Memory Lane: Amiens, France

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June 24, 2013 by ebostick1212

Last week, feeling nostalgic before my impending move back to the US, I introduced you all to my beginnings with my ‘nomadic lifestyle’, so to speak.  My story didn’t end in England, in fact, it only began there.  The next chapter in my nomadic life was moving to Amiens, France.

Who wouldn't want to visit here?

Who wouldn’t want to visit here?

I ended up in Amiens by pure chance.  I was required by my university to spend a year working or studying in France, in order to immerse myself in the culture and language.  Unlike my British counterparts, I didn’t get to choose where in France I was to move.  I sent my preferences to a study abroad provider, and got an envelope several weeks later.

My number one choice: Rennes, in Bretagne….my number ten choice? Amiens, in Picardie.  So….it wasn’t my first choice, but I was sure it was going to be an adventure.

While I had had these allusions of living in the opulent, historic parts of France, I found myself living in the gritty reality.  Amiens is not on the tourist circuit.  In fact most people don’t know it exists, in spite of it having one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Europe.

Atop Amiens Cathedral

Atop Amiens Cathedral

At first I was super disappointed.  I mean, Picardie is looked down upon as the boondocks of France; where they speak a dialect, ch’ti, that is akin to our southern dialect in the US.  Awesome, I was going to leave France speaking like a French back woodsman.

Yet as time passed, I became thankful that I wasn’t on the tourist track.  I spoke French and only French all day, everyday.  Friends in other, more popular cities were struggling to find French people who would speak French, and not English with them, and here I was practically swimming with people to chat with.

In Amiens, I got a taste of real life in France, and not just the delicious, buttery crust that was Paris.   In 2010, French citizens were up in arms about the raise in retirement age, and did what they did best….strike.   I survived a three month bus strike, where I could barely get to my classes that were in a building three miles away.  I read about cars being set on fire in the town down the road.  I got used to staying in my closet sized room all day, every day, because everything had ground to a halt.

At the time, it SUCKED.  France pissed me off…why couldn’t they just get over  it and work up to 67 years old?  I wanted to leave the residence hall, go to classes, and not have to worry about buses that would never show up.

Living in Amiens wasn’t an especially comfortable experience.  I longed for American life, with its efficiency and cheap peanut butter.  Yet, looking back at it, I am thankful I stayed for the entire year.  I could have bailed out, and figured out how to get to another city, but I didn’t.

I am not afraid to say that Amiens changed me for the better.  I dived into the deep end of a culture, and reaped the benefits.  It may have been an extremely difficult year, but I left speaking French at an advanced level, and I had had a major shift in mentality.  I realized how different European cultures were, and instead of fighting it, I learned to go with the flow.  I found that the more I fought the cultural differences, the more difficult life became.  I called a truce, and let culture shock wash past me.

I have to say, this experience prepared me for so much.  I left my control freak ways (well, some of it is still there), and learned to be flexible. The thesis of my year in Amiens was that things  don’t always go perfectly but in being flexible, the experience becomes a lot more enjoyable.

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