A Home from Home

When I first landed in Avignon back in September, I was pulling my suitcase behind me, muttering a few phrases in French and wearing big sunglasses. Six months have flown past since then.

It may not seem like a very significant date, but today – March 20th – is one I haven’t really been looking forward to.

This time next month, I’ll have to say goodbye.

I can’t believe there’s only four weeks left until my bags and I are back on the plane to Ireland. Leaving somewhere you’ve come to know as a home is always a bit of a strange experience.

From day one, I’d planned to immerse myself in the French culture but, at the same time, I’ve never felt more Irish than I have for the last few months. I suppose it’s because we all define ourselves by our nationality when we’re abroad. Maybe we speak the cúpla focail of Irish if we’re in America, or we throw on a bit of traditional music on YouTube for Saint Patrick’s Day – whatever it is, when you’re away from home, it’s good to remember that your country is still very much a part of you.

I’m enjoying learning more about France and its language, but I will never feel like a true Française. There’ll be phrases I won’t understand, there’ll be slight cultural differences, and I’ll certainly never get used to the constant presence of the sun, but isn’t that kind of the point? Last summer, I wrote that I had to embrace the similarities between Ireland and France to be happy here, but I also have to remember that the differences are important. They make each nation what it is.

Irish and French: both celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day
Feeling Irish: Paddy’s Day in Avignon

I don’t think I had expected my Erasmus year to turn out the way it has. I’ve met the most wonderful people, seen some beautiful cities and towns and gained invaluable exposure to the French language. I have the most jam-packed month ahead of me before I leave: two more weeks before my Creative Writing deadline hits and, after that, as much travelling as I can possibly do before I either run out of money or collapse of exhaustion.

Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille
Our last Erasmus trip: Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille

I knew time would go quickly, it always does, but I can’t wait to enjoy the great moments that are sure to come in my last month here. Not only do I want to see as much of the country as I can, living in France has made me more keen to learn more of the language and to keep it up even when I go home.

I’ve decided to refresh my Irish and Italian too, and maybe even learn a bit of Español and Deutsch if I can. Mixing with other cultures can only help you to appreciate the wonderful variety of languages that exist. More than anything, this year has taught me that the learning of a language definitely isn’t something to be scared of. Certainement, l‘apprentissage d’une langue n’est pas quelque chose à craindre.

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