Something I’ve learnt this past week? It’s okay to be ready for this experience to end. I have a few remaining days with my Parisian postcode and although I am appreciating this city each day, each experience has an ending. It’s time to stop feeling guilty for looking forward to coming home.
Completing my final exam à Diderot was a somewhat surreal feeling. I’d hesitate to use the word ‘anticlimax’ – after such a long build up, and such a stressful time academically, any ending would feel strange. In truth, I rushed out of my last exam and straight into the International Relations office to have my last certificate signed and stamped. I’m crossing all my fingers that an extra appearance isn’t necessary between now and leaving Paris, as a retake would really not be the best start to my summer. As my exam results drip through (again, no clear system or warning when results are released, leading to a panicked check each day) I can start to breathe a sigh of relief. I did it! Well, it’s now done and results pending, wasn’t a complete disaster. Who knew it was possible?
Am I ready to leave?
I definitely felt ready to leave Diderot, given how challenging I found university life and how much it made me miss the comfort of UoB. In fact, the idea that my next lecture will be in my final year, in a dusty lecture theatre in Birmingham, is exciting rather than terrifying. The end celebration wasn’t the same as normal though. The last two years have seen my long-suffering Dad drive to Birmingham, arriving to find I haven’t packed and I’m normally in a horrendous state from the night before. He then endures a boring car journey, retracing the same 100 miles as earlier that morning, with the delightful accompaniment of me vomiting (I have a very weak stomach and a hangover does not help motion sickness, okay?) In fact, the last collection from Birmingham saw Dad arriving with a sick bag at the ready… This time? I went for a burger and an ice cream, that I subsequently dropped on the floor. A perfect ending to the bizarre academic experience in Paris.
Technically, this time around I celebrated a day early by taking a long-overdue trip to Disneyland (21 years overdue actually, if you’re reading this Mum or Dad). We justified the trip, a day before our final exam, because you can’t possibly not go to Disney when the opportunity is there. Besides, what better way to celebrate our level of French than struggling to sing along to Frozen?
And the return next week?
I’m not sure whether I’m ready to leave Paris. It truly will feel weird to wake up to the leafy village life rather than my quiet street and local Boulangerie. My brief visits home so far have felt like a holiday, I haven’t yet felt chez moi since this year began and that’s probably because I always had a deadline to return back to Paris. Perhaps it will take time to adjust, just as it took time when I first arrived. In terms of my social life, it can’t come soon enough. I cannot wait to order a jagerbomb and not break my student overdraft. Similarly, I cannot wait for Happy Hour to actually mean receiving two drinks! Disappointingly, out here ‘Happy Hour’ is just a couple of euros reduction on a single cocktail. When I explained this to my flatmate, she laughed and laughed and then said “That’s why you’re binge drinkers!” At least we’re happy about it.
I do have a list of things I want to do before I leave but as I have explained before, Paris feels so easily accessible to home that I have no burning desire to exhaust myself this last week. I have a tricky choice though; with my parents coming out next week to ferry me home, what exactly are my favourite things to enjoy one last time?
Maybe this experience abroad has changed me for the better. To my family’s complete shock, I’ve even started thinking about my final year. I have an interview in Birmingham at the start of June, as well as having applied for a society post to throw myself back into UoB life. Written out this seems like nothing but anyone who knows me, knows I have a strong tendency to bury my head in the sand regarding graduation or life after UoB. I find that I have a childish excitement towards student life in Selly Oak again, even if I’m sure I’ll be complaining about the greedy landlords and vandalism soon enough. Fear not, I haven’t yet completely signed my soul away to hard work. Simple soucis remain; can I even write an academic essay, given I haven’t done one in English in over a year?
There is another looming dark cloud on the horizon; the dissertation. Luckily, I have one short dissertation (a mere 6,000 words) for my History of Art studies. To spend a year in Paris and not to view any art would be an impossible feat. In fact, I wrote on my application that my chosen dissertation piece for my HoA degree is located in Paris, and therefore could I please, pretty please, be situated in respect of my research needs? 9 months in and no dissertation piece has been chosen, let alone vaguely researched. The gamble did pay off ; I have indulged my love of art as often as I can. Extended research without a clear direction, if you will. I’m convincing myself I can start to panic over my lack of topic / direction over summer. A challenge I can fully approach in September…
Perhaps I will spend a week in the village, where everyone knows everyone’s business and they can pretty much identify you via your wellington boot prints in the mud, and end up begging for the anonymity of Paris. Perhaps Waitrose’s finest almond croissants will do nothing to satisfy my well established dependency on French pastry. And maybe, perhaps this experience will end and I will be able to look back on it properly as the learning curve it has truly been. I don’t think there’s any shame in accepting the end of this year abroad whirlwind, nor in looking forward happily to a reunion with my friends and the crazy dog. After all, this year abroad can’t last forever.
As a final spot of bad luck, presumably brought on by a previous post wherein I gloated I had avoided the hospital, I have experienced my first trip to the Doctors. Safe to say it wasn’t thrilling. Restricted to eating compote for the foreseeable future.