Primary school assistants with our responsable a few days before we left Pau!
So I realise I should probably write a concluding post for my year abroad, seeing as my contract actually finished a month ago today.
I’m currently sitting in my apartment in Naples (was going to write a blog on it- realised I’m shit at keeping up a blog) and France seems a lifetime away now; it doesn’t seem yesterday that I was boarding the plane to Pau with Kirsty, feeling very scared, nervous and not at all ready for a year abroad! Well it’s true what they say: time flies when you’re having fun.
The last few weeks in Pau were really great, some of the best of my life. The weather was simply beautiful and French life became more enjoyable than ever. We were lucky enough to spend a weekend in San Sebastian, which is a gorgeous seaside town in north-east Spain, and spent the weekend subathing, trying local cuisine (bien sur) and I came back with a hair braid. Pourquoi pas?! On our other days off we went to the park & beach and basically had a fantabulous time while my friends from home have been studying hard for their exams. La vie est belle.
My last week in Pau was really sad. My goodbyes at school were adorable; I was showered with gifts and cards - we even had a little goodbye party in one! Trop triste! Saying goodbye to my Pau friends was really sad, especially friends who don’t live in England as I’m not sure when I’ll see them again!! But I feel very lucky to have been welcomed so warmly into my schools and to have met people I am sure I will stay in contact with for the rest of my life.
So now, as it’s the end, I’d just like to summarise some advice for future year abroaders (either in Pau or elsewhere):
I would advise anyone on their year abroad to live with native speakers of the language you’re learning! I lived in student accommodation which, although wasn’t bad, I think it would have been better to live with French people in the town centre (saves the 30 min walk home after nights out!) and apartments are waayyyy nicer than uni halls- although it might be more expensive, CAF will help and it’ll be so worth it! [For anyone thinking of living in the Cité Universitaire in Pau- beware, the cleaning lady in Block A is horrible.]
It takes FOREVER and sometimes you start to think it’s run by monkeys, but definitely go for it because it saves a lot of money and EVENTUALLY you should get your money (though this can take up until after you finish your YA apparently)
3. Phone contract
I have an iPhone & took a contract out with free.fr (you can do this online) and had unlimited texts, calls and internet (and calls to UK landlines). Can cancel whenever which is simple- you just have to write a letter (theres a template online). 20 euro per month.
I had a bank account with La Banque Postale, didn’t really have a choice as we went with our responsable to do them, but the bank account was fine (pay 7euro every 3 months). If you have a Carte Bleue you can withdraw money for free all over Europe.
I also took a travel cash card thing which was good for spending money from my English bank account after I’d spent all my wages.
Don’t worry about this, you’ll soon work out what is expected of you, and if you don’t know then the teachers will help. Google becomes your best friend for lesson planning (primary kids love ANY games).
I can’t put into words how good it’s been to see so many new places in France & Spain this year - I’d definitely recommend trying to see as many new places as possible because you might not get the chance again! Buy a student railcard from your rail station (50 euro but you’ll save so much!)
7. Babysit or Tutor
This is great for extra money, extra contacts and will improve your French!! I charged 15-20 euro per hour for tutoring.
8. STOP WORRYING!!
Your year abroad is what you make it, you will meet loooads of new people and have an experience unlike anyone else. It’s a cliché but you’ll learn a lot about yourself too. Have fun! #yohoya
Further points for people going to Pau:
9. Join the UTLA (Université de Temps Libre) at the University. You can pay a reduced fee if youre a student and go to as many classes as you like - I did Italian. http://utla.univ-pau.fr/
10. Buy a bus pass (around 15 euro per month, shop is in Place d’Espagne) http://www.reseau-idelis.com/index.php
11. If you like Zumba go to Frederique’s classes: http://www.ab2s-64.fr/ she’s great.
12. Take your ski stuff and go skiing! (you can’t hire clothes at Gourette). A bus goes from the station to Gourette every day at 7.30am & costs 30 euro for travel and access to slopes for 1 day (take student card) http://www.n-py.com/fr/ete/accueil-ete.html
Places I would recommend:
Food: Le Berry, La Tagliatella, Le Boulevard, l’Etna, Les Jardins de Verone, Le Mexico
Drink: Night: Le Boulevard, Le Garage, The Galway (♥), Tropical café, Bar No.5, Baracuba. daytime: Café de l’Europe is my fave and Le Mie Caline do the best sandwiches ever.
Out: L’Esprit (my fave ever), The Casino, Connemara, Durango (if you like Indie music)
Also a point to note is that ASOS is the best shop ever because it’s free worldwide delivery & returns.
I hope my blog has been helpful for at least one person! If you have any questions I will do my best to reply (but hardly ever come on here). Good luck with your year abroads :)
Hey Naomi! Sorry I’ve only just got round to answering this.
