Monday, 9 July 2012

SO IT'S THE END.......

A view over the Ticino river - Ponte Coperto and the Duomo in the far right

So here I am a week after leaving Pavia writing my last ever blog of my Erasmus year! I can now say that I am officially no longer an Erasmus student! This is sad in one way, but time goes on, and I have had an incredible year to be thankful for. I guess I'm now in a kind of limbo between Erasmus and Final year, but with three whole months of freedom in front of me. Two of which are continued in Italy where I have already started my au pairing job! (More on this to come). During my last few days in Pavia I went on a bit of a photo-taking mission, and below are some of my favourites of this incredible city.

The Duomo - Piazza Duomo
Ponte Coperto
Ponte Coperto and the Duomo through a fence!
View from the Ponte Coperto
Sunset over the Ticino
Piazza della Vittoria!
The University of Pavia
The University
On Tuesday the 26th of June I had my exam for the film translation class. I went along at 9.30am which was the advertised time; however I didn’t actually get to do my exam until 12.30! This was because the room was full of Italian students and Erasmus students go last! I just can’t believe that everyone has to go along at the same time and then they have to wait in a boiling hot room for hours until their turn! What a stupid system. My exam went very well though (when I finally got to speak to the teacher), and she said she liked my essay a lot and gave me 30/30 e lode! This is the maximum you can get here! I can’t believe how freely they give high grades- or maybe this was because I am Erasmus. I didn't end up visiting the 'Cinque Terre' after all last week, and I'm beginning to think that now I'll never get to go as I've had three attempts at planned trips during my time in Pavia and none of them have worked out! However, there is time in the future and I might end up going with Barbara and Mattia during the summer! Instead I had a lovely day visiting Bergamo for a second time, but with Flo this time. We had a nice afternoon relaxing in the sun, drinking beers, watching the sun go down and we enjoyed a meal on the piazza. Check out some of the best photos from the day below. I just love the sunset ones! 

Beautiful sunset
Sunset over Bergamo
The centre of Bergamo- Citta Alta
The restaurant where we had our meal
Flo's lasagna
Roasted aubergines, tomatoes and mozzarella! = YUM
The goats cheese salad we shared
Our lovely chilled Italian beers!

On Saturday evening I went for some cocktails with Malene on the piazza and we had a nice time catching up and chatting away! I took a few lovely pics- the one of the cocktails outside on the piazza is one of my favourite photos from all of my time in Pavia! 

Cocktails on the piazza at Rebound!
Cocktails inside Rebound!
Malene and Me!

Sunday I had a really lovely time out of the flat with Elena my flatmate for the first time. We went to one of her friend’s houses to watch the final of the European Football Championship where Italy were playing against Spain. It was great to meet some of her friends and we all ate pizza and drank beers and coke whilst watching the match. Unfortunately Italy didn’t win, and this meant I was surrounded with a bunch of depressed Italians! Check out some of the photos below- including one of the fantastic view from her friend’s flat. I love how the Duomo of Pavia is standing tall above the rooftops. It really is a beautiful view which I am so glad I had the chance to see.

