Book them in advance. I can not stress this enough, I mean it. A one-way flight with one change at Gatwick airport left my bank account £145 lighter because I booked it so late (about a month before I was due to leave bonny ol' England). As soon as you have applied for your host university/teaching assistantship/work placement book your flights. You can sort accommodation out between the time you book them and the time that you leave (and even when you arrive in your host country.)
I travelled with British Airways, who were fantastically on time and provided a warm (albeit shoddy) breakfast of snotty eggs and super salty bacon, and miles and miles and miles (about 2ft) of that all important legroom. I would definitely fly with them again for comfort, but for finance purposes, would not.
I ended up going with Endsleigh's fully comp study abroad package. Once I registered my laptop/phone/ipod with my cover it came to about £220, which was another blow to the bank account but a friend once told me "it's better to have it and not need it, than to not have it and need it." Sound advice. I looked into other travel insurance packages, but since this one is specifically tailored for studying abroad, I thought I might as well just go for it.
DONC, QUOI DE NEUF?
Coming to France seems to have been quite a culture shock for me, and yet when I think about it, it hasn't. I think what has had most of an effect on me is the fact that I am 1,000 miles away from my family, friends and of course my boyfriend and that it is still 28 degrees during midday at the end of September. Nonetheless, here is a list of things which have surprised or shocked me:
- If you speak in French and people realise you're English, they will speak to you in English. Somebody told me (just today, actually) to keep being persistent, which is more sound advice.
- Tea-time (as in, dinner time) isn't until about 8 or 9pm usually. This differs greatly to my usual 5 or 6pm meal time.
- EVERYBODY says bonjour or bonsoir all the time, even strangers in the street. This is quite a nice one, but still one to get used to.
- Faire la bise - I am still not used to this. Which cheek do you do first? How many? Who do you do it do? Do you just air kiss or actually leave a massive sloppy smacker on their cheek?
- The cost of living (because I'm in Aix-en-Provence - aka petit Paris) is sky high compared to that in Newcastle (eg. 5€ for a can of dry shampoo, 12€ average for one course in a restaurant), but...
- BUS TRAVEL IS THE CHEAPEST THING EVER. 1€ to use as many buses as you like within an hour. 24€ a month (compared to £60 at home!) for a bus pass to use anywhere on Aix en Bus lines (only 100€ if you're staying the full year). 5€ for a Cartreize card to travel around Provence and only 2€ a trip with this card. All amazing!
- The French are massive bloody bureaucrats, if I haven't already mentioned it on this blog before. Everything needs signed, dated, referenced with a place and, most importantly, stamped. If it doesn't have a stamp, it ain't official my friend.
- Waiters and bus drivers are grumpy, but I guess that's because everybody hates their job to an extent.
- The French drive like maniacs; it seems there is no system to traffic at rush hour. If there's a gap, you squeeze through the damn thing.
- Speaking of roads, if you come from England; REMEMBER, PEOPLE DRIVE ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE HERE. Try not to get yourself run over.
I think that just about covers it for now. I do have a few specific posts to make about certain events which have come about since I arrived here, but that'll have to wait for another day (maybe tomorrow, I don't know). My university course actually starts tomorrow, so I will be able to update about that, too.
In the meantime, here are some (slightly awful) pictures to sum up what I have been doing since I arrived in the sunny South of France:
View from my kitchen window (say whuuuut).
Visited windy Marseille.
Painted a flag on my face and got drunk.
Macaroons - best thing ever.
Gareth + macaroon.
Went, but never made it to, a French clichés party.
That's all folks.
à bientôt!//¡hasta luego!