Bonjour tout le monde from Strasbourg, France! I’m a Yorkshire
lass, born and bred, celebrating one month since I arrived in my
French home thanks to the Erasmus Scheme.
My university dormitory here has a great assortment of French, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, German, Hungarian (etc!) students, but I have yet to find a single Brit- I suppose Brexit, coupled with our awful Covid situation, hasn’t exactly encouraged students to come. My own first semester here was cancelled by my university, and it was near impossible to complete all the paperwork for my Study Visa and the Covid documents required to get out here in January. Surely this, the last year of Britain’s participation in the amazing Erasmus Programme, should have prompted students to take their last chance to easily study abroad, but I suppose most British language students have long since given up. Brexit is as disheartening as it is infuriating.
With regards to Covid-19… France’s 6pm-6am curfew makes for an odd experience; it seems incredibly counter-productive, ensuring all the trams and supermarkets are packed from 5pm onwards, with everyone rushing home from work or to do some last-minute shopping ready for the evening. Travel between regions in France is currently permitted, meaning that in a recent week off from university, most students escaped the Alsace region to visit Paris, Lyon or the Cote d’Azur. The paradoxical combination of the curfew and the encouragement to travel can’t be helping; it feels a world away from the strict lockdown I came from in Britain. In the town centre here, little wooden huts originally designed for selling ice cream and overpriced Christmas trinkets have been transformed into makeshift Covid PCR test sites, where for free you can climb in and get your nose swabbed in front of the passersby - the same test that cost me £120 in a very private and sterile pharmacy room in Harrogate before I was permitted to travel. Worlds apart.
But, despite all that, it is wonderful being here! I’m delighted to be surrounded by such multilingual, multicultural people, who can switch between languages without pausing for breath, who love to compare idioms and swear-words in different languages, who insist I MUST come and visit their home when the borders open again, and bring my family too!
Everyone is friendly, even to someone reluctantly admitting they’re from Brexit Britain. We can share food, pass around the deliciously cheap French wine, and sit next to the river in the beautiful historic quarter of the city, pretending to be French.
Sure, I can’t get my parents to send me any of my favourite Yorkshire teabags due to Brexit shipping fees, but I’ll make do!
Britain is still European and I, for one, am never letting that go.