Meeting the Erasmus family

Published by Zoe Papasotiriou — 2 years ago

Blog: My Rouen experience!
Tags: Erasmus blog Rouen, Rouen, France

Making friends

Hey again! Remember how I mentioned that finding good friends in your Erasmus exchange programme might seem like a huge issue at the beginning? Well, let me tell you, in Rouen (and I bet in most cities) you will meet a lot of people, seemingly, out of nowhere. So here's my personal experience! Hope it helps somehow!

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A sunset is (almost) always better with company!

La Taverne de Thor and the language exchange meeting

The best place to get a good start is the weekly "Language exchange meeting", which is hosted on the upper floor of a bar named "La Taverne de Thor", another place which is well-known among international students. The bar is located on the right river bank (it should be really easy to spot) and has a view to the river Seine. In fact, I remember hearing about it even before my arrival in the city, as people from my country that had their Erasmus in Rouen and various students in blogs etc. seemed to talk really fondly about it.

Anyway, this meeting is actually open to all students, and they all gather up once a week to discuss, meet each other, play billiards (or whatever they feel like) and drink. You might think it's difficult to blend in when you do not really know anyone, but you will come to realise that the ambiance is quite inviting and calming, plus the students are constantly doing circles between various groups introducing themselves and talking about their respective countries, culture, beliefs, cuisine etc. So, instead of worrying too much, just go ahead and say hi!

I still remember my first Language exchange meeting vividly, because it was on the day I first moved in my room at the private residences (around the 5th day). Needless to say, I was exhausted both physically and mentally, and my mood was really bad. I didn't want to feel down anymore, so I called up the one or two people I knew then and we all headed to the meeting.

As soon as we reached the bar, we went up the stairs to meet the international group. I wasn't expecting it, but I randomly started introducing myself to the students around and getting general information on each and every one of them, which is not something I find easy doing in my everyday life. However, during the Erasmus exchange period, I came to understand that I (and every other exchange student) can be really sociable and outgoing if I want to, and somehow managed to communicate with my fellow students in a much more easy-going way. Maybe that was happening because I knew that everyone was in fact just like me, facing similar problems and having the same worries.

What really surprised me, however, was how quickly they warmed up to me, and how welcoming they were of... the new kid. After just a short amount of time up there, I found myself surrounded by a small group of people from countries all over the world, even Madagascar! The conversation was awesome, as everyone threw in elements from their respective countries, and they were all bombarding me with questions, asking me if I had had a tough time or offering to help me in pretty much anything. Of course, me being almost all alone until that point, I felt really lucky to have stumbled upon such cool people, and made sure to keep in touch with everyone. I even happened to find people from my dormitory, which was very helpful in many levels!

Do bear in mind that this is an action outside of the Erasmus student network, but the admin of the language group is actually familiar with pretty much, all the esners as well, so in general, you will be able to take part in various trips, excursions and activities organised from both parties.

The NEOMA Buisness school: a great source of activities

Anyway, that night I met a lot of people studying in the buisness school of NEOMA, which is one of the biggest and most influential universites of Rouen. As most schools, it is located up the mountain and is the heart of the campus of Mont-Saint-Aignan. What is really cool about NEOMA, is that it comprises a huge variety of school clubs, which constantly organise activities open to any student in Rouen, and they are actually really fun! From wine-tasting, to cooking events and trips to the landmarks of Normandy, NEOMA covers pretty much everything, so stay updated and join in every activity you can, as you are bound to meet even more people and experience a lot of new things.

The event of the Running dinner: one amazing night

One of the above-mentioned activities, and one of my first true Erasmus experiences in Rouen, was the event of the Running dinner. I believe it is something like a tradition in NEOMA, so you might as well be lucky enough to join in! But what is the running dinner, you might ask? Well, it is a dinner marathon! That's right, students are called upon to make groups of about five people, and then are assigned three separate households, three different adresses across Rouen. Now, the objective is to actually visit all three houses in a set amount of time, eat and drink with the hosts and well, to have fun! And let me tell you, it was a really memorable experience for me, so I will try to elaborate without tiring you out!

