Compared to the (usual) Slovak harsh winters, December in Toulouse was quite pleasant! The weather was similar to Glasgow in May, but it was sunnier in Toulouse haha. On the 20th when I was leaving, it was still sunny and 17 °C. To be fair though, this winter has been quite warm in all of Europe. Because of the weather in France, it was a bit hard to get myself into the Christmassy mood, even though the decorations and the Christmas market were just incredible!
Christmas market in the town
I have never seen such a beautiful Christmas market as in Toulouse. It was always really busy, and the food was so so good! I tried some French specialities, such as aligot- which looks like smashed potatoes, but is mixed with cheese and butter and is really yummy, especially when it´s cold outside. Another thing I tried is called tartiflette, surprisingly another French dish with cheese, and this time with bacon and potatoes.
Obviously, you could also find some Spanish and German food and I wasn’t really surprised to see hamburger meat in a baguette when you ordered a hamburger, so French…
Just before Christmas, our Erasmus society organised a Christmas dinner for us. Just for two euros you could try some French Christmas dishes and have plenty of other food, there was even a Secret Santa (giving presents to a person you don’t know) and you could take a picture with the real Santa Claus !!
One of the best things about erasmus is that you can visit your friends who are also doing erasmus around the world. My best friend from Glasgow came to visit for a week, and even though she couldn’t say a word in French, she loved it. I am planning to visit her in Stockholm next semester. Also, with her we explored the beauty of Toulouse even more, visiting the old churches, a botanic garden and multiple museums.
The Basilica of St. Sernin
The Muséum de Toulouse (a museum of natural history in Toulouse)
Praire de Filtres (one of the parks in Toulouse close to my place)
Always sunny Toulouse after a rainy semester in Glasgow 😛
Saying goodbye at the airport
I also showed her a bit of Erasmus life in Touloyse- first night she came I took her to an Erasmus party where when the music stopped, you had to kiss someone and then you would receive a free shot haha! Yes, parties like this, exist here.
There is definitely so much to do in Toulouse. Only a few weeks ago I visited Cite de l´espace- a theme park focused on space with a huge planetarium, a 3D cinema, lots of exhibitions, models of the Ariene 5 rocket, Soyuz models and so on.
Apart from all of this, every weekend there are different expositions and events in Toulouse. In the past few months I went to a food exposition ( with lots of delicious high quality French food) and an autosalon (car show) where you were able to see what it is like to have an accident in the car driving at a speed of 30km/h or see thousands models of cars.
At the start of October I applied to CAF (Caisses d’Allocations Familiales), which is a sum of money that is allocated to students by the French government to help pay for your student accommodation. Everyone is entitled for this, and the amount being dependent on the type of accommodation and your income. The process of applying is really easy, you just need to go to CAF´s website and apply online and then go to the agency to get the papers (obviously expect some of French bureaucracy haha). Many foreign students either don’t know about this or can´t be bothered to do deal with this, which is really sad, because the amount of money can really help you enjoy your Erasmus year a little bit more. For example, I get 144 euros per month, which adds up to more than a thousand euros for both semesters. This money is taken off your rent, so instead of paying 330 euros, I now pay 186 euros a month for my own room with a small kitchen and my own bathroom in the student accommodation. I only received the first money in December, so when I went to pay for my rent at the start of December I had a nice Christmas present- I didn’t have to pay anything, as they owed me the money from November´s and October´s CAF .
In January lots of my Erasmus friends are leaving- either back to their countries or to another country (those studying two languages). It is sad to see your new friends are leaving already, but there are new ones are coming :P. Moreover, there were lots of goodbye parties in December and there will be other ones in January. Personally, I can’t imagine leaving after first semester, and I am extremely happy to stay another few months. I know that I have only been here for little over 3 months, but I´m so much in love with France that I am thinking about staying over the summer or even doing my masters here (it’s much cheaper than in the UK). My French has gotten so much incredibly better over these 3 months that I can’t imagine how good my French will be at the end of the year. I must say though, that I’ve been trying quite hard to speak and interact with French people a lot. When you come for the first time to the country and you feel that you cannot speak the language, you just have to get through it and try to speak and listen to the language as much possible. Otherwise you will never improve! ☺
For Christmas I am going home for 2 weeks. It will be nice to spend some time with my family and friends from home. But I am excited to come back to Toulouse as well. In January I will have all the final exams so wish me a good luck! Good luck to everyone with your exams as well!
Toulouse by night
Thank you for reading my blog, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask!