My take on Matador Network’s “15 delusions I’ve had about returning home after being abroad”

I stumbled upon this article today, and think it’s fairly relevant seeing as I’m heading home soon, after, well, a 2014 where I’ve spent three months at home in total – which isn’t exactly crazy seeing as a lot of people travel for twelve months, or move abroad for a couple of years, and then return.  But, prior to this year I’d only spent five weeks abroad all at once, so it’s the most relevant it’s been for me so far.

Here’s a look at which of these I think have been, or will be, accurate in my case (with modifications thrown in when necessary):

1. I’m totally going to wear these Thai fisherman vivid pink north Argentinian pants back home.

I so am.  I already have, during my month at home between work placement abroad and erasmus – which also kind of gives me an insight into how true these all are.

Not delusional about this one.  They are super comfy, and I encountered more than enough staring on my travels to not really care about it anymore.  Next.

2. I’m going to use my Korean Spanish and French language skills all the time.

No.  I’m not going to kid myself about this one.  If the opportunity comes up, maybe in the form of a lost Spanish or French-speaking tourist, or someone who simply wants to speak either language to me at home for some reason, then yes, obviously, I’d be delighted to, but I don’t see that happening too often.

Even if I was living in a tourist hotspot, most people who visit Ireland know some English, and even if they only knew Spanish or French, I’d probably be so surprised it wouldn’t even register with me until too late.

3. By golly! Hon! I’m going to visit a museum in my own city. Why not?

I don’t live in a city or all that near to many museums, so no.  However, there’s at least one that I know of where I go to college (so knowledgeable), and I considered visiting it before, so maybe someday I’ll visit it.  Yeah, I’d like to.  But I would not bet too surprised if it didn’t happen for ages.

4. My home peeps are going to be so excited to see me.

They’re surely used to me being gone by now, and it’s only a couple of months since I saw a lot of them.  So nah, hardly.  Okay there’ll be a little bit of fuss over seeing people for the first time, but not much, I’m home for a while this time sure.

The dog is gonna go crazy though.

5. I’m going to start using public transportation.

I already have, whenever it’s been available.  (Kind of off the point but if Ireland could take the best of mainland European transport and have a lot of that even connecting villages with town and towns with cities that would be sound!  And actually if Europe could get buses like the ones in Argentina, with similar comfort and pricing too…  Yeah.  I’ll keep dreaming.  Covoiturage (BlaBlaCar) though, that can become a thing in Ireland.  Without even costing billions, or anything at all, to get it started.)

6. Friends and family will want to hear ALL the details of my international escapades.

Nope!  A bit more like this, really:

Me:  “Well.”

Friend:  “Listen to her, ‘Argentina this, Argentina that…’, does she ever stop?!”

And that’s why I miss my friends when I’m away.

7. They’re also going to appreciate my handmade photo album.

Didn’t make one.

8. I don’t need the new iPhone. I don’t need anything.

I don’t need anything.  I need to avoid getting an actual smartphone for as long as possible.  But I want one.  Kind of.  While simultaneously not wanting one.  So we’ll see how that goes.

Really though, I don’t need anything more than what I’ve managed to fit into a suitcase and carry-on luggage while switching countries.  I don’t even need all of what I’ve brought, and I no longer want to own more clothes than can fit in my luggage, but, reducing the amount of clothes I have to close to that would result in people wondering why I always wear the same clothes, why I don’t have a new dress for almost every night out, and the likes.  So it would be challenging purely because of that.  But I would like to have less clothes seeing as no matter how much I have, I’m still probably going to wear the same stuff most of the time anyway.  This delusion therefore, is fairly strong, for the moment, I guess.

9. I’m going to get a real job.

I’m a student, so finding proper, full-time employment isn’t something there’s much point in me wasting time worrying over yet.  Part-time work would be great though.  *Begs employers*

10. All my new travel mates and I are going to rendezvous in Morocco in five years! I’m going back to Argentina some day.

Delusional?  I hope not.  There’s far too much left to see there.  And simply because of the people, the culture, the language, the food…

11. I’m not going to return to the S.A.D. diet. (Standard American Diet) eat well when I get home

Best of luck to me.  I mean, I’m going home at Christmas.  You can’t avoid certain unhealthy foods  at Christmas (chocolaaaaate!).  It’s practically illegal.

I will eat more fruit and veg though.  And less baguettes.

