Sunday, 26 September 2010

My first week of lectures

So here it is. After having finished the intensive language course, I am now an official student at Université Lumière Lyon 2. The welcome week and my first week of lectures were interesting in many ways. We had a meeting with Lyon 2's Erasmus coordinator on the 13th, after which Helen, Miranda, Alex, Charlotte and I went to the campus at Bron (Lyon 2's second campus, which is about 40 minutes on the tram and much bigger and more modern than the campus which is 10 minutes' walk from my flat) to look at timetables and choose courses. I opted for English to French translation, Ancient History, German "civilisation", German to French translation and French to German translation. I was most relieved to find that I have Mondays off, but unfortunately Wednesday was the most brutal day I have ever had in my life. I will never complain about starting at 9:00 in Birmingham ever again. I started lectures at 8, and because all my lectures are at Bron, I had to get up at 6a.m. in order to get the tram on time. Which brings me to another frustrating discovery: the French seem to believe that trams should be crammed full of people until there is not a single square inch of space left. I literally could not move. I then had 5 consecutive lectures - actually I lie, because I got the wrong room for one of them and only realised after half an hour of waiting outside said wrong room. I decided that there wouldn't be much point in going to the right room, so I went to the cafeteria and took a long lunch break. The cafeteria at Bron is very different to that at the campus on the Quais (so called because it is close to the bank of the river Rhône); the Quais cafeteria is quite casual, whereas the Bron cafeteria feels awfully like a school canteen. One of the irritating things about this cafeteria is that the cashiers do not have change, since the idea is to pay for meals using what is known as a carte CUMUL (Carte Universitaire Multiservices). I do have such a card, but putting money on it requires a French bank card, something which as yet I do not have. By the time my day finished at 5:45, I was infinitely glad to return to my flat, and even more glad that I only had one class on Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday evening I found myself in a bit of a rut, because I hadn't met anyone new since I finished my language course, had barely spoken any French, and was feeling like I didn't know what I was doing here. That was soon remedied by a very long Skype call to my friend Becky, who is currently in Strasbourg. I love her so much, she really made me feel better.

You may have noticed that I am continually discovering irritating things about France. The sad fact is that although lovely, France (and indeed the French) can be incredibly irritating. I haven't yet received my French bank card, so I had to go to the bank and ask them about it. They told me that I would have to collect it from my local post office because it is my first card. Well why didn't they tell me that in the first place! What is also irritating me is that I am expecting a parcel from home containing my new UK credit card and my British Airways membership card. After it not having arrived at reception, my mum had to phone the post office, and then I had to phone La Poste, who said that I could only get information about my parcel from England, but the post office at home said I could only get information from France. Helpful........not. So now it has been sent back to England and will hopefully arrive at my local post office soon.

As for the rest of the lectures, I have found them fairly good. Lectures here are 1 and 3/4 hours, and I have been struggling to concentrate for that long. Many of my translation classes have been interesting, but confusing at the same time. All I can say is thank goodness I have not discovered a French equivalent of Robert Evans. Those of you who study German will know exactly what I mean. It turns out that I am the only English person in my English-French translation class.  I wonder if this means that people will soon be coming to me with all sorts of questions. So far the only class I have found to be not very interesting is German civilisation, which seems to be a history class. You may think this would be interesting, but I have studied so much German history already, particularly in Landeskunde (I shudder at the memory of this) and Texts in Context. Speaking of, the first thing we have been learning about is Luther and the Reformation. When I discovered this I was struck by a wave of déjà vu, having studied Luther to death in Texts in Context. Yawn.

Anyway, I am probably boring you now, so I will leave you on this somewhat dreary Sunday in Lyon, and I hope that wherever you all are, you are having a more enjoyable time than me.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Withdrawal symptoms.

I have been dreading this day for a long time. The reason takes a bit of explaining: I am a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing, and today there was a special launch show for the next series. Unfortunately, BBC iPlayer can only be viewed in the UK. So I am sitting in my flat suffering from a bad case of SWS: Strictly Withdrawal Syndrome. I'm sure many of my friends will understand this, and perhaps are suffering from it too. I must find some way of keeping up with Strictly while in France! Maybe YouTube....

In other news, I went to the cinema with Helen, Miranda and Charlotte today, we saw a film called Copains pour Toujours, which is the French title of a film recently released in the UK called Grown Ups. It was quite funny and not too difficult to understand. I also went to Ikea, and bought various things, including a toy mouse. I think perhaps I was inspired to do this by my friend Becca, who bought a white one called Gosig Mus, and even made a Facebook profile for it! Mine is called Fabler Mus (yeah, weird Swedish names, I know!) I may create a profile for it, as Becca has done, but I have no idea how to!

