When you arrive to a small town in a foreign country, perhaps the last thing you’d expect to hear is a choir of “hey Deanna!” But, when VIBOT takes over Le Creusot, that’s what happens (with some help from facebook). There, in front of me in the cheese aisle, was a sample of the students with whom I’d be spending the next two years. That was an easy friendship group to break into!
The beauty of the Erasmus Mundus courses is in so much more than the coursework. I’m as big of a fan of robotics and computer vision as anyone else (give or take 😉 ), but when you bring students from all over the world to study *anything* together, something awesome is bound to happen. In particular, an instant family-away-from-home. “We’re going to the McDonald’s to get the wifi, wanna come?”.. There’s a McDonald’s here? I had no idea! That’s not the first thing they’d taught me – within the first 90 seconds of meeting them they’d saved me at least €50 by giving me the heads up that we’d be able to grab some household supplies left from the previous year’s students the next day. I guess this camaraderie extends between generations!
Some would argue that I bought a bit more than necessary, but I *am* one for efficiency when it comes to trekking to the shops. Luckily my friends offered to help me carry my goods.. Really just some juice, pâté, fruit, cheese, olives, yoghurt, and a baguette. Quite French if I do say so myself. But, perhaps a bit much considering I only had Thursday night and some of the weekend at home before 5 days in London… The expiry dates were lengthy enough!
I met so many people the next two days. Like, so many. But not just met them, it was like I’d known them for ages! I guess I’d put it down to Facebook, which is funny because originally I was opposed to the idea of e-meeting classmates because I thought it would be awkward when we met in person. And while I did get a bit sick of the response of “I know” when I introduced myself as Deanna from Australia, at least I was recognisable I guess…
Both of the orientation days we heard from a variety of course coordinators about the program etc. and did some administrative stuff, with lunch at the cafeteria which was an experience. Normally you can get away with buying things without knowing French pretty easily, you just need to know the price. But at the cafeteria they have a points system that no one explained and you have to awkwardly point at what you want them to put on your plate… They were nice though (and one of the ladies at the register was a bit lenient with the points system) so it all worked out well: massive meal though! (for me; and only €3..!).
Friday afternoon we were taken for a bike tour of the town by previous/post grad students. With a stack in the first 90 seconds, we were off to a good start.. But, we pushed through and managed to see such acclaimed sites as the hospital, and, … Some statue. I’ll admit that the hospital was quite pretty, but otherwise I think most would agree that there’s not a whole lot to do around here. Not to worry, it will surely only encourage traveling!
Friday night we had the graduation ceremony for the outgoing VIBOT generation – nothing flash but, in line with my expectations of the course admin, quite relaxed. Each student got a shot at the mic and it was great to hear what they had to say, looking back on the past two years of their lives. Mostly they spoke of all of their friends’ shock when they mentioned where they were moving to, and their own shock (perhaps reconsideration) when they arrived. Most often repeated was this and that it’s a hard two years, but it’s worth it. It seems that the semester in Girona is one to look forward to.. we will work hard but it’s a great city to live in. The students that stayed in Le Creusot for the two years (oh gosh!) made a song about it which was received very well at the ceremony!
I can only imagine what sort of slideshow my new-found friends and I will be able to make two years from now…!