I had been but a week or two in Rouen when one of my NEOMA friends suggested I join in his running dinner team. Me, not knowing any of the other members, yet really intrigued, I agreed immediately, so we all met up to get some drinks to gift the hosts and started our little soiree out. We were a noisy bunch comprised of a Polish, an Italian, a Brazilian, a Korean-Chilian, and myself, a Greek. How crazy is that? We were a moving cultural mosaic, and despite our origins being so different, we quickly came to laugh and have fun in each other's company, even before reaching the first household!

When we finally got there, we were welcomed warmly by three exuberant French ladies, that had done everything in their power to set up a cute and homely "entry" table for us all. We had such a great time, talking and munching that we actually almost lost track of time, but I also got to find out some things about my co-members and their plans for the future, their aspirations and other little details, so it was worth it.

On our way to the second house, we were already much more open with one another, and the wine had started making our mood even greater. To our surprise, the hosts of the main course had a bit too much to drink with their respective first group, so they were extra happy and welcoming. They even set up a beer-pong table for us to play and we all sat around a low table and had some pasta, the conversation being chaotic and loud, as we were an even bigger bunch now. It was really cool, and they seemed to genuinely enjoy our company as well, so we had fun!

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On our way to the third house!

Finally, at the third flat we had to go to, numerous running dinner groups were gathered, so it was nice to meet even more people! Unfortunately, because of our laid-back run until that point, we didn't get any desert, but after so much food and wine, we were all happy and fuzzy. It was actually really funny, and I still remember everyone being excessively open and friendly with each other! It was a really beautiful experience and I feel like it will stick with me as one of the most special student experiences I had. Plus, the friends I made that night are absolutely awesome people who made me feel like a part of the international puzzle of Rouen, so if you guys are reading this, thank you and I wish you all the best!

The ESN of Rouen

Though not too big of an organisation, the guys and gals involved with ESN tried their best to organise a bunch of stuff, such as culture cafés, picnics by the riverside ( later in the spring, as Normandy is infamous for its constant rainy days) and small excursions around our picturesque little city. One of them was a daily trip to a true normand farm, which I believe will be memorable to all the participants and which I'll describe another time, so as to elaborate more. For one thing, it was great to be involved with them as well, as I got to make more friends through their platform and their fun activities, so I wish them the best of luck and for things to keep going well!

The language University groups

One of the factors that brought me close to the Erasmus community of my university department was actually... the French language course. Which by the way, I tried to omit in the beginning of my studies, having a reassuring level of French obtained already. Thankfully, I was obliged to actually take French classes and so were the rest of the foreign students, which gave us the opportunity to meet each other! You see, in our case, there was no welcome day or group orientation at the Uni, and everyone had different classes and cycles to attend to, so there was no way to meet, realistically speaking. Plus, we were a total of nine people in all five years of studies, while in schools such as NEOMA, almost half of the students actually came from another country! So... no real comparison there.

Our small class, through various activities (such as presenting various favourite spots of our city in a group walk and other stuff) managed to bond in only three months of classes, and we all came to have fun with each other, as if we were back in highschool, which was a really juvenille and refreshing feeling.

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A classmate presenting the church of Saint-Maclou in French

And so, after all the time we spent together, I can say with certainty, I'm glad I got those classes! If you have the option to take language courses, don't try to avoid them, it's actually another good start to make bonds!

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A mix of Vietnam, Russia, Mexico and Greece

Of course, one experience brings another and then another and so on, but I figured I'd share with you my starting points, as it might be of help in your future Erasmus experience here (or anywhere really).

All in all, there are many other places where you will be able to meet people, such as sports teams, cultural clubs or whatever you are into, and it will all happen naturally so again, don't be afraid, you'l only be a bit lonely at the beginning and that's all there is to it! Cheer up, show the others your best self, and you are bound to be surrounded by tons of interesting and crazy people. I mean, someone who is going out of their way to have this experience must be positively crazy, you know?

Anyhow, take it easy for now and see you soon!


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