Monday, 28 January 2013

Day 1, in which I realise I've forgotten how to speak French...

So, I arrived last night. After 20€ in a taxi, and ten minutes banging on a door I finally got into my apartment. It's...small.
Considering I am also very small (read short), everything is about a foot higher than my reach and even hanging up my frocks was a bit of a struggle . Grr at France being designed for 6 foot-ers!

I got lost on the RER because it has the most confusing signage ever and it took me a full 90 minutes for what should have been a 40 minute journey.
Eventually though, I did manage to find the right person in the university to speak to and finally found out how to register for my courses. I just need to pick ten of them now and make sure they all work in a coherent and non-clashing timetable. This is my job for this evening.

Luckily there is a Carrefour supermarket and a boulongerie at the end of my road. The baguettes are to die for-I don't think I've ever had bread this good- and only 1€ too. Yay!

I'm gonna use my time in France to cook properly, and cook well; hopefully expanding my repertoire. As I had a big lunch around the uni campus today, dinner tonight will be baked apples with raisins and ginger. Yummy, and low fat, especially as I forgot to buy any butter.

Tomorrow is further sorting out of the formalities. Organising my courses, paying rent, getting my rental agreement so that I can open a bank account, and hopefully finding somewhere that I can buy a sim card that'll work with a T mobile phone.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


I thought I'd write a little post on what I consider to be the essential items for a study trip abroad. When you first start thinking about what to pack it can be a little overwhelming and it's tempting to throw in everything including the kitchen sink, but consider what will you really need for day to day living and to preserve your sanity.
  • Multi-plug extension cable. This is a godsend and it saves you from getting adapters for all your electricals.
  • Plug adapters. Get a couple before you leave as they may be hard to find or very expensive once you arrive.
  • Laptop. You'll need it to study, talk to friends and family and to look at cute ickle kittens.
  • Clothes. An obvious one but you can't bring everything. Consider the climate, religious or cultural observations regarding dress (if any), and what you'll be doing. You don't wanna have to turn up for a job interview in scruffy jeans and Converse so think about all eventualities. 
  • Accessories. They make an outfit and can make an outfit into something else. Scarves, belts, jewellery can all change your look to make the limits of your suitcase much bigger.
  • Photocopies of documents. Take several copies of your passport, leave one with a parent so if the worst happens and yours is lost or stolen you can get a replacement much more easily. Also, photocopy your birth certificate, and your acceptance letter to the university. You'll probably need all these things to open a bank account and claim housing benefit. If you already have a copy of your rental agreement make a load of copies of that. You'll need it in France to claim APL from the CAF office and it doesn't hurt to have a few extras. 
  • Curlers, straighteners, hairdryer. You don't wanna have to rebuy these so pack them. This is where the extension cable comes in handy!
  • All your make up. Yes, I'm sure you could get away with a paired down make up bag but would you want to? Plus, painting your nails 15 colours is a great stress reliever!
  • Language dictionary and grammar book. You'll need to pick up the language and grammatical rules and these will help you along.
  • Tourist guide. Good for the maps, help with understanding public transport and finding out cheap things to do. 
Also, don't forget the bits that'll help save your sanity: Kindle, books, ipod, photos, and the things unique to your home or family. Oh, and your toothbrush. Don't forget that one!

Monday, 21 January 2013

What to pack?

I'm in the second week of exams at my home university and have just five days until I leave for Paris. This means, along with panic revising I'm also panic packing.

I'm a frock kinda girl. It's rare to see me in trousers unless I'm lounging around the house; feeling poorly lazy or just plain meh; or at work. Therefore I've packed dresses. Loads of them. Dresses for the cold, dresses for blistering sunshine, dresses for punk gigs and dresses for cycling through the city with a baguette in the basket and the wind in my hair.

I wonder if I could be limiting myself too much with the dresses, but my theory is that with layering, more outfits can be created and of course accessorizing makes all the difference.

What else to bring? Well, as a vegetarian, and a lazy one at that, food. I know it seems disingenuous when moving to the culinary capital of the world to bring Asda veg sausage packet mix but days in university will be long and time to prepare a meal in the evenings will be short. France is not a country in which it easy to be a vegetarian. The convenience foods such as Quorn or Linda McCartney's simply do not exist there. To eat a healthy meat free diet, you have to go back to the old school, and cooking properly, from scratch and being creative. I've packed a vegan cookbook to give me ideas (as vege mince doesn't exist for easy spag bol) and lots of these packet mix thing to keep me going whilst I get settled into a routine of cooking properly and shopping sensibly and getting my head around where to go for good value.

Tea bags. Terribly English of me I know but I can rarely stand coffee and have found that foreign teas taste...wrong. Even if they're PG Tips or Tetley's and marked as 'British Blend', somehow the just don't taste quite right. It could be the water, or different ways of processing milk, I'm not sure. But, by bringing British tea bags from home at least I can eliminate the tea blend as a possible cause.

Also, Marmite. Marmite turns bread and butter into a sandwich. Long days at uni will mean packing a sarnie, as having attempted to buy sandwiches in France before, I know that finding one without meat or animal rennet will be a struggle. I don't hold out much hope for uni Restos either. I'll certainly have a look, but in my experience vege provisions tend to be uninspiring and monotonous.

I must do a check to make sure I have all the documents I might possibly need. For registering at the university and opening bank accounts and such. Must dig out my birth certificate. And get a load of passport photos for student registration etc.

Of course I'm a little paranoid that I might forget something, as it's bound to happen but I guess I'll have to deal with that when it comes.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Two Weeks!

Well, 16 days if I'm to be pedantic about it.

Sixteen short days in which to finish three exams (eek!), pack my suitcase(s, let's be honest here), and run around like a headless chicken repeating the traveller's mantra "passport, money, tickets". 
Oh, and 16 days to get the maximum cuddles from my cat Edmund before I leave him in the capable (?) and caring hands of my boyfriend, Nick, for the next five months. 

When I first applied to university I must admit the location of study exchanges was fairly high up my checklist of essentials, so I had been planning to study abroad from the beginning; and, as an unashamed francophile, France or a French speaking country was always the intention. Long have I enjoyed daydreams of cycling through the streets of Paris in the sunshine, with my dress billowing around me, books in my basket accompanied by a little something from the patisserie. I might have overly romanticised the city but I am darn well determined to make the reality live up to the fantasy.

I've done my homework, found an apartment, know what I shall need with regard to opening a bank account, claiming APL, and where I need to go for my first day at university so why am I still nervous?