Following on from Julian’s account of life at Sciences Po last Spring, another Erasmus-related post here, this time from Rebecca Wilson, currently in her final semester studying French and Spanish, and who spent Spring 2015 on Study Abroad in Perpignan:
‘During my third year at Stirling I was fortunate enough to undertake a semester abroad as part of my studies. I was sent to Perpignan, a small city in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France. With Perpignan being only two hours away from the ski resorts and a mere fifteen minute bus ride away from the beach I couldn’t wait to get to Perpignan and I was even slightly excited about trying to speak French and study at the University of Perpignan via Domitia.
On arrival in Perpignan, I was immersed immediately into the language and to be honest I was shocked at how the majority of people there didn’t speak or understand English. To say the first few weeks of life in Perpignan were hard would be an understatement, aside from getting lost in a city which on arrival I had thought humongous but in reality was rather small, to sitting in classes surrounded by French students who neither understood me nor I them, this was the definition of a learning experience! Every day after university both me and my flatmate Megan would return home feeling rather sorry for ourselves faced with the difficulty of being constantly surrounded by French. However, it did get easier and about six weeks in, we began to enjoy this experience of studying in France. Although the university we were at was very different to the University of Stirling, it was good in different respects. For example, we had more classes which might sound daunting but for someone wanting to learn another language, having more face time with speakers of said language is actually really useful. The campus itself obviously was nothing like our campus here in Stirling, the buildings were very run down and there was no student union. It only had one café, however in comparison to Stirling you could get coffee for 50 cents which is still something I miss about the university.
Aside from the university, Perpignan itself is a different kind of city. It’s pretty small, and there really isn’t any shopping on offer aside from a Galerie Lafayette and a small shopping centre outside the city which we would visit every week for the sole purpose of getting a McDonalds. However, what Perpignan lacks in shops it makes up for in its cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs. The nightlife in Perpignan is pretty interesting, there are so many bars and the clubs are a lot better than the clubs here, especially in the lead up to the summer months when Canet Plage reopens as it is full of open air clubs and beach bars.
Living in Perpignan I met a good mix of people, of course like every other ERASMUS student I quickly fell into a group with all the other foreign students in Perpignan and we would all hang out together before nights out or at weekends, though we did have a few French students in the group too which helped mix things up as we would have the option to speak both French and English! During the winter months I spent my weekends in the mountains, in the ski resorts of Les Angles and Font Romeu. The proximity of Perpignan to the Pyrenees was my main reason I chose it and it only cost 1€ to get a bus from Perpignan to the ski resort! When I think back to Perpignan this is basically what I miss, yes you can ski in Scotland but it’s not skiing in the sun in the Pyrenees. Closer to the summer, my friends and I would spend our weekends at the beach or on weekends away in other cities such as Montpellier or Barcelona.
To say I miss this experience would be an understatement, I’m not saying it was all smooth sailing, it was certainly an experience and a lot happened which I was not prepared for. However, if I was given the option to go back and do it all again, I would. I miss seeing the peak of Canigou every day and having all that freedom to just travel and explore. I learnt just as much in university in France as I did on my adventures, given the amount of times we would get lost. Living in France taught me so much and it is thanks to Perpignan and ERASMUS I got to have this fantastic experience living and studying abroad.’
Thanks to Rebecca for sending this article and for the pictures!