Settling in

Now that I’ve been here for a few days, I’m starting to get used to everything.

So my accommodation isn’t exactly a mansion, but it’s still a room. And it’s my home for the next 10 months, so I better get used to it. Measuring nine metres squared, it’s pretty cozy – especially now I have everything in.

For some, once you have your clothes put away in your new place, you can feel more settled. But for me, it’s houseplants. Once an empty room has a bit of greenery, it feels much more welcome to me. So obviously, it’s a bit greener now.

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So this is what I see when I walk in. As you can see, there’s very limited floor space, but by keeping boxes and bags underneath shelving and in cupboards, I can keep the floor clear. The door on the left leads to the bathroom, which is literally a toilet, tiny sink and a shower. No baths for me! The window at the end doesn’t exactly have a beautiful view of the whole city, but I can look out and see my building with a few trees. On the upside, I’m not in a room facing the sun, so I can stay quite cool in the warmer months. Because I have an all-in-one PC, I don’t have masses of desk space, however if I move things around, I might be able to have my laptop open and multitask. All along the wall on the right is a continuous shelf. When it’s empty, it can double up as a seat should I have people round. But for now, I have my Japanese Peace Lily, Boston Fern, my toiletries, drinks, and a coffee table book called ‘Urban Botanics’ by Emma Sibley (buy it here for £11.76). The blue box is for my recycling, since we all should penser à trie (make sure to recycle). The cardboard box with the handle is from IKEA, it’s technically used to carry crockery to the checkouts, but since it was free I thought I might have a use for it. Annoyingly, it’s just too tall for my food shelf, so I can’t store my plates in it. So for now, I’m using it to hold information booklets and offers leaflets instead of having them lie around. There’s a sliding cupboard at the bottom, which holds my jumpers and coats, since wardrobe space is very limited.

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Just to the left of my window is a small shelving area by the desk. Currently, it’s used to keep my office supplies together, along with a few other bits and bobs. The white box is actually a cable-tidy that I bought online a while back (get it here for £8). Some potted succulent plants take pride of place on the shelf, alongside a lamp I was provided with, and a pot full of black pens.

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Above my bed I have a small cupboard with sliding doors. It’s currently used for my books and DVDs. Clearly, I don’t have much inside, but with a Netflix subscription I have a plethora of foreign films. I only brought these three with me because they’re not actually on Netflix. La Famille Bélier, Goodbye Lenin and Amélie are my favourite foreign films of all time, and I can’t recommend watching all three enough. Although Goodbye Lenin is actually a German-language film, it’s still interesting to watch. For my books, I have a select few that I love to read again and again. 1984, The Shining, The Martian, La Clé Sur La Porte and The Great Gatsby. 

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Right by my bed is a small set of shelves acting as a bedside table. There’s not enough room to store much, so it’s mostly for displaying items, such as my potted cactus. On the top shelf, I keep my hats and headgear, as there’s really no other place to put it all. At the bottom, I keep my headphones and my phone charger (French plug of course!).

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And this is my mini kitchen! Up top is where I keep my food; I don’t have much canned food unless it’s chopped tomatoes or baked beans. I much prefer to cook fresh rather than buying ready meals or ready-to-eat food. That way, I know exactly what I’m eating and can cook it to taste. On the shelf below that, I keep my plates, cutlery and cooking utensils. The box of pegs is actually for keeping food fresh. Living on my own means I don’t go through things as quickly as I would at home, so I need to keep things fresh. The very bottom shelf is where my pans and cleaning things go. I have a feeling that I have the wrong kind of pans for the hob in the kitchen. We all think it’s an induction hob, and I looked it up. It turns out stainless-steel pans won’t work very well on an induction hob unless they have an induction plate inside. Which would explain why it took nearly half an hour to cook a pan of pasta when it should only take about ten minutes. If I have to buy another set of pans, I won’t be happy. I also own a very cheap toaster, but so long as it doesn’t catch fire when I’m using it, it’ll do.

As I’m now settled in, I’ve noticed a few annoying things about where I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for even having somewhere to stay, but there’s a few things that just get on my nerves:

  1. You can’t simply go into the washing machine facility, throw your clothes in the washer and go. I already knew that I’d have to pay, but I’d assumed I could pay in change or card. Wrong. It turns out I need to have an ‘Izly’ card to pay for things on campus. Yet the payment machine has written on it ‘Paiement sans contact‘ – contactless payment. But for some reason, it refuses to let me pay by card. And I wasn’t even provided information on the Izly card. It was only until I picked up a small booklet about it that I realised it was very important. We weren’t even signed up for it, you have to go to the secretary (closed on Sundays) and speak to them to create an account.
  2. From looking at other people’s accommodation, I seem to be in the worst building. Again, it’s nice, and I’m grateful to even have accommodation, but you kind of feel let down when the building across from you looks newer inside, and the residence 10 minutes away (also owned by CROUS) has a much newer interior, keycards for the doors, and a proper kitchen. When I saw inside, I kind of felt like I’d picked the short straw.
  3. Security. Despite France’s high security in big cities, and personal keycards for the posh residence, security can be so easily bypassed. For my residence, we have two keypad codes each: one to get into the courtyard via reception, and another for each building. However, the door from reception is routinely left unlocked, meaning anyone could simply stroll through to the courtyard. And even in the posher residence, it’s disturbingly easy to get through the main gates. Last night, we were waiting to be let in for some drinks in a fellow student’s kitchen. After waiting a while, one person had the idea to see if it was possible to get in without a card. Surprisingly you could simply reach through and press the button to unlock the gate. Not exactly what I’d call secure!
  4. The WiFi. In my residence (and other CROUS residences I’d assume), we use the Smartcampus network. To actually be able to use the network, you need a connection code (not actually given to us right away – surprise surprise), and then it’s available to you. But for some reason, it says you can’t use more than one connected device at the same time. So that means if I’m using my PC, I won’t be able to keep my laptop connected. And also, I can’t work out how to connect my phone. I  can connect by WiFi, but I can’t actually do anything. Even if I go to the connection page and attempt to log in, nothing works. When did connecting to WiFi become so complicated?!

Hopefully all these issues will be resolved, but none of us are sure about how the university works. We’re actually the first group of students from my uni to go to Clermont for the study abroad, so nobody back home knows what it’s going to be like. It seems like we’ve been thrown into the deep end with a concrete slab attached to our ankles. Despite all of this, I’m trying to stay as positive as I can. Looking on the negative side of things won’t help anyone, but if I schlep over to the bright side, things might look up . Hopefully.

Anyway, I’ll leave this post here for today. I’ll blog again on Wednesday about my language test on Monday, and if anything changes, it’ll all be here! À bientôt !