Exams are over…
Having finished my second year of university I am faced yet again with a long summer to fill. In my first year I spent a substantial amount of time sat on my rear-end and whilst it was nice to be able to sit back and relax after the fast pace of uni life – I did get rather bored. Unfortunately there are only so many pubs in South Derbyshire for me to visit and only so much money to fund the beers. As such, towards the end of summer I found myself with not a lot of things to do and not much dollar to take with me into freshers. Ideally I could have done with a summer job.
Finding a job
When exams were once again finished and many months of summer lay in wait; I set about googling some summer work opportunities. Since one of my course modules is French I thought it might be useful to find some work in France. After spending an hour or two trawling through the listings there were plenty of jobs I definitely didn’t want to do; but also many that looked tempting. There were loads of helpful websites which allowed you to enter your job criteria and find a job that suits you best. A great example is seasonworkers.com
Finding the right job
My job search led me to a position with tour company NST in a château in northern France leading groups of school children around the historical and cultural sites of France. It suited me well as WWI is an area of interest of mine and the centre is right in the middle of where some of the largest trench battles took place. Furthermore the cultural sites such as the bakeries, goat farms and orchards would surely provide the authentic french immersion I was looking for.
Leaving the UK
With my suitcase packed and unthinkably heavy, I got a train down to Dover to catch my Ferry. Once on the water it was there that I caught my first glimpse of the French; instantly recognisable with their stripy tops and bottles of red wine (genuinely). I tried to listen into conversations as a last ditch effort to improve my french before I had to use it as part of my daily work.
Arriving in France
The ferry arrived into Calais and I met my ride to the centre which I later found out was driven by the centre manager. I Instantly regretted talking about how much I love going out in Sheffield and “getting smashed” but he seemed to get it as his uni days were not so long ago. After an hours drive I arrived at where I would be living for the next three months and met my soon to be friends.
Meeting the squad
The great thing about the job role is that it attracted like minded people out here looking for much the same thing I was. As such I became close with them very quickly it wasn't long before I had a beer in my hand ready for what would inevitably be a very revealing game of never have I ever. The place had a great vibe to it as most of the job roles were filled by people of a similar age to me and even the management team were no older than about 30. Consequently I found myself enjoying a beverage or five most evenings and the French weather allowed many an evening in the sun or around the campfire.
Adjusting to life abroad
Fortunately France isn't vastly different to the UK culturally but all the same the lifestyle was definitely different. Whilst we have pubs, they have bistros and bars with terraces, our beer is about 4%, theirs is about 6.6% (this caught me out). Additionally, I have eaten an inordinate amount of croissants for breakfast. Whilst there wasn't exactly much of a clubbing scene, the wine out there is crazy cheap so evenings at the château were suitably boozy nonetheless. Despite multiple offers, I still don't fancy eating a snail.
Working amongst the French
They say the best way to learn a language is to live in and amongst the people who speak it. Whilst most of my friends were English, there were plenty of french staff and when I was out and about on the tour locations. By facing and solving real world problems in another language I have been able to improve my french to a far greater degree than would have been possible sitting in a classroom. Stereotypically, the French are said to be rude however I found them all to be invariably pleasant.
Being away from home
One worry a lot of people have about working abroad is the fact that you are so much further from home than at uni and that you cant just simply nip home for a weekend if you're getting homesick. Whilst this isn’t generally a problem for me I of course did still find myself missing my family. As it happened, they were due to holiday there during the summer and I was able to go and meet them by getting a train to Paris and changing from there. Day to day though I still didn't find myself missing them too much because, just as with uni, I was always kept busy. This, alongside with a great group of friends meant there were no issues.
Heading back home
After three months of dealing with secondary school children, forced french speaking and the consequent high wine consumption I was certainly ready to head back home once my contract had ended. The lifestyle was great, the work was fun and the people were amazing but ultimately there’s no place like home and there are many people and things (such as fast wifi) that you miss not having or seeing day to day. I’ll miss all the friends I have met here but another group of longstanding mates are waiting for me with a pint back home.