Here’s a little story about that one time I went overseas to study French. It wasn’t all puppy dogs and ice cream.
This past summer, I thought it would be an amazing idea to go to France and completely immerse myself in the language. I surfed the web and found a school in Lyon called Alpadia. It had awesome reviews, the pictures looked amazing and was in a great part of Lyon. I signed up for two weeks, and requested student accomodation. Everything was awesome until…..
I arrived in Lyon in the afternoon, took a train to the address the school provided, entered the code, walked up the stairs and put in the secondary code for the black key box only to find that the keys they ‘left’ me weren’t there. These things happen and I’m pretty cruisy, so I made a phone call.
Since the Swiss office had been dealing with my booking the entire time, I called their phone number. I explained how I arrived and the keys weren’t in the box. After going back and fourth in broken English (sorry, I’m a French beginner) how I was in Lyon and not Switzerland the lady on the other end of the phone finally understood that I was in Lyon. I was told point blank on the phone “I can’t help you.” Then, I was given the phone number for the Lyon office. I called. Nobody answered. So I left a message.
A few hours went by and I was kinda sick of sitting on the stairs of the accommodation feeling hopeless. It was getting late, and I didn’t want to be stranded in the dark in Lyon. It’s not a bad place, but seriously – safety first… so, I booked accomodation that night in a pretty schmick hostel in Lyon that I had stayed in before. As I reached the corner of the hostel, my phone rang. The Lyon office suggested to return back to the student residence as someone would be waiting for me.
I went back. Nope. Nobody was there. It was an epic fail. An hour went by and a student finally arrived with a key to let me in. They only spoke Italian and a little French, so though gesturing, the student pointed to a random unmade bed with clothes thrown on top. I went though the house looking for sheets and a pillow case. There was nothing. So I took out my towel and threw it on the bed and made a pillow with my clothes. That was ‘lights out’ for me.
The next day, I headed to the school. After the introductions, I spoke with one of the organisers where I was given my own key for the apartment (I still didn’t have one) and was then met with a shrug. The house keeper would be in sometime today to fix up my room. No rush.
I had class, wandered the backstreets of old Lyon and then returned back to my room. Double ‘Nope.’ There still weren’t any sheets.
The next day before class, I told organisers that there were still no sheets – they assured me that the housekeeper would be there later in the day. So, I wandered some more old streets, drank coffee and enjoyed pain au chocolat. Also found this graffiti which I found quite fitting for my experience. Things were about to change…
Today was a good day, but it would only get better because the housekeeper WAS there! We had introductions (in French) and then I was met with a scrunched face and a set of rolled eyes. She had made my bed and she wasn’t happy. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but I finally had a clean place to sleep.
I was already signed up to head to Switzerland for more French with the same school but decided not to go due to the severe lack of care factor. I’m also not mentioning that one night there was a massive ‘house party’ with about 50 students at our residence and half of us didn’t want a party because we had an exam the next day. My query was again fell on deaf ears and was met with a shrug. I didn’t want to have the same experience as before, so I pulled the pin, canceled my next two weeks of French school and went wandering around Europe instead.
To sum it all up, I LOVE language! I had the BEST Spanish teachers in my high school and I think of them every time I’m in a Spanish speaking country. (I was just in Chile and I could read, understand and though broken Spanish speak!) They really gave me the basics which has helped me immensely over the years. I will definitely continue my language immersion just not with the same school.
As for your future language schooling, read the online reviews – the good, the bad and the ugly ones – it’s actually quite a lot of fun to read reviews and it’s great training to try to see which are legit and which aren’t.
Got any questions about language, travel or things to do whilst overseas? Ask in the comments!
An Aussie girl gone walkabout in the great big world!