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Birthday Celebrations in Budapest

When I asked a good friend of mine what she wanted to do to celebrate her 21st birthday, she told me that she would like to spend a weekend in Budapest seeing as we’re already in Europe and not too far away from Hungary. She then asked if I’d like to join her on this trip… Who could say no to that?! So we made the travel arrangements – I booked a return flight from Milan, and she booked a return train journey from Vienna – and waited excitedly for the end of May to arrive! The holiday was even better than we’d planned… In fact, we did so much in our 4 days in Budapest that there’s too much to write about! Instead I’m just going to have to let the photos do the talking…

But first, here’s the quick version of what we got up to:

Day 1
Once we’d successfully dropped our luggage off at the hotel we decided to aimlessly explore for a bit. We took a wander along the riverside, visited Parliament, City Hall, and the Basilica, before finally finishing up the night with a birthday meal at The Hard Rock Cafe and heading back to our hotel.

Day 2
Our second day in Budapest was used to get as much done as humanly possible. We took a tour bus over to the Buda side of the river and visited Buda Castle, the National History Museum, Fishermen’s Bastion, St Matthias Church, and the Statue of Liberty.

Day 3
This was another busy day, spent finishing up the remainder of the tourist attractions. We took the bus further into the Pest side of Budapest and visited Heroes’ Square, Vajdahunyad Castle, and Szechenyi Thermal Baths, before heading back to Parliament for a guided tour of the inside of the building and then ending our day by returning to the baths to relax in the thermal pools.

Day 4
Our last day (morning) in Budapest was spent inside the Basilica and sitting down to a lunch and a Starbucks iced mocha, before going our seperate ways in order to get our transport back to Italy and Austria.

As you can clearly see from these pictures, Budapest is an absolutely stunning city with plenty of history and tourist attractions! Though I have to admit that this was definitely a new experience for me. It has been a very, very long time since I have been to a country where I can’t communicate with people in their own language. It was really strange to have to hope that I would find some who spoke English… In fact, as a language student it actually made me really uncomfortable even though I did make the effort to learn the usual basics (hello, yes, no, please, thank you, do you speak English? – Jó napot, igen, nem, kérek, köszönöm, beszél ön angolul?).

The only other things that caused us a bit of difficulty were trying to calculate the how much we’d spent in euros, and the temperature. By the end of our weekend we were experts in converting forint into euro, but unfortunately we continued to struggle with the heat throughout the entire weekend. As British citizen we aren’t particularly adept at dealing with 36 degrees centigrade every day! It was probably slightly too hot for all the sight-seeing we had in mind, but I’m just glad that we didn’t decide to go and visit in July!!

Verona

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O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

After spending Easter weekend all alone in a ridiculously quiet apartment, I decided that I couldn’t spend another minute in my own company, and so I roped Stefania into taking a day trip with me to the city that serves as the setting for the most famous love story ever written: Romeo and Juliet. No stay in Italy could possibly have been complete without making a visit to Verona! Being the romantic that I am, I was unbelievably excited at the prospect of seeing Juliet’s house and getting to experience the magic of so many tourists all bringing their various hopes and dreams to the same place! I definitely wasn’t disappointed, the trip was everything I was hoping for… In fact, I got a lot more than I was hoping for because I wasn’t prepared for the magic of the city itself!

DSCF1289Verona most definitely rates as the most beautiful place that I have seen thus far on my Year Abroad! I’m not sure what I was expecting to find, but I was most definitely blown away by this beautiful city. If given the chance I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Verona – a single day of exploring meant that I was unable to see much of the city, and I’m sure there are so many more beautiful sights to be found in the city. The most awe-inspiring view of the day definitely came at the very end of out visit when, after DSCF1290climbing more steps than I care to think about, we finally made it to the highest point of the city. There was something incredible about being able to look out over the entire city and just slowly take everything in. I could happily spend all day at the top that hill, just sitting peacefully with a book. I’m not sure what it is about this particular part of Verona, but it definitely provides you with a new perspective on things.DSCF1222DSCF1268

