Bonjour! Ça va?
Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Mike, I’m from St. Catharines and currently in my third year of university, doing a double major in French and Italian. Since August I have been studying at the Université de Savoie in the beautiful city of Chambéry, France through the Ontario-Rhône Alpes program (ORA) and am having quite the experience! Unfortunately I can’t go through everything I have done here in the past 8 months but I assure you it’s been a heck of a ride. I’ve had the chance to meet many great people and see many great things. I’ve been lucky enough to visit many parts of Europe- multiple cities throughout France, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and Switzerland to be exact!
My new adoptive town of Chambéry is quite incredible. It’s fairly small (the population is around 60 000), but it has all the charm you’d expect from a city situated in the French Alps! There are beautiful snow covered mountains surrounding the city, and surprisingly the architectural style in the downtown core is predominantly Italian (as this region historically belonged to the Kingdom of Italy up until 150 years ago). I like to think of it as a cross between British Columbia and Tuscany! It’s also in a great location geographically, as I’m about an hour and a half from Italy and 40 minutes from Geneva, Switzerland. Living in the Alps provides for some great skiing as well!
The university itself isn’t that bad either. The education system is quite different from ours and can take a while to adjust to (I’ll probably discuss that in a later blog), but my school has the 4th highest number of international students in France so needless to say I have had the opportunity to meet people from all around the world!
Life in France is…unique, to say the least. Going into my exchange, I knew I would experience some level of culture shock, but nothing could have prepared me for this! Every aspect of their society- their culture, administration, education, social life etc.- is completely different from what we have back home. From an outsider’s perspective it may seem completely backwards and at times extremely inefficient (don’t even get me started on French paperwork), but that’s just how it is! At first it was a tough adjustment but nowadays I’m pretty much used to it.
On a personal level it has been quite the change, as this is my first time living on my own. At first it was a tad difficult, for example having to learn how to cook or having to open up my own bank account in French (there’s absolutely no English going on in these parts), but I think in the long run it’s been great because it really has made me a more independent person. Luckily the adjustment to having to speak French all the time wasn’t too difficult, thanks to the great profs in Brock’s French department who prepared me well!
So anyways, this week I’m off to Dublin, Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s day (you’re jealous, I know), so I’ll be sure to put up a blog chronicling that adventure when I get back! Also, if you’re interested in doing an exchange and have any questions regarding France or Europe, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.