Louis – Semester Exchange to Catholic University of Lyon, France
Semester 2, 2016
Arriving in Lyon, France from Melbourne was at first daunting. After spending a lovely week in Paris with friends, I had arrived in Lyon full of excitement and optimism. Unfortunately, these feeling soon departed me. I suddenly realized I would be alone for the coming three months, that I’d have to fend for myself, and that I had no idea where I was! Initially, it was hard. My student accommodation was, at first sight, not appealing at all. The room was tiny and hot, the bed was small, the European pillows were very strange and uncomfortable, the bathrooms and showers were shared and almost everyone in my building spoke a different language. I had trouble with gaining access to the Internet for five days and hence was always anxious in regards to communicating back home; I had trouble cooking for myself breakfast, lunch and dinner on European hot plates (not as easy as they look!) in addition to cooking with some packaged food containing instructions all written in French; it was extremely hot (I arrived towards the end of summer, +35 degrees most days!) and everyday seemed like a struggle. The language barrier was a huge difficulty as well; going to the supermarket or market (and trying to ask where the butter was!), trying to find directions, eating out at restaurants or even just asking simple everyday questions (especially at the reception of my accommodation) proved to be extremely difficult. Most of all, despite attending a university orientation activity, I hadn’t really met or made any friends which put me down a lot. As it so commonly happens overseas, you can get this feeling that nothing is working or nothing is going right. There was problems with my bankcard for a while, I could not access the internet or my university’s e-portal for many days, I lost some property of mine, and even when I decided to just try to have a relaxing night at home and hope for a better morning, the DVD I bought from a French shop did not work on my computer and the wine bottle I bought required a corkscrew! My university course had not officially started by this point, and I must admit the first week of being in Lyon proved to be one of the hardest of my life! I definitely had culture shock and never felt more homesick in my life.
But of course, with hardship comes experience and with experience comes growth. I’ve currently been in Lyon for three weeks and am extremely happy! University is going well and I’m enjoying my classes, I’ve made a lot of friends, planned some day trips on the weekends with friends, have immersed myself into the culture, and even my initial reactions to my accommodation has shifted. I now enjoy my little room with its amazing view of a somewhat miniature rainforest, I’m enjoying the cooking aspect of my stay and still continuing to go out and try all the French food Lyon has to offer (which is amazing). I’m loving the location of my accommodation, (only a short, scenic 5 minute walk to Uni and very close to the city center), but most of all I’m just enjoying every day, day by day. Although I never believed that I would have a culture shock (I’ve been overseas many times before this), it does happen and it can be incredibly daunting! But my advice to anyone travelling abroad is to be prepared to struggle immensely in your first week, but no matter what, no matter what you think or believe in this time and no matter where your emotions are at, everything eventually comes together and it gets so, so much better!