Academic Gap Yah: Deuxième Partie

The final instalment of Katie Smith’s critically acclaimed Erasmus-student memoirs.

This is supposed to say PARIS.

As my Erasmus year draws to a close, I’d like to take a few minutes to reflect upon (brag about) the wonderful opportunities that studying in Paris has given me. If you read the previous instalment – Academic Gap Yah: Part 1 – then you’ll know that I got up to a fair bit of no-good last semester; but I have now seen the error of my ways and have given up breaking into dead emperors’ libraries, opting instead for somewhat classier pursuits. These days I am more likely to be found picnicking in the Jardin du Luxembourg or sipping ridiculously expensive (and somewhat soapy) tea in Ladurée than drunkenly singing “JE NE REGRETTE RIEEEEN” in the street at two o’clock in the morning.

Ladurée - soapy tea

I even went to the opera – I truly am a reformed woman.  It was a modern rendition of Don Giovanni and there was a brilliant, electrifying section where, steadily becoming delirious, Giovanni poured red wine all over his head; predictably, the response of the first French person to whom I relayed this anecdote was “QUOI! What a waste of wine!” Typical.

Apart from the odd linguistic mishap (I was politely informed a few months ago that “Je suis excitée” is not an appropriate turn of phrase unless you’re referring to sexual excitement – I only wish this had been pointed out before I’d said it hundreds of times, naïvely thinking it was perfectly innocent) my French has come on in leaps and bounds, aided and abetted in turns by native speakers who often try to fool me into learning naughty words, much like the I-have-three-testicles scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It’s so satisfying to wake up with the realisation that you’ve been dreaming in French all night, although I am definitely selective when it comes to using my French skills – feigning ignorance is extraordinarily useful when you’ve “forgotten” to buy a métro ticket, or when trying to fend off the advances of an over-enthusiastic Frenchman.

Notre Dame - tired of being photographed

As much as I love Paris, part of me is looking forward to coming back to St Andrews – not because I miss the scintillating nightlife of East Fife, but because student life in St Andrews is nice and simple. I know those of you who are currently drowning under dissertations and preparation for finals may want my head on a stick for making such an arrogant claim, but trust me on this – I had never appreciated the relative ease and safety of St Andrews until I had to start navigating the labyrinthine bureaucratic passages of the French university system. It will be a relief to have clear deadlines and trustworthy timetables again (the Sorbonne’s “yeah, just do whatever” attitude was entertaining at the beginning, but it just gets sillier and sillier. I accidentally ended up in a Czech linguistics class the other day… awkward.)

So, soon it’ll be time to dust off the Hunters, but for now, I’m putting all thoughts of East Fife out of my mind and making the most out of the limited time I have left of my wonderful, wonderful year in la ville lumière…

Katie Smith
Image credit – Katie Smith and Katherine Hannaford

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