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in     by Vallari Gharat 31-03-2021

After graduating from high school, when I was preparing for medical entrance exams, the little voice inside of me whispered to me: "Medical studies are not for you, you are destined to do something else. It is often said that the inner voice never lies and so I decided to listen to it and above all, to understand it. I started asking myself a lot of questions: What is it trying to tell me? Am I wrong? Am I destined to do something else? But what? At that moment, all I wanted to do was to cry “Help!” and fortunately, my dad came to my rescue. “My dear, what do you think of French?”, he asked. “I'm madly in love with this language, Dad. You know that.”, I replied. “Well, you have your answer. Pursue it.” This discussion with my dad was a turning point in my life, and it changed my life for the better.

I took a course in French at the Alliance Française and applied for a BA in French programme at the university. During my final year, I got to do an internship at the French Consulate and work with the French. Three years went by, I passed my exams with flying colours and finally got that degree. But I was still unsatisfied with my French, I wanted to master it and experience the French culture and life my French colleagues always boasted about.

I finally leapt the opportunity in 2018 to polish my French and to discover l’art de vivre français (The French way of life) by enrolling myself in a full-time French as a Foreign Language semester-based course in France. I took my very first flight towards my dreams, freedom and love. I was able to leave the nest and my parents were able to loosen the apron strings. This flight was the starting point of an adventure, a second life that was awaiting me in France. As I had already rubbed shoulders with the French during my internship and during my two long visits to Pondicherry, an old French colony, I did not experience any culture shock, I was adequately prepared to absorb this alien culture. I landed in a charming, human-size city called Rennes in Brittany and my love affair with France began.

Rennes, the capital of Brittany, is culturally rich, festive and a green city having a large student population. Being on a shoestring budget, I found myself a flat-share, what turned out to be a doorway to different cultures – French, Canadian, Brazilian & German. My flatmates helped me settle in and introduced me to the French Bureaucracy – The French love paper. L’administration française (French administration) is gruelling, all you got to do is be patient and parler français (speak French), but mostly, be patient. I had to wait for 5 months in order to be summoned to the French Office for Immigration and Integration that validates your visa upon your arrival and 7 months in order to get my Carte Vitale (Health Insurance Card).

I started meandering around the streets of Rennes to explore the city of Art & History - its historical monuments, architectural heritage, traditional half-timbered houses, contemporary buildings, diverse cultural centres, to relish the local dishes like galette, galette-saucisse, crêpe, kouign amann, cider, etc. For your information, Rennes is home to the National Theatre of Brittany (Théâtre National de Bretagne) and The Parliament of Brittany (Parlement de Bretagne). Bizarre! Isn’t it? Well, it was strange until I found out that Brittany was once an independent nation and became part of France in 1532.

Apart from wandering and savouring the French gastronomy, I did attend classes at the language school that surpassed all my expectations. The school had such wide range of subjects to offer that helped me broaden my knowledge of both language and culture. I studied French, French literature (novel & theatre), history, introduction to cinematography, history of modern art, the professional world, etc. I went on trips organised by my school to discover the jewels of Brittany. I started to realise one thing – there was a difference between the French we learnt between the four walls and the French used and spoken outside. I thus, started attending Language Exchange events in the city and making more French friends through these events and also through Hello Talk language exchange application. I was desperate to master the language, to talk like the French, I wanted to get there. After a lot of self-study, reading books, writing, watching French movies and conversing with my French friends every day, I finally got that C2 level diploma (highest level) and the results were quite satisfactory.

Shortly after this adventure, I embarked on another one and it changed my life once again, in an unexpected way.

To be continued..........