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How I survived lockdown whilst on my Erasmus year abroad

Dernière mise à jour : 28 juil. 2023

Living in a completely different country, speaking a foreign language 24/7 and eating new foods is what Erasmus and studying abroad is all about.

This is what scares but also attracts every student who decides to embark on a year abroad, and it was definitely what attracted me.

Studying French and Spanish, I planned my year abroad like this: the first semester I would spend studying in Lyon and the second semester working in Madrid. What I did not plan, however, was the arrival of a pandemic which would bring world travel to a halt.

In September 2020, with my plans to study in Lyon set in stone, I was still hesitant to go ahead with it. Lockdowns and restrictions could come and go within weeks and I was wondering what the point of studying in France was if there was a chance of it all going online during the semester.

Eventually though, with my University, Lyon Lumière 2, insisting that classes would be "in person", I decided to go for it!

I arrived in Lyon and the first thing I realised was that the French go about life during the pandemic as if it didn’t really exist: but they STILL take more precautions than in the UK.

They wear masks all the time, they accept the restrictions, get on with life as normal and don’t give into the fear of the virus. After all, nothing would stop the French from taking a trip to the Sunday market, or going for a stroll by the river or even fetching a baguette or five from the boulangerie.

Personally, I felt very free to get to know this beautiful city which I would call home for the foreseeable future.

Being a relatively small city too, I was only half an hour away from all three and I began to feel at home with the place within a week. What’s more, the travel restrictions in place meant the usually hectic tourist hotspots were reserved for locals and lucky international students like myself.

Also, when deciding whether to embark on my semester abroad to Lyon or not, one factor which tipped the scales was the prospect of eating French food for 3 months.

It was undeniably the most important factor. Being a foodie in Lyon was like being a kid in a sweet shop: Lyon is known as the food capital of France and its title is well deserved.

And so, treating myself to pastries stopped being a treat and soon started to become more of a daily occurrence – after all, I had to make the most of my time there and that is what I did.

In addition, I made a habit of buying almost all of my food from the market that ran along the Saône river, as it was better and cheaper than supermarket fruit and vegetables in the city.

To this end, France being the expensive country that it is was what inspired me to look into getting some extra work on the side.

With a few years of childcare experience already under my belt, working with My English Sister seemed like the perfect opportunity to build on skills that I already had and add to the Erasmus fund for me to live there comfortably.

After applying for the job and being interviewed by Katy, I was quickly connected with a family who’s 4-year-old son I would pick up from school, take to the park, do activities with and talk to, as much as possible, in English.

Looking after French children and teaching them English is not only rewarding but it gave me skills that I will keep for the rest of my life. Organisation, punctuality, creativity and communication are all skills that I have improved in and they will be valuable to have in the future.

Also, utilising the TEK learning materials and games provided to me before starting the job, I learned how to explain things in English in the best ways possible and most importantly, how to adapt activities and games to the child’s personality.

It was an experience that shaped my time there and something that I am very grateful for.

At the end of October, when a 5-week “reconfinement” was announced by President Macron, I had to weigh up my options and decide whether to stay or not - my studies would continue online and going outside was limited to doing a food shop, a few hours of exercise and working.

However, since schools stayed open in France and I was still able to continue working with the family as usual, I decided to stay!

The great thing about staying was that, apart from not going to my university classes in person, my life in Lyon barely changed - I continued to buy most of my food at the market, I went out to work for 4 or 5 hours per day and I got to see the city and rivers as much as before.

It was a decision I’m very glad I took!

By the start of December, COVID restrictions began to be eased and the shops were gearing up for Christmas shoppers coming in mass as the Christmas lights lit up Lyon! The run up to Christmas was my favourite memory of Lyon but it also marked the end of my time there.

Thinking back on the time I spent working, studying and living in Lyon, the ‘tough’ decisions I made to come to the city and then to stay were 100% the correct ones.

The changes to my semester in Lyon were minor compared to the overall experience that I had and all the amazing memories that I’ve made.

So, to anyone not sure whether to study abroad in Lyon or not because of the situation that the pandemic has left us in, I’d say this...

Life is going to be different for you even at home, so it might as well be different for you in a place where you can eat the best food in France!

Written by Chris Turton who worked as an English Brother from September to December 2020.

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