Not quite french yet

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Hi everyone!

I’ve been living in Paris for just over 5 weeks now and a lot of things have happened since my last post: I’ve finally found myself somewhere to live (phew!), I’ve started going to classes properly and I’ve already handed in work that counts towards my final mark – all before Durham has even had freshers’ week. The only sad part about moving into my new flat was the fact that I’d no longer get to walk past the best shop in the world on one of my daily commutes. Aptly named ‘The Dog Club’ as it sells the most adorable puppies, which are on display for everyone to see!

However, 5 weeks has definitely been enough time for me to notice the massive cultural differences as well as just the downright weirdness of life in France. Here’s 5 things that I’ve noticed so far:

  1. It’s not easy to find proper cup of tea: As a tea addict, this is the main issue I’ve encountered so far (a lot more problematic than missing my first week of classes). The French almost always choose coffee, which is not something I’m willing to get on board with. The first thing I’ve learned is not to order tea in a café or you’ll end up having to go back and ask for milk. The second is that once your supply of PG Tips has run out, head straight to Marks and Spencer’s for the next best thing- their strong English Breakfast tea. Finally, don’t expect to survive by boiling water in a pot, it’s just not the same.


    The kettle and toaster I bought to complete my flat.

  2. France is closed on a Sunday: I thought it was annoying that many shops in England close early on a Sunday, but this is the next level. Almost everything is closed on a Sunday. It’s possible you might find the odd shop but you’d have to be looking quite hard. Apparently, no one is unwell on a Sunday either with all pharmacies and doctors having their doors firmly locked and their shutters down. The only saving grace is that McDonalds follows its own rules, so there’s no lack of Mcflurrys all week round.
  3. Every lecture or class is at least 2 hours: Coming from a University where lectures and tutorials are 50 minutes, and the longest class I’ve had is 3 hours, this was quite a shock. Not only are all lectures and tutorials 2 hours, but my programming and practical classes are 4 hours! (not including the 15 minutes that’s meant to be a break). I’m slowly getting used to this new system, but I have to say I’ve struggled to retain my concentration for 4 hours- who wouldn’t?
  4. The use of the internet hasn’t really caught on yet: Pretty much everything here is done on paper. Processes that would normally be quite straightforward in England such as opening a bank account and signing up for modules all have to be done in person or via a hand written form in the post. This does tend to mean that everything takes a lot longer and uses a lot more paper than it really needs to…
  5. French keyboards are confusing: A bit of a strange point, but one that has been quite a big deal amongst my friends and I, even those from countries such as Germany and The Netherlands. Here in France, the QWERTY keyboard doesn’t exist and you have to hold ‘shift’ to be able to type numbers and even for a full stop. It doesn’t sound like much of a problem, before you realise that your typing is littered with ‘q’s instead of ‘a’s and symbols where you meant to type numbers. Have a go yourself by following this link :

So there you have my summary of what I’ve learned here so far. It turns out that most things are very similar to England, but there a couple of differences that I haven’t quite managed to get my head around yet. At least the buildings are always pretty:


Moving to The City of Lights

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Bienvenue à mon Blog!

In the first of many blogs I want to fill you in on my experience of moving to a different country, trying to remember how to speak French (it seems the words disappear from your head when you want to use them) and starting at a University where everything isn’t quite as clear as Durham.

I was lucky enough to have my family help me move to Paris, and so my first few days here were filled with sightseeing and more importantly food shopping for when I moved into my temporary house. Note the word ‘temporary’, as in I haven’t found anywhere to live yet… This is but one of several things I still need to sort out. Given that I’ve only been in Paris for 11 days, I’ll let myself off.

fam at eiffel tower

A classic Eiffel Tower selfie.

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The Christmas break is two weeks long. Travel to England takes a full day, and effectively more when jet lag is considered. Despite a tight flight schedule, I was left with one week five days in the UK. It was lovely to be back. My parents have obtained a larger house since in my absence and the extra space makes for an even nicer visit.

The grading of exams and coursework in Canada is more prompt than I have been used to in England, and the final grade for the course was characteristically expedient. I had my first grade just three days after taking my last exam. The exam period finished on the 19th of December and I had my full list of grades for the year within six days, with the last arriving at 2am on Christmas morning. Somehow I managed to get a set of four A+. I’m going to buy Mikey a beer when I get back for his help.

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Exam Period

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In this post I will detail what has been one of the more challenging months in my life.

The last month went by in a mad rush of study. I have never been involved in anything quite like studying for a third year final exam. Students that have not attended a single lecture begin to show up at the library with heavy textbooks, those more dedicated crowd hallways and classrooms scrawling across blackboards and shouting at each other. The professors attempt to impose some coherence upon this cacophony in an attempt to ensure that the average mark of their exams is around 60-70%.

IMAG0651-fellow beleaguered algebra student

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Seasons Change

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My last post told of the brilliant and unexpected sunshine. This is definitely no longer the case. The temperatures dipped drastically about two weeks ago. Over the course of the last month the average temperature has dropped from hovering around 25 degrees in September, to a regular -5 now we have reached November. There is, however, one tree on campus that refuses to admit the change in weather.

IMAG0617-never give up

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A Month of Sunshine.

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One month in and I’ve settled in nicely. It didn’t take long to furnish myself with a bank account, phone, etc. People here seem very willing to be helpful, occasionally quite beyond my expectations. Even opening a bank account with no address or phone number worked. I just had to go pick up my mail from the bank where they would hold it for me until I found somewhere to live.

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