Bordeaux. Time has been flying, I’ve been living here for over 3 months now. This place has grown on me, even though it’s raining all the time and it’s a rather small city compared to what I am used to. However, I didn’t regret the decision of doing my Erasmus here for a single day. The city is awesome, it’s a student city with a lot of things going on every day. Here, you can enjoy your student life to the fullest. But what made the city particularly great for me you might ask? Keep on reading, I am going to tell you all about it.
Bright and full of light. That’s the old town of Bordeaux. Only when it’s sunny of course – which doesn’t happen as often as one would wish. I’ve experienced everything here already – from thunderstorms so crazy I came home wet from head to toe to super sunny and warm days where you just want to stay outside the whole time. Spending some time in the city centre is definitely something you should do then. There are a lot of parks you can go to. Jardin public is the main park in Bordeaux. Now trees and flowers are already starting to blossom, spring did finally arrive. It’s a great area to hang out and enjoy your time, go for a walk or have a picnic. A lot of kids running around playing at playgrounds or riding the carousel – which is not necessarily something for kids. If you have a childish heart like me, go on and enjoy the ride as well
Take the tram to the place de la Victoire and go for a walk on the famous shopping street Rue Saint Catherine. Starting with cheap shops and food places you might be surprised it’s going to end with nice little boutiques at the end. Especially if you want to by glasses here – which are a must-have in France and especially in university – you’re at the right place. I know what I’m talking about – I already fell for a pair of Jimmy Fairly’s.
However, there are other great places to see as well – like the book shop Mollats. If you’re a book worm and love to read, you’ll feel like walking into paradise. So many books from so many different countries and authors, from people all over the world. So many different genres, so many different types. I could have stayed there for hours and wouldn’t have seen everything. The only thing you need to keep in mind when you go there is that every book will be in French. As the French are really proud of their language, I’ve never seen any English books there. Not a problem for me as I want to improve my French, but for non-french speakers that’s a pity.
Talking about the language – yes, getting used to just talking French was difficult at first. Especially because my French was not on the highest level when I started. I sometimes really struggled to understand French people talking, because guess what – even if you’re foreign they won’t slow down for you. You either adapt or get lost. I decided on the first one. For a while I primarily hung out with my Erasmus friends as it was easier to talk to people who wanted to improve their French as well but weren’t native speakers. So they experienced the same struggles as me. Now, however, it’s going quite smoothly. I’m already feeling more comfortable with the language, I’ve come to love reading French books and watching French movies. Oui, ca marche maintenant.
French language and difficulties? Let’s focus on them for a while, because as you might have guessed, there are yet some more to come. I’ll just say one word: university. Yeah, university is still not that easy for me. Of course, it depends on the professor, but some of them just really don’t seem to care if foreigners understand them or not. Muffling into their microphones, speaking so quickly you get the impression they can’t wait to get their class over with. Me sitting behind my computer in desperation trying to figure out what the words coming out of my professors mouth even mean. Looking at my notes later they literally make zero sense. Of course, I am exaggerating now, not all my classes are like this – but a fair amount, to be honest. Well, I try to see it positively – at least it is a challenge for me.
Teaching in France is also much different from what I am used to. Coming from Austria and studying at the university of Vienna, I’m used to having a lot interactive classes in small groups. There we exchange ideas and work on a lot of group projects. Here, in France that doesn’t seem to be the case. Professors love to just stand in front of a class and talk. Listen and take notes, that seems to be the motto. We never did anything related to group work and interactive teaching doesn’t seem to exist. That’s a shame, because I really love to participate and work on projects with my university colleagues. However, it is indeed a bit more relaxing, because you just have to listen (or you can pretend to and just doze off). Other cultures, other teaching methods.
Bordeaux, the city of bikes. Yes, biking is a big thing here and Bordeaux, you can find people riding their bikes here all the time. It’s a good thing I have to admit. I was already thinking about buying my own and biking trough the city like a real Bordelaise – well in the end I changed my mind, because it’s quite impractical having to carry your bike everywhere. Still, going by bike in general remains a good idea.
As the French are really eco-friendly, they do not only focus on riding their bikes, but also on turning off the light during the night. First I really liked the idea, but well… once I went out and had to walk home during the night with no lights on the streets I quickly changed my mind. As I missed my last bus and live out in the sticks I strongly rethought my choice to move into a place that far away from the city centre.
– It was cheap though.
– Yes, I know, you little savaholic. You don’t look so smart now anymore walking alone in the dark for hours!
Cold, chilly wind, coming from the north trying to make its way all through the south. Darkness, not a single spark of light. Dark street lanterns that lost their purpose that night. All sad and in the dark. One car passing by every thirty minutes. Wood cracking under my feet. The moon watching. Silence. Not a single human being on the streets. Except for me. The flashlight on my phone leading the way I followed on google maps. My phone at 5%. Shivering. Not because of the cold, but also because of my thoughts. Someone was going to kill me here tonight. I was sure about that. And no one will ever know… Walking through some high buildings I felt even smaller. Their ceilings nearly reaching the sky. Huge skeletons, made out of stone. No place to hide, just a place to run. Run as fast as possible. You’re already halfway through. Following the abandoned tram lines on the floor. All alone like me. It felt like following them for ages. Left right, straight ahead, every step brining me closer to home. In the end finally reaching the little wood in front of my house. The scariest part.
– You have managed not to get killed by now, you might as well go through that.
I exhaled deeply.
Not looking left and right anymore, just running, my feet hitting the ground heavily with every step, my heart bumping. My lungs screaming and reaching for air, my breath going fast and heavy. Trees left and right to my side, a few buildings in between. Laying there in silence under the moons covers. Wind howling, trees cracking. Don’t look, just run. Run run run. Until your door. Finally reaching it I could not have been happier. I wasn’t dead I was more alive then ever. My heart still bumping, nearly dropping to the ground. But I made it.
You see, Bordeaux won’t kill you. It’s a lovely place full of Chateaux and wineries. Quiet, if you live a bit outside, but in the city centre there is always something going on. Students partying nearly every day of the week. Bars and pubs are open from Monday to Sunday, and full of people every day. So you might as well take advantage of it!
Of course, that’s not everything I experienced here in Bordeaux – I mean I’ve been living here for a while now. So stay tuned, there’s still a lot more to come.