As a French student, the Year Abroad was an element I was really looking forward to. I opted to be an English Language Assistant in a high school and was allocated Lycee Paul Cezanne in Aix en Provence. The assistantship scheme is run by the British Council who could not have done anymore to be helpful – my school was fully accessible, they arranged for me to stay in student accommodation so I wouldn’t have to stress about finding somewhere to live (Aix, like a lot of smaller places, is full of steps).They even made provisions for me to not have to attend the induction day in Marseille, to save the stress of an unknown journey (and also meant that I had the joy of my first pay cheque being HAND DELIVERED to my room!) My year abroad was hands down the best part of my university experience, it was the first time I had lived away from home (Mum was forced to let go!) and it was through this that I learnt that I could manage, and that someone would always be around to help (thank you to the various strangers I would accost at the doors of the launderette, because I couldn’t reach the coin slot)
My university days have been some of the best, most inclusive, times of my life. Joining more societies than was probably good for my academic side gave me lifelong friends (the People & Planet 2005 executive were all ushers at my wedding), lessons in how to network (vital for a freelancer) and years of the happiest memories. The value of degrees may be questionable now, but the value of university life – especially when learning how to manage in an abled world, is worth its weight in gold.
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