The majority of people think that a year abroad is all about enjoying the sun, sea, food, and nightlife in a beautiful country. Although some of this does apply, this assumption is definitely not the case for the majority of the time that languages students spend living abroad. You might think that I sound miserable and boring saying this, but it is true. I will tell you why now.
When I left the UK early in the morning on 1st September 2014, I felt a mixture of nerves, excitement, curiosity, and dread. This is because after two years at Bangor University where the build up to the year abroad became more and more intense throughout my second year, it started to feel very real when I was sitting in the departure lounge at London Gatwick airport. The reason I am telling you about this is because I have started to look back on the progress I have made in Grenoble now that I have been here for almost one month and I am starting to see why I felt like I did before I arrived.
It is obvious that working in a foreign country is not easy as there are many daily problems to face. The most obvious of these is speaking in a foreign language. Having almost finished my first month working as a receptionist and waitress at Auberge Grenoble, I can certainly tell you that I have faced more than enough challenges in the work place, largely resulting from the language barrier that I feel comes between myself and everyone around me. This can sometimes be daunting and often stressful but I can honestly say that it is turning this work placement into one of the most valuable and rewarding experiences that I have ever had! There have been many moments where I have wanted to curl up into a ball and cry in the middle of a shift at work but I know that this will not help my French and it will also not help me get better at the job that I am doing. I still often feel like I am doing everything wrong at work but I have been given much more responsibility throughout the past week and am now taking phone calls at reception and being left alone in the restaurant which has hugely increased my confidence in the language even if I have found it very stressful too.
As you can probably imagine, all of these responsibilities and challenging tasks have been making me feel very tired and in need of a break. I have therefore been spending my two days off each week travelling around the Rhone Alpes region and trying to do touristy things in order to rest and enjoy experiencing all that this part of the world has to offer. This week I have had Sunday and Tuesday off work and have been lucky enough to be blessed with glorious sunshine and bright blue skies (just as you would expect in the south of France!). As a result of my luck with the weather, I spent Sunday hiking in the Alpes with my new friends Katya, Amelie, and Joanna. We also took a picnic with us and enjoyed sitting in the sun with the breathtaking view of the lakes that are hidden by the mountains. It was lovely to spend some time with my friends outside of work as it was a chance to get to know them in a more relaxed environment. It is also good to speak French out of the professional environment as I find that I pick up even more vocabulary that is used on a daily basis.
I went back to work on Monday but then decided to spend Tuesday exploring the historic city of Annecy which lies very close to the border between France and Switzerland. I did not know much about Annecy before I went, but I can now tell you that it is honestly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to! It is a lovely traditional French town with narrow cobbled streets lined with cafes and shops. There is also a river running through the middle and a dramatic view of the lake and the Alpes in the background. It was blissful! I had a lovely lunch when I arrived and then spent the rest of the day walking around the town and the lake. I have some beautiful photos that you can find on the 'Photos - Grenoble/Rhone-Alpes' page of the blog. The one downer on the day was the fact that I came extremely close to trying snails but then decided not to as I was afraid of making a complete fool of myself seeing as I had no idea how to go about eating them. What a wimp I am! Oh well! I am going to make sure I taste them next time I go to a restaurant so that I can tell you what they are like :)
I am aware that I have told you about quite a lot of things in this post so I will stop now. Please take a look at all of the new photos that I have added to the 'Photos-Grenoble/Rhone-Alpes' page as I always think that my posts will come to life if you see everything in pictures. It is also evidence that I am not lying about the wonderful weather that I am lucky enough to be living in at the moment! However, going back to what I was talking about at the start of this page, the main thing I want you to get from this post is the fact that however hard you are finding something, you will never manage to get anything out of it if you give up. I have told myself that every time I have made a hideous mistake when dealing with customers in French and it is keeping me going. This can also be applied to learning foreign languages. If you have an aim and you want to fulfill it, you will get there! Believe me!....I know :)