La Vie Française: The Tying and Untying of Strings

 By Fiona Hardie.

The Tying and Untying of Strings

Right now I feel like my upcoming year abroad in France is a pile of loose ends. There’s so much to do before I leave, still – and so much to do when I arrive: Mainly paperwork (… a lot of paperwork). At times I feel like this is almost distracting me from what I want to feel about leaving – excitement; eagerness – in actual fact, at the moment it’s just a load of form-filling-out and uncertainty about travel and accommodation. It’s also the culmination of several years of French classes that I knew were leading to actually living in France someday, but the fact that it’s now upon me is more than a little nerve-wracking. And it feels like an ending in a way, because when I get back it’ll be my Honours year and some of my uni friends will already have graduated. It WILL sort itself out, I’m sure it will, but most of the time I feel as if I’m just waiting for the ends to tie up, so I can start my next adventure.

Funnily enough, in French, the term for the English version of ‘tying up loose ends’, in a conclusion sense, literally translates to ‘untying’ – so how many more random bits of string will I be left with, once I’ve arrived?! As a naturally tidy person (mostly), and one for whom anxiety is a constant background presence, I like things to be organised. I don’t like things left open and uncertain, especially in situations like this. If everything in life is tied up neatly, with no chance of anything going wrong, my mind can be at rest.

The problem is, of course: life is never like that. Preparation for The Year Abroad Experience must be equally as stressful for everyone, for one reason or another. But the support is wonderful. My teachers are on hand to give advice, the staff over in France are always happy to answer my questions, and friends nearby to where I’ll be staying (old and new) are also offering their help – so no matter how overwhelmed I might feel at times, I’m never alone in this. When you read this, if all goes well, I’ll already be over there and – with any luck – everything will be sorted out at last.

My plans for the year – as well as teaching English to primary school children, which I’m excited about – also involve running a film club as funded by the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship I’m receiving. Most of my friends (and indeed pretty much anyone who knew me as Arts Editor last year) probably know that one of my main passions is cinema, and particularly French cinema. When I was put forward for the scholarship, back in December, I had to think of a project I would use the money for, to “promote friendly relations” between students in Scotland and France, and films seemed the obvious way for me to both help young French people learn more about Scottish culture, and inform my own knowledge about French culture. As well as running a film club and spending a fair amount of time at the cinema, I also have to enrol at a university as part of the scholarship – which has been adding to my huge pile of paperwork, but it’s a welcome challenge, and if I manage to get it sorted out, it should add another great layer of experience to my year as a whole.

Basically, my plans for this column for the next few months run in parallel to these life plans: charting my project, interesting things I’m finding out about films and differences in culture and language, and the general overall experience of being a language assistant abroad. Hopefully some of it might prove useful for any future assistants (and if not, let’s hope it’s entertaining!).

Maybe it’s best to think about the next year in terms of the French version of that phrase, seeing my current situation as a series of untied strings, rather than something set in stone or neatly sewn up.

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