Excuse My French: Settled in Geneva

Ellen Roberts-James

So far my time in Geneva is completely – and joyously – opposite to France. The Swiss way of life suits me very well. I even run and eat porridge now.

It’s so nice to feel settled here, which I’ve felt pretty much from the moment I stepped off the plane to be honest. In Geneva the people are kind and welcoming, the university is great, the city is beautiful and the weather has been wonderful too. I’m going to run out of positive adjectives soon.

One of the best things about student life here is actually the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). With Erasmus placements, the ESN can pretty much dictate your social life for the first few weeks when you don’t know anyone or anywhere. The saddest thing about Avignon was that the ESN was virtually non-existent. The network in Geneva, and the size of the cohort in general, has given us so many great opportunities to meet new people and try new things, and the university works hard to integrate international students with the rest of the student body. This is actually so important as well – it’s the only way you’ll ever really practice your target language as an Erasmus student. It’s a sad truth that almost all Erasmus networks operate in English, and all the students tend to settle for English as the common language.

It has therefore become my main goal this semester to really integrate with non-international students, for the main reason that I’m just not learning enough French. Thankfully it’s been really easy here to meet and spend time with French-speaking people, and the students here are so easy-going and friendly.

The university also has a tandem platform, where you make a profile and show which languages you can offer and which you would like to learn. People can get in touch with each other and meet up to practice their languages at all levels, so it’s a really good system and one I am trying to take full advantage of.

I must admit that a slight panic has set in here. I’m halfway through my year abroad and my French is nowhere near as good as I wanted it to be. I can converse easily and understand pretty much everything, but there is still that final level of fluency that I’m so desperate to achieve. But hopefully, with lessons, surroundings, conversations and even yoga in French, it will get there soon. One unfortunate thing – and a universal social truth – is that the smoking area is always the most talkative zone. My lungs are taking some serious hits in an effort to practise my French, and if that’s not commitment I don’t know what is.

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