 

 

 

DSCF1215The centre of Verona is just as beautiful as the breathtaking views that we found on the other side of the river! What I loved most about this city was its architecture – from the arena (colosseum) to the arches dotted around the place, as well as the bridges and churches, and especially the cathedral – you need only look at all the structures within the city to find its beauty. It may be the fictional background of Verona that is responsible or attracting so many tourists, but I’m certain that it’s the city itself that brings people back year after year! It may not have a theme park or a golden, sandy beach (two of my favourite attractions), but it is still a suitable holiday destination for pretty much everyone… Okay, so it’s not going to appeal to those of us looking for a boozy weekend that we won’t really remember once it’s over – that’s why places like Ibiza, Zante and Magaluf exist – but Verona is a perfect destination for a romantic weekend, a family holiday, or to get away from your everyday life for a little while!

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The city offers plenty of things to see and do, and it’s easy to spend hours just wandering around at your own pace, slowly discovering one marvel after another along the way. What really caught my attention though, was the castle. From the outside this structure doesn’t really look like much, and it’s definitely not as magnificent as the castle in Milan; but once you get inside it’s a completely different story. The inside of the castle is immaculately kept, and it is the only place in Verona where you can find little old italian men happily playing away on their accordions… It may be a show put on for the tourists, but it still gives off an authentic italian atmosphere just the same. However, the best part about the castle is castle bridge, and the great views of the river that can be seen from it:

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The only downside to this beautiful city is that it is almost impossible to get around without bumping into a couple of hundred tourists. Over lunch Stef and I discussed how much nicer it would have been to live in Verona instead of Pavia – it’s bigger, it’s prettier, there’s more to do – but then we realised just how irritating it must be to be buried in tourists all year round. It’s a shame to see that life in such a traditional Italian town has become quite so changed by tourism. There are so many foreign tourists wandering around that it’s very difficult to get a grasp of what normal everyday life is like. I suppose that being constantly surrounded by tourists IS everyday life for the people living in Verona. Every free inch of space in the piazzas is taken up by souvenir stalls and every restaurant in the main parts of the city have English menus and English speaking staff – great for those on holiday with no knowledge of Italian, but not so great for anyone trying to get a feel of traditional Italian life.
For anyone actually looking to experience authentic Italian life, I would most definitely advise avoiding the home of Romeo and Juliet! However, Verona is definitely a place that everyone should get to see at least once in their lifetime…

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Italian Culture Shock

It has recently occurred to me that I haven’t really had much to say about the cultural aspects of life in Italy, which is surprising actually, considering just how many things have come as a bit of a shock to me out here! This particular realisation came to me as I was walking back from class just over a week ago, and was caused by a man and his dog – more precisely, I passed yet another bald-headed gentleman taking his chihuahua for a nice stroll through town. To some people this image probably doesn’t seem strange at all, but to me (the poor little Welsh girl) it was a pretty bizarre sight! Clearly, I am harbouring prejudices I didn’t know I had, but all the same, I generally don’t expect to see large men walking tiny dogs – Think Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson walking their chihuahua or dachshund and you may see where I’m coming from! Anyway, the point of this anecdote was to point out that after I’d finished having a good giggle at this poor man’s expense, I realised that it’s exactly this kind of thing that needs to be put into a blog about life abroad… Which brings me to all the other things that I’ve considered strange about life in Italy and also, to all the things that people here have found strange about me! (I’m sure the latter makes for an embarrassingly long list).

Food

The main differences that I’ve noticed between my flatmates and I are almost all food related. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise really, but it still manages to catch me off-guard every now and again. For instance, for as long as I can remember I have always eaten Hawaiian pizza – in fact, it was the only pizza I’d eat until I discovered BBQ chicken pizza – but over here ordering pineapple on your pizza makes people look at you as though you’ve got three heads! Apparently in Italy, the home of pizza, it is most definitely not normal to eat pineapple with pizza; sweet does most definitely no mix with savory. Of course, this hasn’t actually stopped me ordering my pizza the way I’d like it, but it has become a running joke in the house – if any kind of food gets delivered to the house with ‘questionable toppings’ then it must belong to me!!

