More John Storey Junior Memorial Scholarship Reflection

As part of a scholarship I received I was encouraged to observe what goes on in other countries, and how we can maybe apply it back home as a way of improving what we already have. Sometimes it was easier to notice what I had at RMIT and not at Université Paul Valery then to notice what UPV had that RMIT didn’t. However, eventually, some things stood out (in both fields): 

  • social media as a classroom aid, as productive rather then counterproductive – the French university where I studied was, in some respects, a little behind the times, that, combined with my Dad (the academic) deciding to get twitter made it apparent that we do a great deal of positive learning and communication around learning via social media and there are still plenty of options for improving this!
  • cinema is something we should just do – maybe I’ve been taught to overthink it, I know this was true of my short film that I agonised over far too much! – picking up a camera and getting out there (especially for documentary making) might just be the most productive thing to do (of course when money and the time and effort of other people come into play planning is important, but not when it stops you from getting things done!)
  • maybe French students are taught that things could always be better (a harsh marking scheme and a critical approach), but maybe we are far too built up, infact creating and then inflating egos and self confidence – we are all important and special, but not more so then the person we sit next to on the tram
  • and in both contexts, it’s easy to get help if you are willing to ask for it!

One of my fellow exchangers posted this link on our group page, the last one, No one read your blog, don’t reference it, may be true. If it isn’t, I hope I’m not boring you with all my reflections.

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So, not having expectations, it takes you far and wide.
Down to the ground with broken bits of teeth lying next to you, up to the roof of the opera house where there lies a helipad and a fantastic view…

This semester has been anything and everything that could be fantastic and each thing that has happened has been truly extraordinary. My eyes have been opened, to the world, to the opportunity of travel, to people  – to the lively spirit that everyone has, that has become so pronounced on this part of my voyage.

Montpellier has been a good place to be, a small town, perfect for some anglophones to wreak havoc and learn what it is to live in France. To learn to live, in a place where wifi is not a guarantee, re-useable, BPA-free, water bottles are not easy to come by, and banks, well all administrative organisations minus the post office, seem overly complex.
Wine, bread and cheese, everywhere. It is true what they say… France smells. But France is also pretty nifty. Montpellier, you are like French men, small, but also quite charming.

But more then anything else, the people. The people of Montpellier, of Europe, the Australians who I got to share my adventure with and the amazing Americans who decided to plonk themselves here too – you’re all pretty great! In fact, you’re all bloody fantastic, and I’m honoured to have crossed paths.

And so the sun sets on Montpellier for moi, after discovering an infatuation with Barcelona, eating moose and walking (and falling) on ice in Sweden, some incredible opportunities in Melbourne have opened up for me; and I realise that I need to focus, and finish what I started – my degree. With eyes open I can now discover the world, but I’m better off doing that with some sort of income at the same time.

I’ll be back, and I’m not just saying that, not at all.

 

GRÈVE SO HARD

A post for the Travel/Exchange/Life Blog.

France, you are entirely foreign.
Like most things in life, I’ve learnt that the more I learn about French life and culture, the more I realize there is so much more to learn!

A few crazy things have happened since the mid-semester break, some of them great, some not so, and some just rather bizarre.

But firstly, yesterday, it SNOWED! It snowed outside my window. I thought that wasn’t meant to happen here! I thought it wasn’t meant to get this cold either! But I survived – even if I did stay inside all day, only venturing out of the little cell I now call home to stealthily take hot water from the kitchen.

Now for the good stuff, going to an Arts Uni in the South of France, that’s pretty much as left-ist activist you could get right?

Right.

To break it down, France’s education system has not changed much since… since the revolution, mix that in with the economic crisis… the fact that getting work in France is hard if you don’t have qualifications… and that university education is viewed as a right and state uni’s are funded largely by the government which gives rise to a viewpoint that many students are there simply because they can be (admission into the state-run tertiary education system is based whether or not you attain the baccalaureate, and not how well you do) the situation is a little complicated.

Long story short, due to budget cuts, Université Paul Valery is looking at closing their campus in the small-town Bezier (about an hour south of Montpellier), mix that in with general unrest, French arts students in their early twenties, full of political views and ideas about what is right and wrong in this world coming off the mid-semester break you have students fuelled with energy and a want to be heard. You get a strike. Or, if you’re an exchange student, an extended break… I mean what? No mum, that’s not true, I work hard here. I work really hard.

Striking in France is a big deal. I knew that, but I mean I didn’t really know that. There are a few things that I’m not quite tout a fait d’accord with. Firstly, they frequently hold Assemblée Générale‘s, to vote on matters, establish more strike dates and as a forum for voices to be heard. It’s been a thing since like June 1789, and was big in May ’68 too; a voice of le peuple, it holds some high standing in French  society. The president of the university has the power to call in law enforcement to shut down the movement should things get out of control, however this is France. Built on a history of le peuple, it is seen as extremely important to let these things take their course. But, the thing is anyone is welcome to them, and anyone can vote in an Assemblée Générale (or AG, for those in the know).
*record scratch*
So hang on, what you’re saying is that technically it’s not even the students, or the teachers, who might be voting for the continuation of the grève?! Yep. And, according to one of my teachers – a Quebecois who was in fact able to predict the strikes because of the bongos we heard before class one day …. yea… that’s right bongos in the south of France mean a strike is probably heading your way – it is often the professional, I repeat, professional anarchists who come in and barricade the classroom doors. (Sidenote; the doors are infact locked, to the best of my knowledge, the tables and chairs are just symbolism), see some of my fellow exchangies Instagram posts.

