Finding my Feet in France (they must be here somewhere…)

7 April 2020

"I suppose I knew before coming to France it was going to be an adjustment from life in Jordan where I spent the first half of my year abroad". In her fourth blog Ruth shares her experience of adjusting to life in France.


I suppose I knew before coming to France it was going to be an adjustment from life in Jordan where I spent the first half of my year abroad. Here, I am studying normal classes alongside the French students and trying to integrate myself into the Lyonnais life as much as possible.

Joining a new university where all your peers already knows each other and are already settled in their own friendship group, it has been a challenge to make and sustain meaningful friendships. I have gone from being exceptional and interesting, a freckled red-haired English girl who can speak Arabic to just another face that merges into the background; another student in a sea of some seventy others. While in the Middle East people wanted to talk to me and hear about my life, and wanted to exchange phone numbers and invite me to there homes. However, I have found in Lyon, that while everyone has been perfectly friendly, you have to seek out friends and opportunities for French conversation practise, rather than wait for them to present themselves to you as they did in Jordan.

I am currently living with a French family here in Lyon and this is something I would definitely recommend for any students on a language year abroad. While the ‘children’ in this family are nearly as old as I am, and are not clamouring to play  games with me as the young kids I have au paired for were, I do find that having that guaranteed language practice each day, even if it’s just exchanging tales from our respective days or listening to dinner time conversations, is very useful in helping me improve my colloquial French.

Despite my initial struggles I can assure you that  I have now made some really lovely friends with whom I can eat lunch and explore what I’m learning is a really lovely city. Arriving in January to 4 degree weather, I have had the pleasure of watching a rainy but pretty, classically European city, transition into a really animated and liveable place. When the sun comes out, as it is doing more and more recently, the Lyonnais stream out into Le Parc de la Tête d’Or, along the banks of the Saône or the Rhône or to the beautiful old town for a glass of wine and some quenelles (poached breadcrumbs with creamed fish or meat served in a creamy tomato sauce) in one of Lyon’s many traditional restaurants or ‘bouchons.’


I am already over half way through my time at Jean Moulin University.  Even though I feel like I’m still finding my feet, I’m being given final exam dates, making post-Lyon plans and beginning to wonder if my French is good enough to take back to UCL. While I feel there is always more you can do, more vocabulary to learn or another language exchange to attend, it’s important to not expect miraculous progress from your year abroad. I just recommend making the most of any opportunities you can and enjoy getting to know a new city and a new way of life, then your language will improve by itself.


By: Ruth Wynn