From my side of the argument, I find the routine strange, as opposed to the foods themselves. It’s been two months now since I moved to Pavia, and I still haven’t managed to pick up the Italian way of eating. Both of my housemates tend to eat a large, warm meal at lunch time, and then eat something lighter for dinner i.e. a salad or a mix of various nibbles. I have to admit that eating meals this way around does have more sense, because I’d imagine you use more energy throughout an afternoon than you do while sleeping. However, after 21 years of life in Britain, where the tradition of sandwiches for lunch (except for Sunday lunch) is strongly upheld, it has proven impossible for me to change my ways. This quite often means that I get funny looks at the dinner table in the evening because I have a nice full plate of dinner while they’re eating crackers.

Both of these are things that I probably would never have noticed, had I not decided to live with Italian students. If for instance I’d decided to rent a 1 bedroom apartment for myself then I would have spent my evenings eating alone, and I’d have no idea that some of my eating habits are actually considered to be really strange!

The Laid Back Outlook

One thing that I haven’t been able to get my head around at all here in Italy is the system for paying for things! In this country it is quite normal to sit outside and order your drink (whether it’s coffee or alcohol),have it delivered to you, drink it, and THEN pay for it just as you’re leaving. I am used to the British system where you order your drink and pay for it, and then you find a seat and wait for it to be delivered. I should say that I have absolutely nothing against the Italian system for ordering drinks; it works really well. However, if not for my friends, who take it upon themselves to remind me every single time that I still need to pay, I would have walked away from a fair few bars without paying for my drinks. It’s so easy to get lost in the conversation and just forget that you still need to pay.

American TV Shows

I have never, ever met a group of people more obsessed with watching as many tv shows from the U.S as possible! I’ll admit that I religiously follow more television series than I probably should, but even I can’t match the Italians. This in itself isn’t a problem… If not for the fact that they seem to assume that everybody (especially British people) have the same attitude. When I arrived at the apartment, my new housemates spent the entire afternoon quizzing me on my favourite shows and asking me whether I’d be interested in starting to watch the some of their favourite shows with them. Strangely, the only show I have in common with either of my housemates is The Vampire Diaries – not that I can say I’m surprised; there aren’t many girls my age that don’t have a great appreciation for either Stefan of Damon Salvatore!!

Quite often I’ll wander into the kitchen at lunch time, to find one of the girls already sat at the table, catching up on their latest episodes over the lunch break – At this point in time I actually know quite a lot about the current plots for The Following and Arrow!

Attitude to the Weather

The only final thing to mention is that I stand out as a foreigner more often than I’d like to, because my idea of hot weather doesn’t match that of the Italian population. In my opinion we hit summer temperatures back in March! The Italians are of a slightly different opinion. Apparently it’s not acceptable to wander around in short-sleeves in March even if the temperature is hitting 25 degrees… Just because in Britain that’s the equivalent of the height of summer, it does not mean that I’m allowed to walk around without my jacket and scarf. I’m beginning to wonder just how I’m gonna survive in July – I’m hoping by that point that I will either have acclimatised, or that everyone is ready to accept that I’m gonna be breaking out the shorts and flip-flops no matter what they think!

A Weekend in Milan – 08/03/2014 & 09/03/2014

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Milan Cathedral

Seeing as the lovely town of Pavia has become my new home for the next few months, it was only fitting that I take a half hour train journey and visit the fashion capital of the world! The main feature of Milan is without doubt the gorgeous cathedral that serves as the centre-point of the city. My housemate insisted that we make the Cathedral our first stop, and looking back I can see why. There is nothing quite like climbing the steps from the underground and coming face to face with this magnificent building! Of course, it definitely helped that the sun was shining and the whole place looked spectacular. For anyone wondering why there is a Despicable Me balloon floating in the corner of the photograph, it is because my housemate and I decided to visit Milan on the same day as ‘La Festa della Donna’ (International Women’s Day), and the square in front of the Cathedral was absolutely jam-packed with people waiting for the festival/parade to begin.

