Just like the beautiful carousels along the traditional boulevards, Parisian life swings around quicker than I can keep track. Last week happened to be very negative, with multiple exams and little end in sight. Luckily, positivity has resurged and unlike a fresh baguette, I doubt it will get stale too quickly. Why? I’m looking ahead to the most beautiful sight; two weeks (17 days to be precise) of roast potatoes, dog walks and open fires. Then a slight dip (3 wonderful exams) before a delightful return for a further week in the village. What could be better?
I’ve finally completed my first whirlwind of a semester and I’m hesitantly optimistic about my second. The simplest of challenges – finding the right metro stop, the right office, the right person to email – seem less daunting second time around. I’ve also nearly conquered the largest challenge before the semester has even begun; registration.
Second time lucky – S’inscire
The first time around, university registration was nothing short of traumatic. The verb “s’inscire” woke me up in cold sweats, despite the raging 30 degrees for the first fortnight of September. I’ve blocked out most of the memories but some images still remain… bursting into tears all over a helpless (and very unhelpful) secretary, spending an eternity queueing in an airless office and a humiliating experience of being spoken to in English because I couldn’t answer a question fast enough in French. In total, it took 5 weeks to sort out my timetable and I’m still not convinced I’m registered properly for any of the classes I’ve attended for the past 3 months.
Second time lucky doesn’t cover it. Dreamlike is a better fit. The man who helped me this time was so efficient I barely had time to begin to panic. A minor blip started the process, of being refused help because “it takes longer to talk to foreign students” i.e. no one in the office could be bothered to make the effort. A week and a half later, I tentatively knocked on a neighbouring office’s door to ask if anyone could extend an olive branch. Fair to say Monsieur in office 2 has my undying gratitude. It isn’t yet fully sorted but any start is positive compared to the nightmare of the first round.
There is the very real possibility that despite this conquest, January will still ruin my timetable. I have 2 classes of FLE (Français Langue Étrangère) to fit in and because different departments don’t communicate, a titanic-sized disaster is still possible. At least I know the trick to succeeding in the FLE office – bursting into hysterical tears all over the secretary. He may be rude, unhelpful and apparently very depressed in his job but nothing made him register me faster than the threat of more waterworks.
À bientôt, Paris
Paris is beautiful. I am, truly, very lucky to be in this position. And for every impolite Parisian I might encounter, I’ve met many more ready to help if they can. However, this has been the hardest semester I have ever done. 15 exams, 240 hours of class and 1 french friend later, I’ve finally survived. I still don’t feel good enough to be here and I’m sure returning in January will still leave me terrified. I think Paris and I need a little time apart so I can begin to appreciate the magic again. It’s not you, it’s me.
Year Abroad isn’t a total nightmare. Besides, it makes for a brilliant provider of Instagram posts and funny stories. Learning to laugh at yourself is probably something that everyone should endure at some point.
Final year and a couple of dissertations are going to seem like a breeze when I come back; will need to include more croissants in my daily diet though.