I am currently being snowed under by assignments and exams that I was only made aware of a week before they happen. I never thought that I would miss Irish bureaucracy but after my third letter from the CAF (student housing assistance) informing me that my documents are STILL not complete, I will admit to it. There is a distinct lack of communication from both within my own apartment (no one has bought toilet roll) and from my university (they have changed my assessments more times than I can count).
It has not helped that I spent the last week in Paris, my first time ever there. Paris was big and bustling and beautiful. I was a bit envious that some people were doing their Erasmus there. Strasbourg is beautiful too, but I find it incredibly quiet and small. Lately, when I walk around, the streets seem almost abandoned and lifeless. At this point in the semester, I am incredibly homesick. I miss Dublin and my family and friends. I miss walking across Trinity campus and not being able to go from one place to another without meeting somebody I know. I miss knowing where to go for coffee or falafel. In the evening, I come into a dark apartment and I stay in my room for the rest of the night. No one ever warns you how lonely moving abroad can be. I cannot tell if it is the place or the language barrier or the winter, but if I had the choice, I am not entirely sure that I would stay here.
Other than my conflicting feelings about my year abroad, Paris was gorgeous, and I am so glad that I got to visit. I saw some of my friends that I had not seen for months there. We gossiped in the side-street bistros, I saw the Louvre lit up at night in the rain, and I bought a mad-looking ankle-length leopard print coat. It was so lovely to unplug from my current reality and act the tourist, amazed at everything. However, my friend who I was staying with confided in me that they are not enjoying Erasmus either and that they wanted to go home, which definitely surprised me. I suppose that is the nature of judging how someone is doing based on their social media posts; from their Instagram, it seemed like Paris was incredible, but then again, the grass seems greener on the other side. Indeed, from my own social media, I appear to be having the time of my life and while it isn’t all bad, I am slightly unhappy here. I think I need to live either somewhere so big that I cannot possibly explore it all or somewhere so compact and full of the things and people that I love.
Ireland had the presidency seat of the Council of Europe up until this month, which meant we were invited to many events in the Palais d’Europe hosted by the Irish contingent. We were invited to meet Michael D. Higgins a few weeks ago, causing a last-minute outfit panic because there isn’t a section on ASOS for ‘keep it young but still formal but not TOO formal’. After skipping an entire day of lectures to find a meeting-the-president-appropriate outfit, we awkwardly hovered by the canapés making small talk with a politician who probably made one too many famine jokes. When it came to the photo op, I was called down by Sabina Higgins because I had somehow managed to pick the worst possible spot and I couldn’t be seen. While I probably would have preferred it this way, it made a good story to be called to the front by the president and his wife so you could be photographed properly. The photos delighted my parents obviously which is a good thing because I am not banking on my Christmas assessment results being that impressive.
I have been trying to find new spots in Strasbourg to sit down and do my work in because the university library is akin to one of those white sterile IKEA stockrooms and I fear that if I drop something there a huge echo will go off, and all the students there will lynch me. That’s just the vibe. I know that Starbucks is a big evil corporation, and I should not be supporting them, but it is warm and open on Sundays, and sometimes when I have not spoken to anyone in three days it is comforting to be amongst other people willing to pay €6 for a coffee.
Honestly, I was going to have a breakdown due to sensory overload from the first two cafés that I went to (the second of which would not stop playing aggressively loud dad rock) and this huge academic pressure suddenly hoisted on me – but they just started playing the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack in this Starbucks so maybe everything will be okay.
Written by Emma Whitney