Survival of the First Month Part 2: (Night)life Toulousaine- Off the Clock Erasmus Students
Not that there’s any truth to the stereotype surrounding Erasmus students- you know, that they are all die-hard party addicts (or “fêtards” as you might say in French), who spend their grants on beer, wine, coffee and Red Bull- but when I was awoken at half past 8 by a friendly electrician wishing to install a desk lamp, I nervously looked at the nineteen empty bottles littering my kitchen area and the random assortment of dirty drinking utensils (old jam jars included…)
And at that moment, the friendly electrician asked, “Ah, vous êtes Erasmus?”
Okay, so occasionally, there is some truth to stereotype.
This was the morning after my first clandestine room party. It was broken up at half past midnight by night security (which is quite impressively late by Chapou standards) and participants were treated to a lecture on how some students would be getting up in the morning to work to pay for their studies. Definitely a dig at the “sponging” Erasmus, but I wasn’t going to offer a rebuke about the vast difference in cost between studying in the UK and studying in France.
We were also accused of talking so loudly that he could tell we were speaking English from the elevator. This is half a lie, because we were playing Multilingual Twenty-One (there were a range of rules, such as “every player says odd numbers in their own language” and “language switches between French and English depending on the gender of the last player’s cat” or something- I lost track). Anyway, point being, we were in the presence of Token French Person and friends and The Ameri-Fin (a trilingual Fin, whose particular brand of English is a blend of US accents- sometimes to hil-AR-ious effect)- so there was definitely more French than Mr Night Security was making out…
The best thing about the morning after the clandestine room party, however, was that I had received (admittedly not much) notice that someone would be coming. I had been asked to clear my desk, which at the time of reading my note looked like this:
I assumed when they said “desk”, that they would mean, well, my desk. So, before going to bed, I quickly shifted everything off of my desk onto either the floor under the desk or onto the bed-side shelf (for want of a better term). I didn’t quite expect that the “desk” lamp would in fact be fitted onto the shelf and that the wire would need to be run across the floor under the desk…
(Night)life Toulousaine- Off the Clock Erasmus Students
There’s a clear difference in attitudes towards student life in England and France. In England, it’s pretty much accepted that “students will be students”, however right or wrong that is. And in France- well, it depends who you talk to.
In my experience, however, the cultural difference manifests itself a little like this:
[An email from the registrar to all students] University of York: I want to draw your attention to Regulation 7, Student Discipline […] to ensure that members of the University are very clear about the line between high-spirited fun and fundamentally antisocial or criminal behaviour.
We will not hesitate to take disciplinary action in cases where injury or distress is caused to others, or where the University is brought into disrepute.
[A stern telling-off at 9:56pm] Cité Universitaire de Chapou: “Vous faites trop de bruit. Dans la rue/ You’re making too much noise. Go into the street.”
I haven’t quite figured out where on the scale students of other nationalities lie either, ‘cos I’ve met some pretty crazy Germans, Spaniards and Italians… The trick to being an Erasmus student, therefore, is to make the most of your Year Abroad, meeting and keeping contact with as many people as possible, all in attempting to avoid being perceived as a foreigner misbehaving abroad.
Le Cercle de Feu
However, Reader, don’t be mistaken in thinking that all of our soirées are out-of-control gatherings of alcohol-fueled idiots abroad- some of them are really quite-well, sort of- well, a bit- cultural. And educational.
For example, one night we drank wine and sangria and translated Ring of Fire (popular drinking card game, for non-students) into French for the benefit of Token French Person and friends. We taught them “the waterfall (or “cascade” as it was called- where you start and stop drinking once the person on your right does) and we attempted a bilingual “storytime”. It was no Harry Potter.
Maybe that’s a bad example.
Wine-Tasting of the Cari-bean
Another evening, we had a wine-tasting (with cheese) at the Pirate of the Cari-bean’s flat.
This is the only photo I have of any cheese.
We got to try lots of different types of wine though…
Very few people chose to employ the traditional “taste then spit” method, however.
Okay, no one chose to employ the traditional “taste then spit” method.
Someone perhaps should have done.
So, as I woke up on a sofa in Jolimont at 9am the next morning, I declared that the wine-tasting had been a great success. The card game that we were playing just before I fell asleep, less so.
And perhaps I should choose my friends more carefully…
This wasn’t a good example either…
La Perruque Rose et La Chemise Perdue
Well, there was the Soirée Rose, organised by EIMA.
Now this definitely isn’t a good example.
It could have been the perfect example, in that it brought together all the Erasmus students, in celebrating our beautiful and lively ville d’accueil, our host city, our Ville Rose. The theme was, quite simply, “pink” and there were some daring get-ups- tutus, hair dye, onsies and skin-tight lycra suits. The theme was something of an issue for Larousse’s wardrobe- I own nothing pink. And yet I managed to acquire a wig. And clash or no clash, I was going to wear it.
And, French being the obvious lingua franca in a situation where, in this case, English and Italian folk were chatting, I was getting some good practice in.
I’m going to admit now that constantly switching between my two languages is taking its toll- on English brain as much as French brain (I forgot the word “potato” yesterday).
However this cannot entirely excuse confusing the words “chaussette” and “chemise”.
Having left a shirt in the vestibule (I was wearing it as a kind of jacket, as the nights were still reasonably warm), I went to collect it at the end of the night.
And insisted several times that I was looking for my sock.
Bless the EIMA guy for humouring me as long as he did. Although to be fair, if he’d had less sangria, he’d probably have twigged I was having a vocabulary fail much sooner.
Bilingualism and booze clearly don’t mix.
And the Year Abroad is not for partying. Not just for partying. I leave you with the promise that I have many more cultural and educational things to tell you, Reader. Things I will be truly proud of in years to come. But although I may not be too proud of being sussed as an Erasmus student by the quantity of empties in my room, or of the Cup Incident, or of the Pink Wig Incident, or of confusing my chaussettes and my chemises, these are going to be some of my most cherished memories. The things I will bring up when I’m boring everyone with my “This one time, on my year abroad…” stories.
And, as my friend @danjwalker would say, YOHOYA (You Only Have One Year Abroad).