12. I’m not going to drink so much.

This is likely, but I don’t drink much as it is, and never have much in Ireland.  So to drink less, I’d almost have to go back to complete sobriety.  I might do that.  Or I might just have a drink occasionally whenever I feel like it, because that will most probably be possible without tonnes of abuse for not always drinking on a night out, and not getting hammered even if I do.  Hon!

13. I’m going to throw the best Spanish/Thai/Vietnamese/Arabic dinner party ever! cook something Argentinian (empanadas) again while at home. And I’ll try making crêpes.

Realistic enough targets, I think, depending on the time limit.

14. I’m going to really put my new boxe française/tango skills as a Thai massage therapist/belly dancer/Hapkido yellow belt to good use.

Define “skills”…

15. I can’t wait to get home!

Agreeing with the author of the article on this one, finally going home after being away can be over hyped .  And I think it will be great, but eventually, yeah, it’ll probably go back to how it always was, and I may not meet up with people as much as I’d like, or y’know do a lot of kind of touristy things in Ireland while I’m there.  But Christmas will be lovely, as will having more time with my family, and heading back to college with my friends after a full year away from it will be amazing too (college work aside).  Really, it’ll only be disappointing in any way, if I allow it to be.  So I’m still really looking forward to it, even if I’ll miss a lot of stuff from the places I’ve been.  Travel is great but family and friends aren’t the worst either.  (And that is my completely chill way of not straight up expressing just how brilliant it will be to see everyone at home again, and completely playing down the whole thing.  Except that kind of undoes it, doesn’t it?  Oops.)

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Why I’ve started experimenting with a certain drug

For the first twenty years of my life, I was sober. I somehow managed to defy the Irish stereotype which ultimately results in the notion that we, as a nation, are “fond of the drink”. I avoided the drug for longer than most people expected, or indeed thought was normal, seeing as I got a lot of questioning over it.  Strangely, much more so as an underage non-drinker, which eventually resulted in me sadly giving up on the battle with peer pressure, and having about enough drinks to count on one hand, while I was seventeen.  I then turned eighteen, and decided that because I could now legally drink, it was an ideal time to give up drinking (logical, eh?), not that I’d ever really started.

Yes, the drug I’m talking about is alcohol.  Many people don’t consider it a drug, but it is.  Apparently, it’s more harmful than heroin and cocaine, though that could just be based on the sheer number of people who cause harm to themselves or others because of alcohol, compared to other drugs.  Look at me, referencing things I haven’t a clue about – you’d swear this was an assignment!

I have literally started drinking in the hope that it will improve my college results. No, seriously. This is basically an experiment to see if it will. That or I’ll become a fully fledged alcoholic, only time will tell.

The craic may also secretly be a factor, but it’s more empowering and mildly amusing for me to think of it as a means of helping my education.

I study languages. My course involves a huge amount of travel – we generally spend between a year, and a year and a half of our four-year course, abroad – usually in two different countries. The idea of this, of course, is that we greatly improve upon the languages we study. Naturally, this involves meeting a lot of new people, and often being in situations where you’re both the only outsider, and the only one non-native speaker of the language. It’s often difficult being an outsider when you can speak the local language, but add to this an inability to express yourself clearly, or communicate with others easily, and it makes for some tricky situations.

And that’s where the alcohol comes in. I’ve both noticed, and been told, that alcohol makes people talk more.  Even when it’s not in a language they’re fluent in – that doesn’t matter. The alcohol doesn’t care. It just thinks you should speak. A lot. So you do.

(Not exactly a groundbreaking discovery here, but, as I may have hinted before, speaking a language actually helps you improve it. Probably more so than any other form of study.)

Basically, I could spend all day in the library studying French grammar, or I could go out in a French-speaking area, have a few drinks, and chat away with people in French for the night. The latter sounds like more fun, and could very well be more beneficial. Yes, it’s times like this that I rediscover my love for my course. You know, when our assignments are basically to go travel and have the craic in whatever languages we’re studying (*ahem* as well as, of course, work and study and all that…), rather than readings and essays and the likes.