So classes started again today, after some radical happenings at yesterday’s AG, and they won’t even possibly be stopped until after December 10, the date of the next scheduled AG. A movement was passed that meant only those holding student cards could vote, a somewhat radical movement for Paul Va, but one that was surely most beneficial to the students seeing as the past few strike days had only been voted for by something like 8 more for then against. Then they passed the movement to ensure that exams would not be called off and everyone not given 10/20 for their final marks for the semester (*tear*).  And then,  they agreed there would be no more disruptions until the next AG.

So some kind of routine will return, for the last two weeks left of classes…

The week of holidays has probably been the best week in Montpellier so far.

I was told by a past exchange student that I should most certainly organise a trip for the break because it can be hard to be there in such a different situation, and with the majority of exchange students using this opportunity to do further travel in Europe it might be a lonely time.

Unfortunately, I had a small accident the week before, but fortunately had not booked anything for the break. After getting all fixed up on Monday, I spent the week with, literally, a renewed smile. It was unfortunate, it was painful and it was so hard to be away from home, to be unsure of how to go about seeking assistance and to not have my devoted family at my beck and call. It happened. So, I hid out in my room for a week, I sooked, I (accidentally) took a double dose of painkillers, and I let my face heal.

I don’t want to say I’m glad that it happened, but I’m happy that from this experience I now have a new energy, a desire to enjoy the moment, to make the most of the last 2 months in Montpellier and to really grab life balls. I have a new reason to smile.

up all night to get Paris

This weekend was Paris, it was Nuit Blanche, it was staying up all night. It was fantastic.
It was – finally – the Lomography Store, an insiders tour of Abyss, the Jewish quarter, drinking wine and fireworks on the Seine, catching not even the first metro home, 2.30am photos at the Champs Elysées, fantastic brunch cooked by my lovely host sister, wine (again) at sophisticated intellectual bars (!), new blisters, plenty of people, panacotta fraise ice-cream. It was more Australians – with bigger bedrooms than I.
And though somewhat overwhelming, it was pretty great.But still, arriving back in Montpellier, it was a grande realisation that this right here is a nifty little town. Cool bars, free gigs, the tram, students. Everywhere.
Living in Melbourne, growing up less then a minute away from everything (and more then) I could ever need…let alone want, I never realised how great I have it.  I didn’t realise…a lot of things… But now I have. That’s right I’ve been sheltered. I had it easy. More then once I’ve thought of myself as the Ronald Weasley of the group, never having lived away from home, always with a full pantry. Used to a full stomach and the extravagant delights of the house-elves of Hogwarts or the hearty feeds provided by his mother, when out searching for Horcruxes, Ron became irritable by the small dinners and frequency of skipping meals. That’s me! Saddened by the fact that there is often no cheese in my small bar fridge (I come from a family where there is at least 2 blocks of tasty or cheddar, a bag of parmesan, some however small or squishy remains of brie or camembert and 1 packet of cream cheese in the frigo at all times), and perplexed by the concept of empty shelves, I’m lost without an oven and find that I spend far too much time thinking about what I’m going to try and rustle-up next.
But. It’s great here too, that’s thing, a different kind of great. 
Still no Eiffel Tower, nor the Mona Lisa … those can wait till next time Paris…
In the meantime, to sum up the picturesque Paris lifestyle, I offer you this; motos, coffee, cigarettes…  and tourists.

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All that is gold does not glitter

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All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
Tolkein

I have two great friends who travelled to Europe last year – one had this quote as the header for her blog, but for some reason I always read it as, Not all those who wonder are lost… good one Jess.

But this is my top take of the travellers getting into the European spirit. On my love for tourists scale, it rates highly (note to self: in order to best continue the attempt to disguise my touristic ways ensure that you remove luggage tags when wandering).

#francefunnymoment

There have been many, and there will be many more. 

However, on Thursday in French Contemporary Cinema, being dutiful exchange students, we told out Tutor that we were not native French speakers so if we were looking super confused or whatever not to worry (aka please don’t pick on us, we really don’t know what’s going on).

He took this the wrong way. All the class had to identify one auteur they wanted to learn about, one they admired, and the last french film they had seen en salle. To start, he asked us, …this will be interesting, let’s see what the foreign students know about French cinema…What’s the last French film you’ve seen? 
I replied with the title, Je vous trouve très Beau. (I find you very handsome)
He answerd, Merci, but what was the last film you’ve seen?

He laughed. The class laughed.

Good times France. Good times.