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  • Albena Tsacheva

Bonjour, Erasmus!

Aktualisiert: 22. Okt. 2020

In this short story I want to share with you my first thoughts and some interesting situations right after I arrived in Rennes, France, where I am spending my Erasmus semester.

I am used to going to foreign places, without knowing anyone. For example, my parents don’t and will never understand my passion for travelling and going to cities I have never been to before. Fortunately, without any expectations and fears I left my home for one of the biggest adventures of my life – Erasmus. Today, the 24th of August 2019, I am in Rennes, France in the flat of a French family, in a room I rented on Airbnb. I made myself a cup of green tea and started writing down my thoughts and emotions. First of all, I want to underline something – there is no other emotion than this one – your first day at your Erasmus destination. Well, for me it was really exciting: I came to this country for the first time. I don’t speak the language that well but the feeling I had in my chest cannot be compared to any other. It’s a unique feeling. Right now, I am searching for the right words but I don’t find them. Only people who have done Erasmus know what I mean.

When my plane landed, I waited for my luggage and then found the bus to the city. The first obstacle, or more precisely the first language barrier problem was in the bus when I showed my 50€ bill to the bus driver and although I didn’t understand the words themselves, I knew that he didn’t have change for me. A boy behind me started talking but I didn’t understand him either. In the end, the driver did have change for me (what a relief). This situation made me realize the goal I set for my Erasmus semester – learning and mastering French. It’s a hard challenge but not for me who had already learned two foreign languages (and is very modest as well).

I’ll skip the part where I found my Airbnb flat and will come to one more interesting story.

In social psychology, a stereotype is an over-generalized belief about a particular category of people. The Germans are punctual and organized. The Bulgarians are poor and drink a lot of vodka (which is actually rakia). The stereotype about the French is that they eat croissants and baguettes, drink coffee and nice wine. I just had to see if this is true. It was! So, I went to a boulangerie (bakery), bought 2 croissants and a cup of coffee and this is where the story began. There was no free table outside and for me as a smoker, sitting inside wasn’t an option. So, I saw this old lady sitting alone and my first thought was “How do I ask her if she was alone”. That’s why I tried with the language everybody speaks – the body language. I pointed at the chair next to her and mumbled “Excuse moi”. Of course, I did not understand what she said right after my poor “excuse moi” but the answer was positive. When I sat down she started talking to me and yes, you guessed it, I didn’t understand any of it. I gave her a confused look and repeated the few things I had learned during 3 semesters of learning french: “Je parle un petit peu francais”, “J’apprends le francais”. But in the end we had a conversation; she asked about my electronic cigarette, about the books I was holding in my hands (two phrase books) and she was surprised when I told her I was Bulgarian, she had thought I was American or British. I also told her that I speak 3 languages and that I was learning my fourth one. She was even more surprised. (Coming back to stereotypes - one of them about the French is that they don’t like or like speaking foreign languages.) Then I thanked her for the nice conversation as she was ready to go, she wished me good luck and a “bonne journée”. Little did she knew that she just made my day.

This first day in a new country with my poor language skills – she made it fantastic. That situation gave me strength and hope and most importantly it persuaded me that I made the right decision.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Rennes, 24.08.2019

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