Postcard number 15 of 16 total. “Just keep your eyes on No1”. Another encouraging nod from my Grandparents. Their idea of my top priority? “A Good result”. Fabulous. Sure thing. Luckily, I’ve already decided health and happiness is slightly more important to me than acing my second semester. Besides, I can’t hold it against them – they’re still grieving that I’m studying in Paris, but I’m not at the Sorbonne. Université Paris Diderot doesn’t have the same ring to it, apparently.
True to the first semester, returning to Paris wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped. Despite having asked my tutor specifically for the start date of my classes, I returned to find that I was a week early. At least I had succeeded in one sense: S’inscrire. The instructions were to register for second semester upon arriving back in Paris in January. I promptly ignored these instructions and bravely battled the office to let me register in December, along with the french students. The result? I have a fully working timetable and the other foreign students I know are now struggling to find anything they can join. Sophie 1, Diderot 0.
I’m slowly convincing myself that this semester will be better than the previous. Surely, now that I am settled in Paris and have overcome necessary evils – a bank account, a phone sim, metro pass, etc – life will pass by a lot more easily. I’ve decided the reason life in Paris is so exhausting is because I’m in a situation wherein adult stuff is required all the time, but in a different sense that I’m used to. Everything you need to do is without the support network that exists at home, but with an unfamiliar (and often backwards) system attached.
Any progress is good progress, right?
Despite struggling with the same medieval administrative staff, I’ve managed to secure the majority of class times I wanted, meaning I know at least one other sane person in each group. Only 2 of my 8 weekly classes this semester are spent alone, so luckily even if my understanding doesn’t improve, my happiness should. Sophie 2, Diderot 0. During my most recent adventures as an unofficial tour guide and translator (Thank you Lee, Jess and Soraya for the visits), I discovered that even if I am eventually answered in English, the Parisian waiters tolerate my French for a lot longer than before. The results coming in from last semester provide a glimmer of hope as well – even if I am still frustrated by my lack of understanding, I haven’t yet completely crashed and burned academically. So far, so good.
Life in Paris no longer feels like I’m on the edge of hysteria (for a visual reference, picture the Friends episode when Ross arrives with Julie and Rachel can’t hold it together… pretty much sums up the majority of first semester). However, the more I speak to other students doing their year abroad, the more the ‘holiday’ stereotype seems further than the truth. The responses are mixed but on the whole very negative – we’re enduring, surviving and finding humour in our humiliation wherever we can. I guess if you can’t laugh about it, you’d end up crying. And who wants to cry over a croissant?