The One Where My Family Came To Visit ♥
The One Where The P’town Girls Came To Pau ♥
Italy for the Winter Hols:
(left to right, top to bottom)
Spinning on the Bull’s Balls in Milan; On the roof of the Duomo; The Duomo; Patting the Boar’s Snout in Florence; Breakfast; View from the top of the Cathedral; At the Colosseum; Stadio Olimpico; At the Trevi Fountain
Winter Term in Pau:
(left to right, top to bottom)
Biarritz in Half Term; Me & Kirsty supporting England; Me & Beth; Gaston Phoebus Pre-drinks; Me & Jess; Shots with Gummy Sweets; Skiing!
So I guess I should fill you in on the last, what, eight weeks! I apologise for not keeping up with my blog (again) – I’ve been having too much fun!!
After Toulouse, the rest of February pottered by, my time was filled with teaching, eating out, nights out and spending time with the girls. The Six Nations came and went; we watched the England-France match in the pub with George’s cross on our cheeks and were relieved when England won, much to the disappointment of just about every other person in the pub.
I’ve started Italian lessons at the university which is proving to be very useful as I didn’t realise how much Italian I’d forgotten! I paid 25 euro to join and can go to as many classes as I like. It’s improving my French as well as my Italian because of it’s taught in French, and I am the youngest in my class because it’s full of retired people.
We were lucky enough to have some good weather in February, so days off (of which there were many – my schools seem to cancel English lessons whenever possible) were spent in the park eating ice cream in the sun. The mountains look stunning on a clear day.
At the start of March, we had two weeks off for the winter holidays. During the first week, the weather was gorgeous so me & Jess went to the beach and stayed over on Kim’s boat after going out for an amazing three course meal with her and her flatmate. Later in the week I went skiing with two of the assistants which was as always, great fun, and managed to return looking like a lobster because I forgot to put sun cream on.
During the second week of the holidays, myself and the other girls went to Italy; Milan, Florence and Rome. Although the weather was crap, and just about everything that could go wrong DID go wrong, we had a great time & saw loads of things; I’ll post photos after this post. We saw the beautiful Duomo in Milan and went to Lake Como, saw all the main sights including the Ponte Vecchio and Santa Maria Cathedral in Florence, and of course the Colosseum and Forum in Rome. We went to the Italy – Ireland game at the Stadio Olimpico and were supporting Ireland on behalf of our Irish friend, but unfortunately Ireland lost and we then went to the pub to witness England’s embarrassing defeat against Wales. Arriving back in Pau on Sunday we were all pretty knackered but I was ready to get back into routine.
The next weekend, I was lucky enough to have my P’town girls come to visit! The weather was absolutely beautiful so we made the most of the sun and I took them to all my favourite restaurants, cafés and of course, to the Irish pub. We went out on the Saturday night which is possibly one of the most memorable nights out of my time here in Pau; we go told off for being too loud, left at half one and took the bikes into town, and danced the night away in l’Esprit. It was a great weekend and so good to see them!!
Then came Easter weekend, which was possibly the worst weekend in Pau so far. It was a long weekend, as we’d taken time off school to help out with teacher training earlier in the week. I had a boring essay to do for uni, and had no other plans as most people were busy/ boyfriends were here. So for about five days I wrote my essay and felt homesick about the fact I wasn’t with my family while everyone on facebook/twitter/Instagram was enjoying their Easter eggs with theirs. Boohoo.
This weekend, however, was fab. My family came to visit and we had such a fun time. Again I tried to show them my favourite places to eat and drink, and had chocolate mousse for dessert for three days in a row, YUM. We rented a car so took a trip to Oloron on Saturday morning, and drove up to the mountains in the afternoon. On Sunday we went skiing and I don’t think I have laughed that hard in a long time; seeing my entire family whizzing down the nursery slopes (mum even took out a child!) was hilarious. Although I don’t think Mum will ever ski again, everyone had a really fab time and caught the sun a bit too much!
Our plans for the next few weekends include nights out (of course- got to make the most of the sangria), and we are hopefully going to San Sebastian at some point. I only have three weeks left of teaching in Pau before I move to Italy! Although I’m very sad to leave Pau I’m sure I’ll return in the future and will definitely keep in touch with all the friends I have made here – but I am so excited to start my next adventure!
Un peu en retard, but here are some photos from Toulouse!
top - bottom, left - right:
on the Pont Neuf; looking in the mirror in L’Eglise des Jacobins; artwork on the ceilings in the Place du Capitole (I think); les marchés in the Place du Capitole; Notre Dame La Dalbade looking all superior; the beautiful Jardin des Plantes
Don’t get me wrong, I love my year abroad. I feel very lucky to be doing it and am amazed it even counts as part of my degree; this year is definitely my favourite academic year and I don’t want it to end! When I’m biking past the accordian player into town with my sunglasses on, feeling extremely French, I wonder how I’ll be able to return to English life; I am strongly considering moving back to France when I graduate.
But alas, every rose has its thorn. The ONLY thing I regret about my year abroad is not moving out of university accommodation. Living in halls is cheap, comfortable and I have lots of friends here, but I am jealous of those with nice apartments overlooking the mountains, properly functioning kitchens, living rooms, French housemates etc. I think when I first came abroad I was very overwhelmed and soon settled in with the girls who live here so didn’t want to move away. As I approach my penultimate month in France, I am starting to worry that I haven’t improved my French as much as I should have and think a French housemate would definitely have helped (don’t get me wrong, there are French people here who I often chat to in the kitchen, but… let’s just say the sense of community in French halls is different to that in England:
i.e. there isn’t one.) This is the one thing I wish I’d done differently.