Now for an update on the PRUNE (that's my pre-university language course): I had a bit of a stressy breakdown in class yesterday because I didn't know what to do for an exercise, even though it was quite simple. I was incredibly tired because of the Erasmus party on Thursday night, which by the way was crowded, hot, smelly and some of the people were a bit weird. Overrated I think! As my friend Tess' dad says, fatigue makes cowards of us all. She was very friendly and helped me to calm down, and very nicely walked me back to my flat. We were also set our first major project, 750-1000 words about the necessities and restrictions on the protection of what the French call "patrimoine" - translates roughly as heritage. It's due in on Thursday - yikes!

I will potentially be going to Annecy tomorrow with the PRUNE, as there is a guided tour of the city offered as part of the course. There are limited places though, so fingers crossed. I went to Annecy last summer and loved it, so I'm really hoping to go again. 

Tomorrow afternoon, if I get back from Annecy in time, or even if I end up not going at all, I will be going to "La biennale de la danse" which is an event that occurs every two years in Lyon, where people gather and dance along a street. It should be very exciting!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Presentation, Part-Dieu and a very Englandish day

I was very nervous this morning because today was the day of my first presentation in French, not counting the many tables rondes that I have done in Birmingham. Yesterday we paired up and were given a list of cultural places in Lyon. Each pair chose a place to research and today we all had to give a short presentation on our chosen place. My partner was an American girl called Tess, who incidentally is also the person I have spoken the most French with. We did our presentation on a place called Le Théâtre des Célestins. Overall I think it went well, and this theatre is now on my list of places that I want to visit while in Lyon. After that, my day went downhill by a long way - I got absolutely SOAKED walking back from uni, because I had only gone out in a T-shirt and trousers and taken my umbrella because it was raining when I left. I wasn't expecting it to turn into a torrent! My feet got drenched because I was wearing open shoes, and my bag also got wet. So when I got back I had to take everything out. Great. Just fantastique! It feels like England today! How depressing. I then changed my shoes and put my raincoat on, and Helen and I went to Part-Dieu to meet up with the rest of Birmingham's Lyonnaises. We had a good wander around the shopping centre and traipsed around Carrefour for ages. I finally managed to find a colander. No longer will I have to use a slotted spoon to drain things. HALLELUJAH!!!! And now I am being incredibly sad and watching French and German Disney movies on YouTube. Well, c'est la vie, as they say over here!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Picnic in the park

I can't believe I've been here a week already, and it's my first real weekend in Lyon, since last weekend was spent moving in. Yesterday Helen (the girl who lives in the same residence as me) I went to a big park in the north of Lyon called Le Parc de la Tête d'Or. Incidentally, there were no golden heads anywhere! (Sorry, really bad linguist humour there). It's absolutely huge. It puts Oxford's Uni Parks to shame! Plus, there is an (albeit small) zoo there! H turned into a bit of a child around the animals, which I found very amusing! There were Asian elephants, bears, several types of monkeys, flamingos, pelicans, some sort of crane with a weird crest on its head, and a massive crocodile! Its head was poking out of the door to the indoor enclosure and the rest of it was inside, as if it couldn't be bothered to come out any further! There was a lion enclosure but sadly we couldn't see the lion. We had a lovely picnic there with baguettes that we had bought from Carrefour, as well as crisps and some weird cereal bars that I bought, thinking they'd be similar to Go-Ahead bars, but these were crunchy rather than soft. I have decided that I absolutely adore French children! There was a little boy with his father, and the boy kept saying "oiseau" (French for bird) and pointing at the birds. Too cute! I also discovered H's hatred of pigeons; she referred to them as flying rats. I'm not too keen on them myself. As I sit here in my flat I am wondering what to do today, as this is Europe and EVERYTHING shuts on Sundays. I'm sure I will find something.
Until next time!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

One very exhausting day.

Today was my first official day on my language course at Université Lyon 2. I had 2 hours of lessons this morning and in the afternoon we visited the Institut Lumière, which is a museum about the Lumière brothers, who invented cinema in the 17th century. It was really fascinating and our guide was really good. He had a funny lisp and was really excited about everything, but he was a bit weird because he would pronounce some words by separating every single syllable. I don't know whether he does that to everyone or whether he knew that we weren't French/thought that our French wasn't good enough. What I didn't understand was if this museum was so fascinating then WHY were a certain silvery haired Birmingham professor's lectures on French film so incredibly boring? After the museum visit we all went our separate ways. I went off with some Canadians and a couple of Germans to get a drink and we sat by the Pont de l'Université where there are a couple of skate bowls, to watch some kids on bikes and scooters do tricks. Some of them were doing really cool things! At 5:00 there was a welcome outside the university, where there were French style canapés and macaroons and things. I tried a couple of things with salmon and a weird bread-like thing. The macaroons were lush, and I tried a weird looking jelly/cake type thing. I asked somebody what it was and she said it had rum in it! I thought it tasted a bit boozy! I stuck around for a while, mingling with different people, and then after most people had left, I went to SFR to try to change my phone contract. But they still wouldn't let me change it because I had my bank details on a piece of paper but they wouldn't accept it, they said I had to have a card, which I don't have yet. I sure hope my French bank hurries up and sends it to me!
I am now absolutely shattered and my feet ache, so I will end this post here.