1798321_699612966728201_325558436_nWhen we arrived at the Cathedral we still had a bit of time to kill before the parade started and so I was given a quick tour of everything of interest in the immediate vicinity. I can honestly say that although the Cathedral will always be the most spectacular building in Milan, the galleria definitely made a great 1977435_699613430061488_1844868402_nimpression on me. Home to all those expensive expensive shops that everyone know, and no one can afford to shop at, the galleria made me feel as though I was taking a walk in a rich person’s shoes for a little while. Naturally, being a student 10006960_699613296728168_1772547227_nand honorary tourist, I absolutely could not resist the urge to bring home a collection of photos of all these expensive shops – I couldn’t bare to go home without proof that I’d been within 100 miles of not one, but two Prada stores!!

Once I had gotten over the horrific realisation that it’s entirely possible I will never, ever be able to afford a single item from the majority of the stores in the galleria, it was time to head back to the Cathedral ready to watch the procession of floats come to the end of their parade around the city. There were floats for every kind of organisation and charity imaginable, but the one that really caught my eye and stayed with me right up until today, was the float representing the Italian Red Cross. This particular float was decorated with loads and loads of the Despicable Me minions! I’m1796494_699613743394790_1454979800_n not entirely sure what the connection is between the Red Cross and the Despicable Me, but I know for sure that everyone absolutely loves the minions. In my opinion, the best performances of the afternoon came in the form of several different dance crews, all with different music and different styles… but they were definitely responsible for drawing the crowd and holding everyone’s attention – I mean, who doesn’t love to see beautiful women in gorgeous dresses dancing through the street? And more importantly, I can’t think of many women who wouldn’t appreciate a group of ridiculously handsome, topless guys putting on a dance/martial arts performance!!!

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The final stop on our tourist’s tour for that first day, was the Formula 1 store. I am not in the least bit ashamed to admit that I got more excited that was strictly necessary when I saw the F1 car sitting on display in the window. I am not an avid racing fan, but I spent a lot of time watching the F1 with my father when I was younger – I will never forget the weekends we spent lounging on the bed and cheering for Michael Schumacher! Though I’m pretty sure that he became my racing idol because in his day he won almost every time… Anyway, the point is that my inner-1982171_699614853394679_632776677_nchild got rather too excited at the prospect of being within touching distance of a real formula 1 Ferrari. I was rather tempted to take a turn sitting in it! However, after watching a fully grown man attempt it and fail miserable because the steering wheel had been altered to remain permanently attached, I decided that I didn’t want to risk making a giant fool of myself. Maybe if I can talk him into it, I shall make a return trip with my father at some point (I seriously doubt it).

The rest of the day was then spent wandering around the main high street, where I spent a ridiculous amount of money on clothes that I probably didn’t need! But really, there was no way I’d be able to explain how I went to the fashion capital of the world and didn’t buy a single thing! Luckily I avoided all of the more expensive stores, and stuck with raiding H&M instead!! My housemate also gave me a guided tours of the ‘posh’ areas of the city. I was expecting to see a ridiculous amount of stores I wouldn’t be able to face entering… and I wasn’t disappointed. I was however, caught off-guard by the amount of luxury cars that we saw in this particular part of town. Now, seeing as it’s the high-class end of town, I really shouldn’t have been surprised! But then again, I can’t say as I’ve ever gone out shopping and thought to myself “I’m sure all the expensive cars will be out in town today” – Though that’s probably because where I’m from barely anybody owns a car worth that much money. I saw a great many wonderful and amazing things that first day in Milan, but I will never, ever forget seeing the Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley logos on about 40% of the cars we passed. The highlight of my day came while we were waiting to cross the road and an Aston Martin DB9 pulled up next to us at the lights! My housemate thought I was being ridiculous, and she had a good laugh at my expense – can’t say I blame her to be quite honest! But still, it’s not every day that you get withing touching distance of those kind of cars.