I haven’t written this post to complain about where I live – my accommodation isn’t hindering my year abroad at all; I just wanted to advise prospective year abroad-ers to take the plunge and live with French people!
valentines cookies miam miam 🍪💕
I’ve always thought it funny that the quote above doesn’t translate to ‘Life in Pink’ but to ‘The Good Life’. Which is exactly what I’m living!
The first weekend of February saw Fatima’s birthday, so we all went to hers & got drunk, then to Olly’s and had karaoke predrinks (so much fun!) before heading out to my fave club, L’Esprit. L’Esprit is fab because it plays good music and there are lots of fit boys. Unfortunately all fit boys are about seventeen. Damn.
Sunday was a hangover day, as per, and the new week got very busy as I was tutoring Alice as well as William and Francoise’s boys. (this equals lots of money woo!) On Tuesday night we went to see Happiness Therapy (The Silver Linings Playbook) in English with French subtitles, which is good because I end up reading the subtitles quite a lot! (See mum, I am improving my french!!) On Thursday it was Anna’s birthday so we cooked her dinner and baked her an amazing cake. Yummmm.
On Friday me & the other Primary Assistants went to meet our responsable to help with recordings and then to hers to have lunch. She lives up in the mountains - it is absolutely beautiful and I felt so at home being in the countryside again! I miss the Fens of East Anglia ha! Her husband is a winemaker and she gave us the grand tour of the outhouses where the wine is made & stored. There was even a little machine that put the labels on the bottles! Her house is like something out of the Ideal Homes catalogue- massive windows looking out over the vineyards with gorgeous furniture and a lovely fireplace. I don’t know whether you can tell, I sort of want to move in! Over our three course lunch of soup, chicken and cake, we sipped on the gorgeous Jurancon wines (can’t wait to introduce the girls to these when they visit!) It was a perfect Friday afternoon and well worth missing school for.
[The view from my responsable’s living room… lush]
We left Pau around half 5 to go to Toulouse! We arrived and found the hotel, dumped our stuff and went out for dinner - I had a pasta dish that was TINY. Not impressed. On Saturday we were up bright and early for sightseeing! We visited the Capitole and saw the markets, went inside the Jacobins Church, walked along the river and visited the Jardin des Plantes. It wouldnt have been a weekend away without doing a bit of shopping (Toulouse’s Zara is WAY better than Pau’s.) We then went for a hot chocolate in the afternoon because - surprise, surprise - it was raining, and had dinner at this American diner place- so good! And I FINALLY got to have my melt-in-the-middle-chocolate-pud. yum. Then we had predrinks chez Hotel Ibis and went out to a bar recommended to us by the hotel man (it was shit.) But after a few get27/sambuca/tequila shots at the very reasonable 5e each, it was good night. Pretty sure it was a gay bar though.
[Toulouse views… will upload more soon]
On Sunday we were all (mainly me) feeling shit and got the train back to Pau at around lunchtime, I then had a horrible bout of homesickness in the evening (honestly sometimes you’re just plodding along and then WHAM! it hits you in the face.)
This week I have questioned what on earth I am being paid for as I am working four and a half hours in total. One of my schools was off striking (comme d’hab), in the second my teacher was on a course, and in the third the kids went skiing for three days. Quelle chance indeed. On my three days off I have gone shopping and had my last hot chocolate/ brownie till the end of Lent (as you can tell, food is a big theme of my year abroad.)
On Tuesday night we made pancakes at Anna’s, even though their pancake day was last week. Tuesday was also a festival called ‘Mardi Gras’ where apparently the
kids teenagers in schools throw eggs and flour on one another, throw each other into the lake, try to “take” a duck [catch]… I am glad I don’t work in a lycée/college! This weekend unfortunately we missed out on most of the Carnaval Biarnes because of Toulouse but on Tuesday night we went to the Closing ceremony concert where the band played everything from Highway to Hell to Danza Kuduro to Viva La Vida. So good.
[Monopoly-style money to buy drinks with at the Carnaval (you can sort of see my cup too), and the girls]
Wednesday night Les Misérables was finally out in the cinemas so we pre-booked tickets to see it in English with French subtitles (no need, hardly anyone was there), such a good film! I didnt bawl though… Last night I had Zumba and watched TV with a packet of marshmallows (seeing as chocolate is banned) - how much more of a Bridget Jones could I be?! Happy Valentines! In France Valentines is for friends and lovers – so to all my
men friends, love ya! ♥
Kirsty and I have found courses in Italian, Spanish, all sorts at the Université de Temps Libre (I love how at the start of the year when I enquired about Italian lessons I was told nothing about this!) So, if the lessons don’t coincide with school I am hopefully going to be studying a little Italian again! And I might take up Spanish too, yolo
Two weeks till the holidays where more adventures await!
Ciao for now xxx