As anyone who knows me can testify, I have very few conversation topics other than my year abroad. However, when waxing lyrical about the edifying qualities of a year away from true responsibility, I feel it is necessary to send a warning to any of those considering the French countryside as a viable option for their year abroad.
Before arriving in rural Aveyron (which from now on shall be referred to as ‘the back end of nowhere’), I naively thought I would become worldly, chilled out and tanned, finding an affinity between myself and the countryside that I had never had, having been raised in the leafy pastures of South East London. However, after one week of rural life I came to the unsurprising realisation that I am not ‘zen’, can’t do yoga, and I burn really easily. Shockingly, it turns out that working on a campsite isn’t as glamorous as it sounds.
Though I complained bitterly throughout my extended exile, it wasn’t all bad. I was situated near a giant man-made reservoir, where I managed to find the perfect spot to top up my second degree burns. Key to remember that when I say Southern France, the area about which I am speaking is more wholesome families on a pedalo than yacht owners with offshore bank accounts.
It also turned out that my enclave of calm was also a haven for local (agèd) nudists. I took this to be a sign from the powers that be for having previously complained about speedos, which I now realise hide a multitude of sins. I must also emphasise that though nude, the male members of this covert clan were never to be seen without a heavy gold / silver or nickel chain adorning their necks.
To conclude my diatribe about southern France, if you too want to emulate me and waste 62 days of your precious life, I have some top tips for blending in with the locals. If you really want to assimilate, it is impediment that you dedicate approximately 2.3 hours of each day to slating Paris and bitterly insulting people from northern France. A similar amount of time must also be spent criticising English food and claiming French food is sent from the gods on high (even if you see one of your French housemates eating sweetcorn from the tin for supper).
You must also use BlaBlacar (hitchhiking on an app) as your main mode of travel, as the French rail system is often incapacitated due to strikes. Make sure you also leave plenty of time to account for a potential BlaBlacar break down on the autoroute (motorway). During my particular experience of breaking down in a stranger’s car I surprised myself with my calmness, because I realised I could probably live out the rest of my days on the edge of the autoroute subsisting on wild grasses and still prefer it to the campsite.
Stylewise, dig out your year 7 union jack tee-shirt. It may seem paradoxical that French people claim to hate England with a passion, yet can’t get enough of our flag, but when in life does anything ever truly make sense?