Sure, I can easily talk plenty without alcohol, but I’ve found that it requires a lot of effort, sometimes, and that even when I’m confident enough in my ability to communicate, I end up being really quiet in large groups.  Or just in general, when it comes to languages other than English. I’m used to embarrassing myself by needing a few attempts at saying what I’m trying to say, or simply saying things incorrectly, or being misunderstood because of my accent (if I had a euro for every time someone thought I said I was from ‘Holanda’, or ‘Hollande’, instead of ‘Irlanda’, or ‘Irlande’…). I don’t care as much about that anymore. But I’ve found that when I am brave enough to chat in groups, that it sometimes takes me a while to pluck up the courage to do so, or that I simply don’t do it enough. And it’s sad relying on alcohol to counteract that, but honestly, it’s way easier, and far more efficient.  (I’m lazy.)

So there you go. I really have given up being a non-drinker for the purpose of language learning. That, and I won’t lie, after a few years you do get a little sick of being completely sober while a minority of extremely drunk people are generally just being irritating on nights out (the majority of course being great craic – genuinely, otherwise I wouldn’t be out with them), but I don’t think that alone would have caused me to start drinking.

*Spoiler* I’ll probably return to the non-drinker life again soon enough.  That or I’ll just continue to barely drink, being the lightweight that I am, and will probably have more non-alcoholic nights out than ones where I drink, even if people don’t seem to get why I’d want to do that.  At least if I quit, I’ll now finally get to say “I’ve been sober for X months/years”, which might be a fun challenge to keep track of.  That and maybe people would react more positively to that than the old “yeah I never really drank” line.

And that concludes this episode of reasons to drink, according to Sarah.

Cheers.

(I’m sorry okay I’m terrible for attempting to make puns, or laughing at even the worst ones.  I don’t think that even counts.)

 

(If you’re wondering why I avoided alcohol for so long, seeing as most people ask, or at least are probably a little curious about it, I’ll get to that another day, it would take far too long to explain in this post.)

Full Year Erasmus – Yay or Nay?

I struggle  so much with decisions that for my next serious one – that of staying on erasmus for a year or not – I’ve decided to compile a list of pros and cons for staying, and, in an attempt to make it even more accurate to what on earth would be best, I’ve actually weighted each pro and con by giving them a value based on how important they actually are.  Yeah I’m not even joking I honestly feel the list is necessary just to attempt to come close to a decision, and well, the weighting of each point just seems like the right to do to me and my apparently overly logical brain.

It makes sense, I swear.  I mean there were several arguments for and against that got zero points because they’re really not important in the grand scheme of things.

As it happens, I then discovered that as well as simply adding up the points for each side, I could also obviously change that into a percentage, and as we all know percentages are always more fun.  Go maths.

So, the current tally on the Full Year Erasmus – Yay or Nay? vote stands at:

Yay:  54%

Nay:  46%

Does that kind of highlight my indecision, just a tad?  I mean it couldn’t be much closer, it’s like the Scottish referendum all over again.

And I haven’t even finished the pros and cons list, not quite.

If I hadn’t weighted each pro and con, it would have resulted in the no vote being up 0.65% to a round figure of 47% versus 53% for a yes to staying for a year.

(I’m clearly having withdrawal symptoms ever since I stopped studying maths back when I finished school, leave me be.)

At this rate I’ll nearly have to resort to doing what I feared I’d end up having to do and just flip a coin over it.  And I’m not doing that…  I hope.

I’ve got about a week to make up my mind.  Wish me luck.

Any if you’ve any thoughts on whether a full year erasmus might be a good idea or not, feel free to let me know!

The iPod Tragedy

Earlier this week I was silly enough to lose my iPod – which for me was the equivalent of a smartphone.  I looked for it all around the area I was in when I lost it, but to no avail.  Then, a couple of days later, I was informed that someone had put a sign up nearby saying they had found an iPod, and left their number.  So I got the number, and texted it to say I thought it was my iPod that they’d found.  The response?

“Oui je lai”

Or “Yes I have it” (should actually have been “je l’ai”, but whatever…).

Nothing else, no more information.

Basically, Taken 3 was happening.  I was about to transform into Liam Neeson, and go on a crazy mission to track down my beloved iPod…  Except then the person who’d found it told me when and where I could pick it up, so I just did that instead.  Handy.

Thank you very much to the lovely stranger who picked it up, and decided to give it back!  People – a great bunch of lads.

