My Year Abroad in France and Italy in 5 Photos

My Year Abroad in France and Italy in 5 Photos by Rachael Harper

This article was written by Rachael Harper from Cardiff University, published on 1st December 2016 and has been read 1216 times.

Rachael is studying Modern Languages, French and Italian at Cardiff University, and spent the first semester of her year abroad studying at the University of Nantes and the second on a work placement in Florence. Here she sums up her diverse year abroad experiences in 5 photographs.

1. Au pair life
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To kick start my year of travels, I decided to become an au pair for a month at the end of the summer to see what it was really all about and to touch up on my knowledge of the French language and culture. I was very lucky in the sense that I travelled with the family to and from their home in Paris to their holiday home in Brittany, meaning that I got to see multiple parts of France. The French also do family in a big way which meant for lots of gatherings and interactions. My role was essentially to amuse an 11-year old boy, whilst attempting to teach him a bit of English at the same time, much to his despair. We did every activity from tennis, bike riding, kayaking and even go-karting. My au pair experience was everything I’d hoped for and more and it really gave me the confidence in going to French university. 

2. View from the tallest building in Nantes

I really loved my time in Nantes. It is such a fun and friendly student city with plenty to do for the 3.5 months that I was there. The mechanical elephant is a must-see! I made some amazing friends from all over the world, explored and travelled when I wasn’t in lectures and most weekends, either in and around Nantes or to a new French city and even managed to improve my French while I was at it. This picture was taken towards the end of my time in Nantes from the top of its tallest building, Le Nid and is one which brings back many wonderful memories from my time in France.

3. Italian home cooking

I spent the first month of my Italian adventure in a little village just outside of Bologna, working in a bilingual nursery teaching English to Italian children, whilst living with a lovely, elderly Italian couple.  Working at the nursery was a joy most days due to my love of children and with my afternoons free, this meant for many trips to Bologna and nearby towns with my host family.  Living under an Italian roof, needless to say, meant that I ate very well that month, sampling true homemade Italian cuisine with anything from your bog standard pizza and pasta to rabbit and squid tentacles.  I also discovered that my whole life had been a lie when told that spaghetti Bolognese doesn’t exist and you should only ever have Bolognese with Tagliatelle...

4. Office mornings

The rest of my time in Italy was the 5 months I spent working in Florence for a magazine company called The Florentine, whereby I attended press conferences, wrote articles and did translations from Italian to English.  A personal highlight was sitting on the back of my boss’s scooter or more like clinging on for dear life, as we rode into the Tuscan countryside to take some photos of an exhibition. Very surreal experience! As glamorous as it may sound, the majority of mornings were spent like this, with a coffee always at arm’s reach.

5. Favourite Florentine view

If you go to Florence, you absolutely have to go up to the Piazzale Michelangelo viewpoint and I would especially recommend going just as the sun is about to set, as the view really is breathtaking. I would often come here in the summer with friends and we’d sit on the Piazzale steps, along with a crowd from all over the world, all to watch the sunset spectacle. I found I could sit for hours without getting bored and would often come here for a bit of peace and quiet away from the busy city. It is still and always will be my favourite Florentine view, if not of all time.

As clichéd as it may sound, my year abroad honestly was the time of my life but I think that this ultimately comes down to the wide variety of experiences that I was able to have, as well as all the different kinds of people that I was lucky enough to meet.  It’s true when people say that your year abroad is what you make it, so go out and make your year abroad one to remember and you sure won’t regret it.

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