharmacy, in the student residence…
Although it sometimes needs a lot facial expressions and gestures, it always works out somehow and this really encourages me to try to speak French as often as possible and not to hesitate even when I think that it’s impossible to express what I want.
In fact, “trying” has become one of my personal key words in the past weeks. Although it sometimes costs quite an effort to try something new, e.g. to take your dinner tray and to join a group of students you don’t know, the feeling afterwards is absolutely worth it, because you know that you’ve done exactly right thing. And it encourages you to handle similar situations in the same way. At least this is my experience.
All in all it has been a great first month in France and I already know that the decision to do the EVS was the right step for me to make, because I benefit from it in so many different ways, and I notice this every day.