An unfortunate and ironic presentation title choice

On Monday, I had my first French class here (excluding a couple of translation classes).  We had to get into groups of three, and pick from the list given what we would do our presentations on.  So naturally enough, I found a pair to work with, asked what they were thinking of doing the presentation on, and went with that, because it happened to be a really interesting topic for me too, and I hadn’t really read the list too carefully.  The subject we chose, was something along the lines of – “peut-on vivre sans un smartphone ?”, or basically, “can you live without a smartphone?”.

Now, unlike most people I know, I didn’t have a smartphone at the time, had never had one, and still don’t, which I suppose gives a different angle to the presentation.  But I have an iPod Touch, so the only negative difference between the combination of that and my beloved Nokia, and an actual smartphone, is that you can’t get Whatsapp on an iPod (Viber, Snapchat, Skype, Facebook Messenger and every other iOS app I’ve ever wanted all work on them, so there isn’t much need for Whatsapp, I suppose), and you can’t pay to use internet on them.  For me, that wasn’t a problem because ain’t nobody got time fo’ that, and I usually have access to wifi, or contact people by call, text, or just later on if I don’t.  No big deal.  I consider my iPod to basically be 95% – a smartphone.

Except I don’t have an iPod.  I lost it the day after we chose our presentation titles…

“O my prophetic soul!”

Hamlet quotes are always relevant.  Deal with it.

Anyway, life without anything close to a smartphone should be fun.  Added to that, this lack of English-speaking thing I’ve started.  And, speaking of which (seeing as one rule for the no English speaking was that I could do so on Skype and the likes) – my one-and-a-half-year-old laptop now refuses to use a lot of apps (it has apps, because it’s silly and has Windows 8), including Skype.  Making calls with any kind of program, from what I can see, doesn’t really work either.  At least, I got the call function of Facebook’s video caller to work recently, but not audio on anything else.  I haven’t tried every possible means of calling or video-calling yet, but I’ve tried a few with no success, and I don’t expect others to be any more successful, but fingers crossed the audio on Facebook will work so I can actually talk to people.

There’s some extra irony at play here I think.  First, I quit speaking English, except for on Skype, and in a few other situations, then I discover that Skype doesn’t work on my laptop.  Then, I decide to do a presentation on if it’s possible to live without a smartphone, and lose what was basically a smartphone for me.

It’s a bit strange that both of those things happened within the space of two days, but hopefully that’s the end of this sorcery…

I’ve had a crazy language-learning idea that just might work

It’s taken me thirty days, living in France, to have this brainwave, but it has finally happened.  Or, maybe more accurately, thirty days of often having great craic with Irish people (oh hey comfort zone) and other anglophones, but not really speaking or learning anywhere near as much French as I’d like to.

Inspiring quotes stolen from the internet – for all your motivational needs

Anyway, on the night of September 29th, I finally had this epiphany…

What’s the best way for me to improve at French?  By not speaking English!  Okay, I knew that before – that wasn’t really the epiphany.  I’d always known it – I mean for as long as I can remember wanting to learn any language.  The idea was only reinforced recently when I read ‘Fluent in 3 Months’ creator, Benny Lewis’s article on the topic, which I recommend if you want more language-learning motivation.

But – and yes, of course there’s a but – believe it or not, that is indeed easier said than done.  Especially, when you’re on erasmus, most of your friends are native speakers of English, and most other people you know, or get to know, speak it very well, or at the very least, know some, and can probably converse a little.  People also tend to think you’re a bit mental if you just decide you’re not speaking any more English.  (Obviously, there are some rules that go with this, namely – I can skype in English, and speak it to anyone from home who visits me, but I’ll get to all that later, probably in a separate post.)  Even when people really want to improve at their target language, it just seems a bit crazy to go all out and quit speaking the only language you’re fluent in.  At this stage though, I think it’s just all or nothing.  It’s easier this way, really.