A beautiful view over the rooftops of Pavia
Me with Elena and her friends
Elena and Me!
Monday was quite a sad day for me as it was my last day in Pavia. I found myself thinking things like 'this is my last ever shower here' and 'I'll not see the piazza for a long time' and other sad things! Although it was my last day, I still had a number of things to accomplish! First of all do you remember from my last blog that I had a problem with my Spanish teacher when she went off to Barcelona on holiday and didn't turn up for my exam on the 26th of June? Well she finally replied to my email on Sunday 1st of July in the evening AFTER I had already changed my train ticket to go down to start au pairing a day later than agreed (Very convenient). Anyway she said that I could just pop over to her house to get the grades for my two essays on Sunday evening (as you do!) however I said that I would be around on Monday 2nd of July during the daytime, so I could just go over at 9.30am to have her sign my libretto. So anyway, I went over on Monday morning to the classroom and it was pretty much the same set up as the first exam I did for the film translation class. There were hundreds of students in a small room, and then just the teacher sweating buckets (as it was really humid in Pavia) at the front of the room. I entered and perched on a pew close to the front and was hoping that she would see me quickly and just call me over, however she started the exams for everyone which as mentioned before is done on the order you registered in, so you can be waiting as I did for the film translation exam for hours before it's your turn! Anyway she started the exam session with a girl at the front of the room, and I have to say that I am so surprised at how the exams here function! How on earth could she be conducting oral exams at the front of a room where 100 other people were talking loudly among themselves? I heard her say 'shhhhh' at least 5 times in just a few minutes as she was struggling to hear the poor girl who was doing her exam! Why on earth don't they just have everyone wait outside the room, and call in the students one by one? Or even better give each student a time for their individual exam like we do in England, and in Denmark too my friend Malene mentioned. I was becoming increasingly agitated sat there in this boiling hot room waiting, and then when that girl got up, I dashed over and apologised to her and said could she please sign my transcript and award me the grades for the two modules of which I had completed the essays for as I had a train to catch. I was expecting her to just say yes to hurry up and get rid of me, however she said 'hablamos un poco no?' (Let's chat for a bit okay?) and at that moment my heart fell as I wasn't expecting to do the exam part- I just wanted to get my grades written on the libretto and be done with the academic side of Erasmus! Anyway I couldn't exactly say no, so there I was sat in a room full of 100 people doing an oral exam in Spanish when I hadn't been to any of the lectures or done any of the reading list! (This is because I had previously agreed with her in February that I would write her two essays instead of reading the super long list of books for her modules). The exam was ridiculous as I pretty much steered the conversation to what I wanted (could) talk about. She started asking me about the civil war or something and I knew instantly that I wouldn't be able to answer the question and I would look bad, so I asked her if she liked my essays instead. I then started talking about the Colombian film 'Maria llena eres de Gracia' (Maria full of Grace) of which I did a film analysis for the 'Lingua Spagnola 3' module. She then started telling me how much she loved the film and asked me to describe the principal characters which was simple as I swear to God I know that film back to front now! And then she asked me what I most enjoyed learning about for her Spanish Civilisation module and seeing as I hadn't been to the classes or even glanced at the reading list, I had no idea what to say! So after enough silence which was acceptable had passed, I told her I loved researching about the torture instruments for my Spanish inquisition essay and then told her that last year I went to Toledo near Madrid in Spain and visited an instruments of torture Spanish inquisition exposition. She was impressed and then banged on for a while about when she was there! (I was thinking yes yes yes just keep talking haha- stupid woman was meant to be examining ME, not the other way around!) then she asked me if I've been to Barcelona (which is where she is from) and when I said yes, she asked me what things I saw and whether I liked the city! How this was part of a Spanish Civilisation or Spanish Language 3 module I don't know! Anyway it was enough to get me some phenomenal grades! She said that she couldn't really give me high marks seeing as I literally have done none of the correct work for her modules and then I was expecting her to give me 18/30 which is a pass and I would have been content with that, however she then wrote 26/30 and 25/30 on my libretto! I thought WHAT? Is she crazy? Anyway I knew better than to argue that my grade was undeserved so thanked her and got out of there as fast as I could before she could change her mind and realise she just gave me the equivalent of more than a UK first for doing practically nothing! I felt such relief though after as my Erasmus year abroad academically was over and I haven't just 'passed it' - I have actually done really well which was totally unexpected! In total for Italy I have passed 21 credits with 26/30 25/30 and 30/30 when we only need 15 credits at 18/30! To get a UK 1st, we need an average of 21/30 in 15 credits so I have passed that by far! Also in Spain! So wow, I have achieved my very first UK first for my 3rd year at Uni! Now I just need to continue for final year, however I have a feeling that a tad more work might be needed at Leicester to do well!

The Piazza Vittoria at night
After those final two exams with Garcia, I then went to the Centro Linguistico (Linguistic Center) to collect my certificate for the Italian language course followed by a visit to the Erasmus office to get an official transcript of my grades and sign a departure form! I can't describe the flood of happiness and relief which came when having everything official and ready to take back to Leicester! C'e l'ho fatta! (I did it!) one might say in Italian!

My gigantic salad and Barbara's proscuitto and melone!
The afternoon on Monday was then followed by a lovely last lunch in Pane e Salame with Barbara where she had a prosciutto and melon dish and I had a gigantic Greek salad! Luckily it won't be the last time I see Barbara as we're going to meet during the summer in Liguria for a weekend! I then went to meet Vicky down by the river for an 'ultimo gelato a Pavia' - last ice cream in Pavia followed by a whole load of packing and cleaning my room. I couldn't believe how much luggage I had managed to accumulate, and it wouldn't all fit into my 2 cases so I had to use a Carrefour bag too! I have no idea how I am going to manage to take everything home in August. I have a feeling that I'll be buying an extra case and putting 2 cases in the hold! After a goodbye with Elena, Malene then came over to help me take everything over to the train station and for a last goodbye! (although it wasn't really the last goodbye as I'm going to be seeing her over the summer, plus the other day I booked a set of easy jet flights and I'm going to visit her in Copenhagen in September!)

