Post-Feck Off- Part 1: La Feck and Le Met’
It’s been some time since my First Day update. For this I apologise, but understandably my first week after Feck Off was somewhat manic. So manic, that I intend to tell you the story in installments.
Part 1: La Feck and Le Met’
Achievement unlocked: Use Toulousian transport
The morning of day 2, Token French Person helped me discover Toulousian transport, which, it has to be said, is impeccable. Efficient, easy-to-use, comfortable (unless you find yourself in a face-to-armpit situation) and excellent value for money (for under 26’s, unlimited travel is just 9 euros a month- at least getting lost isn’t expensive). And some of the stops have hilarious names, for your entertainment.
I bought myself a 10-journey ticket to tide me over until I could get my hands on my unlimited travel pass (prospective Third-Year-Abroaders- take photos with you, trust me, you’re welcome) which I later sold on to my new friend Kettle (the story behind this nickname to come). Buying my travel pass was one of the first “important” French conversations I had, after I’d visited my host university in order to begin the (lengthy and as yet unfinished) registration process (details to follow). It’s important to (try) not to make a tit of yourself in all conversations, but even more so when money is changing hands, I find.
I chuffedly left the Tisseo office, proudly holding my ticket to Toulousian transport and looking forward to trying it out. The pass must be scanned before you pass through the gates to the mét’ and as you get on a bus. Faced with a scanner for the first time, however, I was like a small child trying to fit a square brick into a star-shaped hole. I tried to insert it into a gap at the top (intended for paper tickets). I waved it. I looked for buttons. The bus driver explained that I needed to plant it “sur le nez”- that basically my image on the card had to Eskimo kiss the front of the scanner. She thankfully didn’t realise that I am in fact an Idiot Abroad and assumed that the card was being awkward.
Conquer La Feck: Challenge Accepted
Managing to get up after my curtainless, pillowless first night, I was escorted as far as the University by Token French Person, whose help was indispensable in getting my Year Abroad out of the gate running (the idea that I might turn up without a plan suddenly seemed ridiculous).
We’d taken a bus and the metro and I’d taken copious notes by the time we got to the University. Or “la fac”, as it is usually referred to. This makes me chuckle, because it sounds a bit like “feck”. And this is wholly appropriate.
You have to love La Feck. It is a place of mystery and wonder. Will I ever find my class? Is graffiti art a discipline here? Will the new Resto U (cafeteria) ever be finished? And why is there a horse on campus?
La Feck is also, however, the source of much stress and discomfort. When I’m not admiring the anti-facho slogans daubed on the walls, or enjoying (in a broad sense of the word) a three-course lunch for 3€10, I’m wondering if I will ever be a fully-registered student (after a week of classes, I’m as of today ¾ of the way through the process) or if the teacher will attend my next class, or what kind of obscure route I might have to take. The corridors, for at least half an hour after the start of classes, are home to lost-looking would-be-students-if-they-could-just-navigate-Bâtiment-13. Home and Erasmus students alike. I’ve even been asked directions a few times, which is comforting and would be a source of much pride, if I could reply with more than just, “I have no idea, I’m sorry- I think I passed it about an hour ago.”
Bâtiment 13 (the irony is clear for those who are superstitious) is deceivingly not just one building, but a maze of small buildings, some with several floors, some not, all interconnected with what I call “conservatory doors”- glass pane doors which lead you outside, across a path and then back inside through a similar door. It all looks the same. And you can go round in circles for hours. You might come across a room number which is one higher or lower than your room number and yet you might have to search for it in an entirely separate building. If there is any order or logic to the system, I haven’t yet noticed.
X marks anything but the fecking spot, I’m telling you.
As you’re navigating this hell-hole of interconnecting greenhouses, as if undertaking a warped initiation test (is it any wonder there is such a high first-year drop-out rate in France?) you come face-to-face with additional obstacles. And they always crop up at the most devastatingly crucial moment.
Like Crystal Maze without a camp guy in a purple suit to point you in the right direction.
After twenty minutes of frantic searching, I found my Sémantique et Sémiotique class. I could see it through the “conservatory door” in front of me. A door which was locked.
There was a moment when I lifted my hands up to the glass pane, leaving steamy prints as I tried to subdue my frustration. I was so close. It was right there. Then, to the left of me I spotted an opening in the wall of glass. A window. Almost a door. It opened sideways and as such, anyone with a BMI under 25 would probably fit through. And that, kids, is how I broke into my host university in order to honour my Learning Agreement.
The Devil’s Bâtiment was on a separate occasion responsible for me being half an hour late to a Modern Greek class. You can’t exactly make a subtle entrance when the class is only 6-strong anyway… It was not, however, responsible for me missing two classes due to lack of teacher and, well, lack of class.
The silver lining of all of this, however, is that through these experiences I have grasped a vital concept within French society: vouvoiement. Imagine two students, only one managing to not look so desperately lost and confused. Under normal circumstances, using the vous form is reserved for addressing superiors, elders, strangers or those you wish to show particular respect to. “Tu” is perfectly acceptable amongst young people, whether they know each other or not. Unless, you want something. And at Le Mirail, the thing you are most likely to want is to know where the hell you are and where the hell you are going.
Classes successfully attended: 3/5