Right, here’s where my own brainwave comes in…  I honestly think it would be extremely difficult to do this without some sort of excuse that people might possibly accept (otherwise I’d probably have started earlier).  So, my stroke of genius is, that I’ll bet some money with a few friends that I can avoid speaking English (bear in mind that all the rules of this still have to be worked out) until I leave France to go home for Christmas.  That’s only all of October, November, and most of December.  It’s not really that long.  And I assume that the first week or so will be the most difficult – then after that, it’ll get easier every week.  I don’t know how much to bet, but it’s going to be a bet where I’d actually win €0 if I succeeded.  I don’t want to win money from people, I just want to learn French.  I’ll bet with people, that I can avoid speaking English until my Christmas holidays, and if I lose, I pay them all.  I think it would be about a dozen people, so it wouldn’t be much each, but, the total amount will have to be enough to give me more motivation not to lose.  The thing is, I don’t plan on losing.  I’m not being big-headed and saying I think this will be easy.  I just don’t want to just throw money away, that’s not the idea of this, so I’m setting myself what I think is a manageable challenge.  In reality, I just think money would just be a bit of an added incentive, and it might make life easier if people want me to speak English, and I’m able to say that actually, I stand to lose a lot of money I really can’t afford to lose if I do, so I can’t.

And it’s not a thing that I’m going to expect people to speak French to me.  Ideally, they would, but if English is their native language, then fine, I understand English, and if they’re here on erasmus too then we both have some level of French so we can all understand each other.  If there’s an extreme communication barrier at times, as there will be, I can switch to my broken Irish with the Irish students, or try Spanish with anyone who speaks it, seeing as I now seem to find it easier to speak than French.  Sign language, gestures, drawings, whatever, if I’m feeling really determined to use zero English (I think being allowed to ask in French how to say a word in English is just logical, and makes it easier for anyone trying to deal with my attempts to communicate with them).  If people just want to practice their English with me too, even though the idea of them being here is probably to learn French, and they’re truly adamant about learning English, then fine.  I won’t lie, I won’t be happy about it, but with English it’s kind of inevitable, so if I still get to speak French, or even Spanish to them, and they respond in English, I’ll still learn something from speaking a language other than English.  I can live with that.

Another key exception I should point out straight away is that I’m going to play sort of by the rules (or rule, really) of the gaeltacht I went to a few years ago – one full sentence in English (or in that case, a language other than Irish) is not allowed.  I also believe that the young gaeilgeoirs got a warning if that happened, and were then kicked out, but I’m not sure if I’ll add that, I suppose it’s a good idea…  The main thing though is, if I accidentally react to something by saying something along the lines of “yeah”, “what?”, or “shite!”, in English, and then realise and go back to French – it doesn’t count – stuff like that is almost impossible to avoid at the start, at least.

A lot of people might think this idea is crazy, stupid, or just plain annoying if you’re unfortunate enough to be an English-speaker on erasmus with me (le sozz, guys), but I think it’s crazy to study French (or any language) for as long as I have, study it in college, and then go on erasmus in France – it also happening to be your first time in France – and not doing your best to speak the language as much as possible.  For me it would just be such a wasted opportunity, and such a waste of time and money.

I decided to start as soon as October arrived – literally at midnight last night, I stopped speaking English.  I even tested it out a little before that – mainly warning people that I was going to start speaking French to them, explaining myself, and speaking French with some of them to see how strange or difficult it was.  And it was very odd.  But it was possible.  We could converse.  We could understand each other (most of the time).  And most people I tried speaking French to wanted to practise it too, but like me, hadn’t spoken it as much as they’d like to yet.  So when I brought it up, and awkwardly switched to French with people, it got them responding in French, even if it was only for a few minutes.  It’s a start.  And it’s shown me that it’s possible for me to do this.  So I think I will.

I guess I’ll keep you posted.  Hopefully it’ll be a succès.

 

PS:  Like a lot of challenges, I guess if I tell enough people what I plan on doing, then it’s an extra incentive to go for it, ’cause it would be kind of mortifying if I kept telling everyone about this, and then failed spectacularly.  So if you’re wondering why on earth I’m sharing this spiel, there you go.  I just want to add possible embarrassment to the mix so I’ll work harder at avoiding English.

How to learn a language while on erasmus

All you need to do, is make sure English is not your native language.  And no matter where you do your erasmus, you will probably learn a lot of English.  Plus whatever the local language is, assuming it’s not English.  Two for the price of one.  Did I mention you’ll learn English?

What I’m trying to say is, it’s extremely difficult for native English speakers to learn other languages because it seems like everyone studies English and knows enough for conversation.  In fact, more often than not, they’ll know it better than the local language when on erasmus.

In other words, I’m blaming my lack of progression with French on what I’ve just said above.

In other words, being a native English speaker is fantastic (you’ll almost always be able to find other English-speakers no matter where you go) – unless you want to learn a language.

In other words, I’d really like to learn some French.