Postcard from Abroad – Université Jean Moulin III Lyon
Amelia is a third year English Literature and French student currently studying at Université Jean Moulin Lyon III. She desperately misses Leeds and being able to go to the shops on Sundays. So far her best French friend is a cat called Sushi but hopes to branch out soon. She enjoys fine supermarket wine and her biggest aim for this year is to try and not get run over whilst crossing the road; ‘look right left right’ just isn’t working out over here.
One month on from my previous post things are pretty much the same; Sushi the cat is my best friend, I still have no timetable and people continue to throw lit cigarettes at me seemingly by accident, but they could at least pretend to be a teensy bit apologetic. All the Leeds Erasmus students (or “Erasmus huneyzz” as our Facebook group message name suggests) are finally feeling settled in. We had a week off in October and I decided to head back to my favourite postcode — my home away from home that is LS6.
Surprise, surprise it was pouring with rain when I arrived and after a punctured tire that grounded the Flying Tiger (the rather excitingly named Leeds Bradford airport bus which has free Wi-Fi – what!), I finally made it to ol’ Brudenell Road. It felt like I had never left. Hyde Park was as crazy as ever. I saw a man throw a large branch down an alleyway whilst screaming, “I hate them! I’ll f****** kill them all!” I thought he might have been referring to us students but he soon turned around, uttered “cats” and simply went about his day. As soon as I passed through the Sainsbury’s sliding doors I was greeted by familiar faces and I even got my hands on one of the lucky number seven scratch cards (don’t judge me, I once won £100 and still using this as justification). After a proper Leeds night out of crop tops, sequins and vintage Adidas jumpers, followed by a Greasy Pig Full English, I didn’t really want to leave.
When I was back on the Lyon III campus I couldn’t help but feel a little bit lost, like pre-Mean Girl Cady Heron eating lunch alone in the toilets. Well perhaps it wasn’t that bad but it did feel like I was a fresher all over again. Why don’t I recognize anyone in the supermarket? Where are the crazy people swearing at me? And why aren’t there any man buns? Everywhere I went in Lyon I was searching for something that looked and felt like home. I spotted the odd pair of flat-forms around campus and some questionable beards in Croix-Rousse – the “hipster” quartier – but it just didn’t compare.
I had read up about this feeling in The Leeds Study Abroad Handbook. It states that there are five stages of culture shock:
2) Distress (Disintegration)
I was suffering from stage two: distress. “Oh my god I’m disintegrating,” I thought. So after my self-diagnosis I decided to commence phase three. I needed to be more French.
I found out that my faculty was having an international meal and along with my fellow Welsh Lowri, I decided to sign us up. It was a classy affair in a delightful Lyonnais restaurant. As the wine went down my level of French went up, reaching a perfect tipsy equilibrium. It was fabulous. Just as we began to dig into our main courses – traditional Lyonnais saucisson with dauphinoise potatoes – the rest of the room erupted into applause. I asked Jean, the French guy sat next to me, what was happening and, all wide-eyed and excited, he replied, “The Great Master is here.”
I wondered if I had accidently signed myself up to some sort of dinner cult (if they do actually exist, please do contact me, I am highly interested). The “Great Master” sat down at the table next to us and pulled out a black beret which was covered in badges and had a satin yellow stripe down the middle. I turned again to Jean and enquired as to how one goes about becoming a “Great Master”. It turns out that the beret is in fact La Faluche – an important student tradition that has been going on for 126 years. Jean took on a reverent tone: “First you must learn the code.” Luckily he had a PDF copy of said code on his iPhone so was able to show it to me. It was about sixty pages long.
“But there is also a secret you must learn but never tell.” Things started to get interesting… “You also need to find a parrain to teach it to you.”
“A godparent?” I asked.
Before I could find out more, the “Great Master” began a speech. Whilst she was welcoming everyone, someone began to chant: “Rentre chez toi, ta mère t’a fait des gauffres!”
Everyone else joined in, chanting it over and over, whilst Lowri and myself looked on helplessly. The English translation is: “go back home, your mum has made you waffles”. I just don’t know.
On the walk home, whilst crossing the Rhône River on Le Pont de la Guillotière, Lowri and I reflected on our evening. We came to a joint conclusion that it was the French-est thing we’d done since being in Lyon. I feel like Ashleigh, the French Residence Abroad Coordinator, would be ever so proud of me. Re-integration phase completed.
Images courtesy of Amelia Dunton, Keith Laverack