6 weeks ago I was sweating profusely in 25 degree heat, dragging my 2 suitcases onto a train in South West France. Fresh from an early morning flight, I was beginning the second leg of my journey, to Angoulême, a small city an hour north of Bordeaux. I was about to start my year abroad, which consisted of a teaching assistantship part of my university degree. All of the above sounds like an experience to relish, but I didn’t feel that way. I had been overly dramatic for weeks, putting my family through hell with my incessant worrying. The thought of leaving the comfort and familiarity of home was all too much. However, little did I know how well I would adapt. Infact, I have my new girlfriends to thank for making the transition so smooth and painless.
There’s nothing like a good catch-up, gossip, or in depth conversation with your girlfriends. Although, I only realised it recently, I have always taken the ability to communicate for granted. Nothing beats being able to tell your friend something through a look, a private joke, or simply one word. The initial few days on foreign soil were clouded with anxiety over whether I would find foreign friends with whom I could share these same experiences. I can’t lie, the use of hand gestures was above average over the first few days as I discovered, despite studying a degree in French, there was so much I didn’t know. Those clumsy days are now behind me and over the past 6 weeks I have met some women who I hope to be able to call friends for the rest of my life. I had never really thought about the relationship between women in a global sense, whether that be wrong or not, I guess it’s because I’ve never had any foreign friends. Due to the comfort of my entirely English circles, I naively assumed I would have nothing in common with the people I would meet here. How wrong I was.
Recently, a group of us decided to take a weekend trip to La Rochelle. Of course, we absorbed the culture and saw the sights, but what brought us together was alcohol. Le vin Français. Oh, and chocolate. As we sat, cramped in our €20 hostel room, I realised that although together we represented Britain, Spain, America and Colombia, we had all shared the same experiences. We talked until the early hours about our painfully embarrassing first kisses, our preferred brand of tampon, that one pervy teacher we all had in school, and how we’d been hurt by the opposite sex. No matter how different our personalities were, at the core we were all the same; women in a strange new place, with a lot to say.
These sorts of issues connect women all around the world, but the romance and periods can get a bit heavy sometimes (excuse the pun). Sometimes, it’s the simple things that make the relationship between women so unique and at times comical. I had recently joined an athletics club here in France and at one of my first training sessions I had learnt that the toilets were locked for the evening, with no available key. Myself and another girl, immediately turned to each other, exchanging a grimace that can only translate as ‘Oh my god I need a wee!!!!!’. We both knew the only option was a covered spot amidst the trees. As we stumbled about in the undergrowth squealing, while the other stood guard, I knew she understood me.
Over the past 20 years I thought I understood the female mind, but it turns out being somewhere unfamiliar and feeling completely alien has heightened my awareness of how other women around must function. After all, no matter where we are from, we are all going through the same daunting experience.
To sum it up, France has it all; architecture, countryside, the bread and cheese. However, French culinary delicacies can’t cure a woman’s desire for female companionship. Thankfully I have the best of both worlds, friendship and food. Most of the time together!