Le moisiversaire c’est super!

Tomorrow marks one month of my being in Liège, so I thought I would make a post while I’m in the mood!

The time that has passed since I last posted here has been quite a rough ride. Firstly, I contracted some sort of extreme cold (in its midst I thought it was flu) that had me stuck in bed for the best part of a week. Obviously this had large repercussions on my general morale and enthusiasm for being in a foreign country, and all I wanted was to go back home. Secondly, I was having a few financial difficulties that worried me very much. For example, I was running out of money despite living very modestly – I was literally living off a few coins in my purse and couldn’t really eat. But now, my loan has finally arrived, and so I think I can live quite comfortably now, especially since my ERASMUS bursary will also be arriving in due course. Another thing relating to money: I’m still in two minds about whether I should actually open a bank account here. From what I have heard from others, it is easier said than done; apparently involving all sorts of complicated documents I’m not entirely sure I have. I suppose if I did it I would feel a huge sense of achievement regarding using French in a “formal” situation.

Lastly, my courses. This has caused me so much grief. But I said that I would give details about it, and I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat. Well, even after three weeks here, I’m still not 100% certain which ones I am actually doing. This is because the process of organising it has been much, much more complicated that I could have ever imagined.

The past two weeks have been a stressful flurry of the following:

  • Waiting half an hour in a classroom with other international students, only for the tutor never to show up, because apparently we were meant to telepathically know that this particular course commenced three weeks into the term.
  • Intending to go to a foreign language class at beginners’ level, only to stumble upon a group of masters students, and to be told the class for me was two hours earlier, despite what the website told me.
  • Frantically rushing around the campus trying to find a room whose name is totally illogical to its location.
  • Getting onto the university website when I got home each day after these blunders, and revising my choice of courses – now that they were at unexpected times, there was now no way I could attend some of them.
  • Tutors not replying to emails.

The case has been similar for most international students I’ve talked to here (ones from the Anglophone world, admittedly), as well as all of my friends on their year abroad in France. The only possible reason I can think of for the faculty’s lack of involvement and, well, total insouciance, is how poorly funded universities are in this part of Europe. The French are well-known for their strikes, especially in the education sector. I know that this is Belgium, not France; but being a neighbouring country, and having the same language and therefore having absorbed some of the same traditions, this could well be an explanation. I don’t know. At any rate, I definitely won’t be complaining about anything admin-related when I come back to Leicester for final year.

Anyway, it is definitely the biggest hurdle I’ve encountered so far, but hopefully I have got the worst of it out of the way. I have to send off a form back to my home university confirming my class choices, and they have to “approve” it. Basically we have to choose courses on a few conditions:

  • They have to all add up to 30 credits, even though we are only going to be assessed on 15 credits (it’s pretty confusing and I hope I won’t have to be the one to sort this out because I am not known for my mathematical brain).
  • They have to be taught in French.
  • We have to do at least one that focuses on the French language – such as linguistics or grammar – and one content module focusing on a French-speaking part of the world.
  • They have to be running only for the premier quadrimestre, so that we can actually take the exam in January (don’t really fancy coming back in June to do it). It was so frustrating each time I found an interesting-looking class, only to be confronted by the dreaded words toute l’année.

So, after some painstaking changes, the ones I’ve actually settled on so far – i.e. the ones I’ve actually been able to attend – are language and literature of Quebec, French linguistics, and Hebrew / history of Israel. This isn’t enough and so I know I’m going to have to begrudgingly pick a few more that I’ll hate. I wouldn’t wish this messy system on my worst enemy. I know this sounds ridiculous since it’s now October and I’ve been here a month, but this is just how it’s turned out. I did go to an Art History lecture for a couple of weeks, but since it was for people who have been studying that for three years already, it was really difficult. Plus the lecturer talked really quietly in a big theatre and so I had to concentrate not only on what I was being “taught” but also whether I could actually hear and understand what he was saying. For these upcoming classes, I am a little bit scared – I’ve heard things like there are no notes available if you missed the class. And that if you’re late, you’re actually denied entry to the lecture…

On a non-academic note, last weekend was the Nuit des Coteaux. This happens on the first Saturday of each October, I think, and the hills around Liège are lit up with candles, and the streets, too. It was really nice, since it happened in a part of the city I hadn’t been to yet – the “old” part, which has some buildings that must look really lovely in the daylight. There was a very strange atmosphere… at one point we went up an alleyway into a sort of garden courtyard where people lived in expensive but arty houses that reminded me of England for some reason, it was just like a summer night. In the street there were stalls selling waffles and interestingly-flavoured shots, and also street entertainment. For some reason we thought it would be a good idea to follow a flood of people up a foresty mountain, Montagne de Bueren, which was totally dark except for being lit by candles. It was extremely dangerous… there were people with dogs and with children in pushchairs and I felt nervous, especially since I hadn’t anticipated doing this and so was wearing unsuitable shoes. It felt like it took about three hours to get up there. The atmosphere was just extremely bizarre and dreamlike – it was like some sort of cult and when we got to the top we would all be killed or something. We finally reached the top, but there was nothing there. So then we had to trudge down with the crowds of people, which possibly took even longer than the way up. When we got down and watched the fireworks, it turned out the whole of vieux Liège was the “citadel”. Here are a couple of photos – I know they’re poor quality, but still.

The view of the city when we finally reached the top of that mountain...

I have decided I am also going to do a top five French words of the day in each post from now on. So, to start off:

le moisiversaire = month anniversary

époustouflant = mind-blowing

être aux aguets = to be on the lookout

une aubaine = a godsend

avoir tort = to be in the wrong


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