Subsequent to my graduation, I had no clear plans or goals of what to do for my gap year, and so saw applying to the EVS Project as a valuable way in which to broaden my horizons. I am thankful to –as a result of joining the EVS Project– having had experienced a taste of French culture via this quaint Southern town, Nîmes. It is disheartening to think that nearly half of my time here is behind me with only six months remaining.
I was excited to meet with my motherly Irish mentor, Aileen, and the sweet Spanish volunteer, Laura, with whom I have been working alongside at the apprenticeship school, CFA.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity of working at this particular school, as it in many ways differs from the typical learning establishment. Students vary greatly both in age and in their educational backgrounds. Some of the students showed a propensity for law, whilst others were more inclined towards literature, there were also students who were parents, as well as those who alternated their careers with school.
Everybody who I met at the school made me feel very welcome, and lunchtimes were an invaluable way to explore French cuisine as produced by the CFA’s very own culinary students. French cuisine is a proud aspect of France’s culture which I would have had great difficulty attaining if it weren’t for my time with EVS. The chefs were friendly and open to conversation, even providing me with the chance to make chocolate with a class!
Naturally it did take me a while to think of Nîmes as my home, but this town with its friendly people has galvanised in me a sense of belonging I shall be sorry to leave behind.
The most salient difficulty I had since I arrived has been getting to grips with the French language. Neither my native language, nor English helps me in the streets, and it is not easy to become accustomed to the way French sounds. Many of their letters are silent, and the nasal and guttural sounds which are not present in my native language can be tricky to wrap one’s head around. When the language you’re learning lacks similarities to your native language, this makes it additionally difficult to learn. This being said, I am resolute and committed in my learning of French, and am subsidising said learning with YouTube tutorials and podcasts, allowing me to show greater confidence in speaking and understanding.
The language barrier also crops up when shopping, especially when being specific about what I want to buy. I have had to alter my eating habits here as I have had difficulty finding things I took for granted in Turkey, which has opened me to try things I otherwise wouldn’t have. In this spirit, I am learning to appreciate what I know I’ll have difficulty acquiring upon my departure.
Living abroad has brought to light both common, shared values between Turkish and European culture, as well as the cultural and societal differences I wasn’t wholly aware of. Living among peoples of a different culture and background for such a time has allowed me to develop an understanding in listening to those of different opinions and life experiences.
Despite the challenges I have faced in undertaking this journey, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time thus far with the project, I feel it has provided me with the enriching opportunity to enhance both my academic career as well as my personal development.