Day 2 of our weekend in Milan was much shorter because neither of us wanted to drag ourselves our of bed, but we managed to fit in plenty of sight-seeing all the same! The majority of our time was spent wandering around the castle grounds and the gorgeous 1924619_699617016727796_989290261_npublic park that used to serve as its gardens. The castle was magnificent, but the park was something else entirely! It’s the kind of place where you could happily spend all day with your family because it’s perfect for anything and everything; frisbee, reading, a picnic, sunbathing, running around like lunatics, walking the dogs – you name it, it’s probably possible. Considering that it’s in the centre of one of the biggest cities in Europe, it’s easy to believe you’re in the countryside somewhere while you’re wandering around in the park. After our visit to the Castle we made sure to go and see the Arch of Peace at the other end of the gardens, before slowly making our way back to the Cathedral for some much needed gelato!

There is no better way to end a weekend in Milan than with ice-cream!!!!

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The Castle Fountain

 

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The Arch of Peace

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Inside the Castle Grounds

Pavia – The Home of Puppies and Pushchairs!

5 weeks down the line, I have finally managed to remember to write something down! Time has passed by so quickly here that I didn’t actually realise that it had been quite so long since I’d written anything… So, what’s the most important thing I’ve learnt about life in Italy? It’s that about 90% of the people you see out and about are either walking their dog or pushing a baby around in a buggy! I’ve seen every breed of dog you can possibly imagine – Great Danes, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Old English Sheep Dogs, Terriers… You name it I’ve seen it!! This is clearly a town of dog lovers. Which is really, really lovely actually, except that it makes me realise just how much I miss living with my 4-legged friend in Nantes! It’s so weird to once again be living without a pet in the house – I really hope my housemates go through with buying a kitten like they’ve been planning! I need some kind of animal companion in the apartment. Speaking of my apartment, I should probably expand on what’s happened here over the last few weeks… 

Settling In
Finding somewhere to live actually turned out to be surprisingly easy! I found a notice pinned to the university noticeboard and sent a text inquiring about the room… Within a few hours I’d set up a meeting to view the room (for 2 days later), and 2 days after that I signed the contract before moving in the next day, after dropping my mother off in Milan to catch the plane home – I was so surprised to have somewhere to live and be all moved in less than a week after arriving! Luckily for me, housing has been really easy to sort, both here and in France :)
My housemates are all really lovely… I currently live with 3 Italian girls; although only two are actually here at the moment. The third has moved back home because she’s finished her degree and will be graduating in about 2 weeks time – I shall tell you all about the ceremony! (And of course the after-party too!!!). The girls are lovely – one is doing the Italian equivalent of a masters in Engineering, and the other is a first year Law student; both very, very busy people. They’ve adopted me into the house and we all get on really well. They always make sure to include me in any plans they have and we’ve had meals at their friends’ houses a few times already. 

Compared to my experience in France, the administrative process was also extremely simple! Everything was all sorted within 3 days, and I have been able to just sit back and start enjoying my time here. The only similarity that Pavia University administration has in common with that of the uni in Nantes, is that nobody is ever in the Erasmus office during their office hours. I have been trying for weeks now to get my Certificate of Arrival returned to me so that i can send it back to Cardiff!! Luckily it seems that Pavia University has forward the document for me without letting me know – helpful and yet ridiculously irritating all at the same time.

Since getting here, I have done a fair bit of sight-seeing. Mum and I wandered around the town a lot while she was here, and we spent my birthday trying to find all the main tourist attractions here in town so that I could have a nice set of photos to mark my 21st birthday! 

