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February 24, 2011 | by  | in Online Only |
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Fuck Yeah I’m in France – Getting There

Sometime in May last year I decided that I would quite like to live in France for a while.

And that was how, just eight months; several thousand dollars; two interviews; ten application forms; fifty ‘I’ll miss you too’s; one thirty-one-hour plane and five-hour train trip later, I found myself in a little French town called La Rochelle.

I left New Zealand on 3 January, having spent the two weeks prior to that in a tent, hoping to maximise what little summer I could get before plunging myself head first into the depths of a European winter. Having never travelled further from home than Australia, my attitude towards the lengthy flight between New Zealand and France was at first one of extreme excitement – I have somewhat of a penchant for aeroplane meals; my heart-rate quickened at the thought of how many UHT milk capsules I’d get to consume during the 18,533 kilometre stretch.

I believe this excitement peaked upon my touchdown at Sydney International Airport, where I managed to have probably the most fun anyone has ever had during a four-hour stop-over. There I stumbled upon a bonanza of garish Kath and Kim-esque jumpers, a store devoted entirely to The Wiggles, and ‘I <3 Oprah’ tees available at 30% off following the talk-show queen’s departure. The flight between Sydney and Singapore was a little more sombre. I was watching a pretty heavy TV series about a rapist and the aeroplane meals were starting to clump together in my stomach instead of being digested – probably due to not having really moved at all for about 15 hours. Still, having written numerous essays about Singapore for my politics major, I was pretty excited about my first trip to the city-state – perhaps I’d even catch a few glimpses of their lack of political liberties in the airport terminal! Unfortunately my visit to Singapore was much more hap-hazard than I’d hoped for. In short, when you’re running from one end of that terminal to the other, motivation levels are not helped by signs that say your gate is “Up to ten minutes” away, when you’ve already been running for five minutes. In fact, before leaving New Zealand I didn’t even know it was possible to have buildings that large. Shit started to get real on the final Singapore-Paris stretch. The reality that I’d signed myself up for six months in a country full of people I probably wouldn’t be able to understand began to sink in. All of the free newspapers were in French. The air-steward said something about Australia that I didn’t really understand, so was forced to reply with ‘hhrrrruuughghh’. I was too scared to ask for a water because I couldn’t remember if the French word for glass was masculine or feminine. I had no idea how I was going to survive for six months. And I was really thirsty. Not exactly how I would have hoped to enjoy my first trip to Paris, I managed to spend just twenty minutes in the capital, talking to only two people and never leaving an enclosed space. This was when I was still under the impression that the university actually had its shit together, so when they said that university started on 5 January, I would have to be there, on that date, to start my courses. I certainly had no time to faff around in Paris! (My courses actually started two weeks later – I wasn’t even able to enrol until the 14th. Another exchange student doesn’t start until March. This, as you will see, is a recurring theme at the university.) My train took five hours in total to reach La Rochelle, and it remained dark until 10am. I had well and truly left summer behind. When I finally got to La Rochelle, whether it was because of my severe sleep deprivation or simply the small-town charm of the place, I immediately fell in love with my new home. I got snap-happy at the train station, maxing out my memory card with hundreds of pictures that all looked the same. And with just twenty kilograms of luggage, twelve lost time-zones and a filled baguette sandwich to my name, I was here. See you in six months New Zealand. Follow Fuck Yeah I’m in France as I live it up in La Rochelle, complete with getting hopelessly lost in translation, being mocked by university lecturers, a small rainforest-worth of bureaucratic forms and more bread and cheese than you can shake a baguette at.

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Comments (4)

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  1. aw says:

    Hey, best of luck :) I look forward to reading more about it as you go on!

  2. Liesje says:

    Ah, it all sounds so familiar! I had my first experience of France just last summer (err winter there!) and I too fell in love with the architecture, the culture, the handbag doggies everywhere (not so keen on the poo, but nevermind). Thank goodness for baguette et du fromage! Just don’t ever order andoulette or andouille in a restaurant. I’m not at all food phobic – I’ll eat nearly anything – but not that! Have fun, and I will look out for your installments.

  3. Tessa says:

    Your blog is helping me soooo much! I’m trying to decide whether to go on exchange from NZ to Barcelona or La Rochelle! What a gem I stumbled upon! :)

  4. Molly says:

    Hey, good to hear! La Rochelle was an amazing place to go on exchange, but then Barcelona was one of my favourite places in Europe… Difficult! All the best!

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