Letters from Abroad: Nothing to Lose in Toulouse

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Letters from Abroad: Nothing to Lose in Toulouse

Rachael Franchini ’19, Abroad Columnist

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Hello Dickinson!

It’s hard to believe that I’m writing my letter from abroad, but it’s even harder to believe that I have already been in Toulouse for over a month! The days have certainly been flying by, and the students here continue to learn more about this city, the people and our classes every single day.

It’s difficult to describe exactly what it’s like to live here. There are days where I feel as though I’ve finally got the hang of something, and then I’ll realize that I’ve been doing something else wrong the whole time. Thankfully, all of the students on the program help each other out as much as we can – our group chat is one part a constant barrage of questions and advice, one part general chaos and one part memes. Since we’re all navigating this crazy life at the same time, it helps to remember that at least one person must understand the homework assignments for the Dickinson Center…right?

The first month and a week in Toulouse have been filled with absolute craziness. I arrived a day later than everyone else on the program due to delayed flights – meaning I arrived Sunday at 8 p.m. in the pitch black and pouring rain, and needed to be able to get myself to the Dickinson Center (30 minutes away from where I live) for 9 a.m. the next morning without having seen a lick of the city or the metro. Thankfully, my host was happy to stare at a map with me and explain how to make my metro card work for my commute the next morning. And now I’m a pro at the metro! Still haven’t figured out (or needed) the buses yet though…

An interesting development that the majority of the students on the program here have had to deal with was that the Toulouse University that most of the students here attend has been on strike, for a variety of reasons. For several weeks, offices (including the international student resource office) have been closed due to administrators and staff being on strike, classes have been cancelled and there have even been a few days where the entire university has shut down because students have blocked off the buildings with chairs and tables piled up so that no one can get in to teach or learn. This situation has been a wild and confusing introduction to our education here and the cultural norms associated with activism.

One of the most exciting things that marked the end of our January here was the academic excursion to the Hautes-Pyrénées. All of the students in the Toulouse program travelled a few hours south with the Dickinson Center for a weekend of snowshoeing and walking through the most breathtaking mountain views. We also visited a dairy farm, where we met a 2-day old lamb, and a honey farm. The food there was amazing as well! That trip has definitely been a highlight of my time here so far.

Fondly thinking of Carlisle and The Dickinsonian,

Rachael

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