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I’ve since done some more wandering on my own, and I also spent a weekend sight-seeing in Milan (which I will write about next!) as I am determined to see more of Italy than I managed to see of France. I have officially found my favourite part of Pavia and I have been known to spend hours and hours there. So where is it? My favourite part of Pavia are the forest trails that run alongside the river for miles and miles. On a sunny day it is amazingly peaceful to just wander along and have time to yourself to think or even just to daydream – which I am known to do more often that is healthy. It’s also a great place to sit, if you can find a picnic bench that’s free, and read; or even start working on ideas for a blog post. I’ve never seen a more gorgeous place, and it’s particularly special to me because it reminds me very much of home at times!

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The most exciting news that I have to share so far, is that I have booked a trip to Budapest for the end of May, as a good friend of mine is turning 21 and that is where she would like to spend her birthday! Seeing as I spent a fair few Sundays watching tv with her in her little cell (AKA: Nantes student accomodation), it will be great to see get out and see the world with her for company. I should probably learn a couple of key phrases in Hungarian before I go though! For right now though, I have plenty of work to do with revising for my Mythology exam next week – I have never been so terrified to face an exam before!! Note to any and all Erasmus students that may be reading this: Do yourselves a favour and make wise module choices in your host countries! For instance, Mythology is a rather specialised subject, and not one that I would recommend dipping into for 6 weeks. I know nowhere near enough to be able to pass this exam, but I shall have to do my very best all the same!

So what’s the moral of this month’s update? 
Be careful which module choices you make, because it may come back to bite you later on in the year!!

    

Arrivederci alla Francia e Buongiorno alla Vita Italiana

After spending 5 lovely weeks at home with my family I have finally set out on second, and final, part of my year abroad. Tomorrow marks the end of my first week in Pavia – and what a crazy week it’s been! 

Pavia is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s just the right size for someone like me who’s used to country life most of the time. The university campus is in the centre of town and pretty much everything is within a ten minute walk from the main campus (including my new apartment). Unfortunately, getting here took a little bit more work than I was expecting! For anyone travelling here from London it couldn’t be easier, but living in Wales meant that I had a very, very long day of travelling – including a 5 and a half hour bus ride to Gatwick airport, a 2 hour plane ride, just over an hour on the bus across Milan, a 30 minute train ride to Pavia, and a 10 minute walk to the apartment with all the cases. I have to say that it was definitely worth it! I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend the next 6 months. My mother left this morning, after 6 days here helping me to sort things out. We spent Saturday wandering around town trying to get our bearings, and on Sunday we visit all the tourist ‘attractions’ to celebrate my 21st birthday – the only problem with being Italy for my 21st was that everything is closed on Sundays, but we had a relaxing day all the same. 

More Paperwork
Monday morning was when the real hard work started! First on our list of places to visit was l’Ufficio delle Entrate, where I had to apply for my codice fiscale (which is needed in order to apply for housing, phone contracts, university registration etc.). After hearing stories from other Erasmus students in various parts of Italy I was expecting this to be the hardest part of my stay, but it actually turned out to be ridiculously simple… once you look past the fact that the document the uni sent me for completion is out of date and no longer accepted by the tax office! From here we headed straight to the university to register with the Erasmus office, which also turned out to be a rather simple affair. I had to go on a mad hunt for passport photos (which I’d forgotten to pack – there’s always something!), but other than that everything was sorted out very efficiently. 

With all the bureaucratic jobs behind me it was time to get down to business. Housing was much easier to sort out than I expected! I arrived in Pavia with nowhere to live besides a hotel, and this afternoon I moved into my new student apartment. There are plenty of advertisements to be found on the uni noticeboard; most of them looking for one of two students to fill empty rooms. I contacted the owner of an apartment that was really near to the university, and 2 days later I went to view the apartment. I signed the contract last night, and now I’m sat on the bed in my new room, finally updating my blog. The process really was that simple! Although I did have problems with making the rent payment as I decided to keep my french bank account to use in Italy. International transfers are really awkward as it turns out! So with hindsight I should have closed my french account and opened an italian one instead. I now live with 3 female italian students, which should be great for my language skills! Everyone is being really patient with me so far and I’ve already introduced the whole apartment to welshcakes – they were a big hit!

So far the italian system has given me fewer problems than the french system, but there’s still time for me to discover some hidden issues. Fingers crossed that things will be just as positive next time I sit down to write!

 

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Goodbyes, Exams & Leprechauns

I can’t believe the time has finally come, but this is now officially my last nantais blog entry! As much as I have complained about all things Nantes, I am actually incredibly sad to be leaving!! This last week has really shown me the rollercoaster nature of the year abroad – I was not prepared for this ridiculously strange mix of emotions… Never before have I been eager to go home, reluctant to leave, and terrified of moving on, all at the same time. I’m actually not sure how I feel at this point, besides quite clearly being conflicted! I’ve spent my last week trying in vain to juggle a fun social life, and a serious attitude towards the exams; I’m pretty sure you can guess how that turned out. I ended up doing zero revision for either exam, but I also managed to avoid spending more time and money than necessary in the pub – I’m going to call that a success and just leave it at that I think!!

On the subject of exams, this morning was certainly interesting. 6am today saw me getting up to head to my 7:30 exam… I was most defintely not too pleased when I heard that I was expected to sit an exam at that time in the morning, and I was convinced I’d have very low concentration levels – I mean, I don’t know all that many people these days who can function normally without a hot cup of tea (or coffee) in the morning. But as it happens, Beth and I shared our morning exam with one of our friends/barmen from the pub, and that turned the whole thing into a highly entertaining affair. Our translation contained the word “lutin”, which at home I would normally refer to as a midget. However, that word is not what you’d call politically correct these days, and so it was fun to see what else we came up with instead. Beth’s translation was the least offensive – being the Game of Thrones addict that she is, she chose the word Imp… whereas our Irish friend and myself decided that we wanted to translate it as leprechaun! Furthermore, he has decided that if he finds out that they’ve marked it as incorrect, he’s going to accuse them of being racist against the Irish!!!! My other source of amusement came from the fact that the exam also consisted of an English grammar section (which I obviously didn’t have to do). After finishing my translation I decided to flick through and see what kind of things the other class had been working on… to my absolute delight (I think it may have had something to do with the early hour) I found that they’d included a sentence “I am from a small town in Wales” – I sat there thinking ‘well actually, you’re not… but I sure as hell am’.

For anyone who’s interested, my mother later informed me that the correct term for ‘midget’ these days is “a vertically challenged individual”.

Though I must add that we once again encountered issues with the university’s organisational abilities! Erasmus students weren’t actually registered for the exams, and so they weren’t really sure what to do with us when we started showing up at exams this week! Today was especially interesting – “Oh Erasmus… right ok, well just stand there for now. Once all the people on the list have their seats you can fill the empty spaces” – Part of me still wants to know what they’d have done if every single person had showed up that was supposed to be there!! As it turns out there were plenty of absentees, and so plenty of spare seats; but I shall always wonder “what if” just the same.

I also said the first of my goodbyes this morning. Strangely enough, I recipient of that goodbye happened to be Butch the BU Nantes cat… He’s somewhat of a celebrity around here and he was the first friend I ever made on campus – meaning that on my first afternoon at the uni, he tried to help me eat my baguette! From here on out I’m sure the goodbyes are going to get a lot harder; tonight I say goodbye to the pub, and to all the friends I’ve made there (and I’ll also make sure to buy a shirt as a souvenir too!), and then that leaves saying goodbye to my wonderful French family! I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be a teary-eyed mess by the end of it, but at least that’s proof that I’ve loved my stay even if it was a bit rocky at the beginning.

And now, this is officially the end of the last post I will write from Nantes. Or at least the last one I will ever write as a student of l’université de Nantes! Thanks you very much for all the memories, it’s been fun!!