This is the first of two blogs I will be posting regarding my Year Abroad, which has been eventful, to say the least. [This was written in December, though I’m posting it now due to inability to access the site]
This post will mainly focus on some tips to enjoy your studies and some reflections on the first four months.
First of all, and I can’t stress this enough, make sure you truly understand the module choices you are provided with and what you are allowed to take. I arrived in a department that weighed languages at 9 credits and other modules at 1-1.5, and we were primarily told that French did not count as our department’s modules (of which we had to take 7.5 per semester of the 15). I thus took Italian, French and a phonetics module. 4 weeks into studying and about 6 weeks into the term, I was made aware that I was unable to study a new language as I am a joint honours student. I thus had to drop Italian, take a Middle Ages history module (which I found very difficult), and I’m only taking 13.5 credits instead of 15, meaning I have to take about 6 modules next semester alongside my Year Abroad Research Project.
Another important thing to consider is that university is very different abroad and you might not be able to receive the sort of contact and response from lecturers that you receive at Southampton. You may be waiting a week for a reply from any of your teachers, or they may even just not reply at all.
I am living in a studio apartment in student halls paying just over 400 euros per month. It is a nice little living space, though to call it a ‘studio’ is stretching it. It has a fridge, a tiny freezer (my friends don’t even have freezers in their halls) and one hob on a stove. Literally one circle of heat to cook food for an entire year. I ended up purchasing a portable oven and have that in my room now. The single bed is a bit uncomfortable and the wifi is so spotty and you have to sign back in on the network’s website every day or so after it completely disconnects you.
The nightlife here is very expensive and not great at all. If you were to ask me ‘what is a good cheap night out?’, my only answer could be that there are no good nights out and no cheap nights out. The drinks are about 6 euros on a cheap night and 8+ on a regular night (8.50 for a pint of Kronenbourg…) and almost every place is a bar with a very small dance space if that. There aren’t really any clubs here, compared to Southampton where about one in 3 buildings is a club.
One good thing about living in a place like Strasbourg is that a lot of central Europe is accessible, and coaches do not cost too much. I’ve been to Stuttgart and Basel so far with plans for new cities in the future.
French Language classes with foreign speakers opens your eyes to the fact that you do not have to worry that your English accent comes across in your language. Almost all language speakers have hints of their native accent in their foreign speech, be it the Spanish pronunciation of ‘z’ or Italians rolling their Rs strongly. Listening to other nationalities speaking French helps you to understand the language a bit more, I think.
I’ve also benefited from watching some football while I’ve been here. The Strasbourg season ticket was 190 euros and I go to many away games, organised by a supporters’ group that I joined when I arrived. It’s a fun way to spend a weekend, on a coach to the football, drinking, chanting and speaking French.
I can’t say that this first semester was brilliant, and I don’t think I’m going into the second semester with any new friends remaining in Strasbourg except the two other Southampton students as the majority of our classmates are only studying in France for one semester.
Last week (at the time of writing this), I was at the Christmas market when the terrorist attack took place. I was only a couple minutes’ walk from where it happened (I had even taken pictures at the location only 10 minutes before). I’m thankful none of my friends nor I were caught up in the crossfire, though I think we are all shaken. I ran home from the market that night and stayed in for two whole days, not leaving my room. I think that’s always a risk in the modern day.
Finally, I finished exams yesterday and got home to the news that my flight had been cancelled and after I tried to purchase other tickets four different times, it felt as though I might not make it home for Christmas. I finally managed to purchase tickets for £250 to return a day later and I’m waiting for my flight now.
All in all, the semester was mixed. Some recurring mental
health issues arose, and academic problems significantly contributed. The
studying here hasn’t been very enjoyable and the general living hasn’t been
particularly great. Hopefully the next semester will be better.