Back from France with a twisted ankle, zero euros in my wallet and three extra kilos of weight
For those of you, who read my earlier blog post, on “Why you should study a language at university?”, you would remember that I mentioned the French Exchange Program, which the French department offers, to students studying the language.
The French students live in Clermont-Ferrand, a hidden gem of the Auvergne region, known for its forty-kilometer-long chain of volcanoes, situated two hours away from Lyon. Five students from Warwick, including me, visited Clermont and stayed with our exchange correspondents, last week.
During the course of the trip, we not only got to improve our French speaking skills but also got to immerse ourselves in the French culture and cuisine. We got to taste some of the most exquisite wines, beers, macaroons, chocolate, croissants, cheeses and the latter played a part in making us gain an additional three kilos. In one of the bars we went to, we got to eat , sausage, which is typically French, and is supposed to be eaten with your drink, a bit weird, yeah, but oh well, in the same bar, a pint was the price of a demi, which was 4 euros, because we arrived during happy hours, so it was not bad at all.
The highlight of our trip was probably climbing the most famous, sleepless volcano, Puy-de-dome, which was an uphill trek of 450 meters. Despite not having hiked for as long as I can remember, and with no stamina and not being fit at all, I was initially so apprehensive but eventually managed to put it all together and reach the top, after taking several sit-down breaks along the way. Moreover, despite twisting my ankle mid-way and losing my breadth, the climb was absolutely worth it as the views were stunning.
The other highlight of the trip was a well-deserved relaxation trip, which took place, a day after the mighty trek, to the Royatonic thermal baths and spa, which is situated afoot of the Puy-de-Dome. Not only did it offer stunning views of the surroundings and the Puy-de-dome but it also gave us the perfect opportunity to de-stress in the outdoor swimming pools, herbal baths, jacuzzis, steam and sauna, and forget about university and exams. Even though the experience was only two and a half hours long, forgetting about exams was surreal.
Apart from eating, relaxing in the spa, and climbing the Puy-de-dome, we got to savour our taste buds in a typical French buffet, prepared by the university, and moreover, attend a couple of English classes in their university. It was intriguing to see how their way of learning English is so different from our way of learning French. They focus more on oral speaking, rather than written, and most of their lessons are centered around the idea of breaking out in groups and talking to others in the language. Their oral exams were right around the corner and so our ours, so we got to help them strengthen their language skills, and strengthened ours similarly, by alternating between English and French. We talked about everything from their lives, university experiences, to sports, politics, film and television, to the challenges of studying abroad and life after university. It is safe to say that their English is much better than our French. After the last English lesson, it was sad to leave as we had forged new relationships and made new French friends. In lieu of this, the last lesson was the best, as the teacher put on chart music, such as Ed Sheeran’s new single hit: ‘Shape of You’ and a few famous French songs for all of us to dance to. All of a sudden, the class was turned to downstairs smack, except only it was two in the afternoon.
In the five days we were there, we saw everything there was to see in Clermont. We did sightseeing, and saw everything from the jet-black cathedral which is entirely made of volcanic rock, to the cheese market, "Marché Saint Pierre", to the Mathematics Museum, where we saw some of the French Mathematician, Blaise Pascal’s great works, to the shopping center, “Jaude”, while walking around the beautiful streets of the quaint town. Clermontois are crazy about rugby and we got the incredible opportunity to witness this craziness while watching a live rugby match. Moreover, we went to the cinema and watched ‘Lion’ with French subtitles. The average movie ticket prices in Clermont range from four to seven euros, and it came as a great surprise to us, as we were not broke after the film. Since it was the original version, the first part of the movie was in Hindi, and thus, I being Indian, was the only one who could follow it thoroughly. My fellow Warwick mates were trying to understand the French subtitles, and according to them, they understood it completely, but I think differently, HA. Sidenote: It was a great film and I recommend you all to watch it, whenever you want to take a break from studying for exams.
Our French correspondents also took us ice skating and we even visited a trampolining park, both of which were a lot of fun, not so much for me, because of my twisted ankle.
So, even though I got back with a twisted ankle, zero euros in my wallet and a bulge in my stomach from consuming unbelievable amounts of French cheese, it was all worth it because I made new friends, and a million memories. I would recommend all of you to take part in it next year!
Now, its rather unfortunate that its all over and I am back to reality, to the rut of university in Warwick and I must start revising for exams.
Thanks for reading and hope you have a lovely day x