All of my luggage! (too much for one person!)
If you have been following my blog, you'll know that my summer didn't stop at the end of my Erasmus and that there are still 2 more months of my 'extra Erasmus period' or so I like to call it! I am still in Italy, and currently in Emilia Romagna on the coast living in a town called Milano Marittima with an Italian family. I am au pairing again this summer and I have the most gorgeous little 4yr old Italian girl called Rebecca to look after. I've been here one week now, and it’s going fantastically! My Italian is improving so much from being surrounded by the language and even little Rebecca teaches me new vocabulary! I couldn't have a better summer lined up- nor one which could benefit me more for final year. The family are so welcoming and I love that I’m treated like a big sister for Rebecca. Our days so far have been comprised of visits to the beach where we make sand castles, trips to the pool and a trip to a Nature Park! I have included here a few of my favourite photos from my first week.

An Italian girl, a Spanish girl and an English girl!
Rebecca and Me!
The Holiday Village pool!
The beach! (Can you see my toes?) :)
Rebecca feeding a goat in the Natural Park
A real-life Bambi in the Natural Park of Cervia
Rebecca and a goat!
Playing with water-balloons in the garden!
The canal at Cervia
A beautiful sunset over Milano Marittima
Rebecca jumping in the pool!
Rebecca and Me feeding some donkeys
 Now it is time for the sad point where I am going to end this blog as it's the moment I left Pavia and my Erasmus period finished. From the 6th of September to the 2nd of July I had the best 10 months/42 weeks/294 days of my life. I don't know how to sum up this time apart from incredible, inspiring and unforgettable. I have had the opportunity to not just visit, but live and study in two incredible locations, visit a large number of beautiful European cities, meet some truly wonderful people and improve my language abilities. On a personal level I have grown up, become more responsible, open minded and challenged myself in a number of different occasions. I'm leaving this year with so many memories which will never be forgotten, nor will the people. I can now say I have made friends from all over Europe and have opportunities to visit these people who will be my life-long friends in Spain, Belgium, Italy, France, Denmark and Germany to name a few! 

One last point before I finish as I need to say thank you to some people. I love that my blog is helping other people around the world who are preparing for a period of time in Salamanca or Pavia and a girl even got in contact with me from Turkey the other day! (Hiii to you especially as you'll probably be reading this last post!) and also 2nd year students from Leicester who are preparing for their Year Abroad in September as well as students from other Universities in England who have been in contact.  Thank you to you all for reading, thank you to my friends and family, and lastly a big thank you to my Dad- Mike Clements, who is an avid follower (and also a wonderful proof-reader I might add!)

So that's it, now I know why they call the Erasmus year the best year of your life.

Adios/Arrivederci !!!

Monday, 25 June 2012


Easy Jet!
The Rhône Express

I am back in Pavia again now after what has been a lovely trip to Lyon in France to see Laurie. My trip out there on Wednesday was very quick and I was so pleased to find out that Easy Jet don't weigh hand luggage! So for once in my life I wasn't shaking with fear as I passed through the gate. (I hate Ryanair! - they REALLY need to adopt this policy!). It seemed that no sooner had I got on the plane, we were getting off again, and when I checked my watch the journey was only 45 minutes long which has to be the shortest flight that I've ever been on I think. 
 A quick hop on the Rhône Express which connects the airport with the centre of Lyon, and I was then in the centre at the Part Dieu train station where I had been given instructions by Laurie to catch a train to 'Bourg-en-Bresse' which had one change. This was fine, and I ended up getting on the correct train apart from the fact that it left late from Part Dieu which resulted in me missing my connecting train so I was stuck in a station called 'Amberieu en Bugey' for a while whilst I had to ask when the next train to Bourg-en-Bresse was. Luckily I didn't have to wait long, and I enjoyed the sunshine for a while whilst I waited for the train to arrive.
Soon enough I had arrived and Laurie and her parents were there to meet me on the platform. It was so lovely to see her again, and after a session of kisses and hugs with her and her parents, they drove us to a cute pizzeria where we met up with Laurie's sister and her partner and their 9 month old little baby girl Khlèo. We all sat and chatted in the sunshine (All of them in French of course, however Laurie and I were speaking in Spanish!) and munched away at our pizzas! At first it was quite difficult for me to adjust to speaking in Spanish again and I kept saying sentences but with Italian words mixed in! Luckily Laurie helped me to get back into it, and I think she even learned some Italian at the same time! The trouble is that now I have my head entirely in Spanish and I can't think in Italian! Argh why does it have to be one language or the other? Anyone know how I can keep both languages in my head at the same time?

The pool
Laurie by the pool
The lake

On Thursday morning we headed over to the pool where Laurie works during the summer near her house. It's part of a camping site called Mépillat’ which also has a lovely lake where people can go fishing. The pool was pretty big, clean, and the weather was lovely; however there weren't many customers at all. I think all day only 1 person came to the pool, and then around late afternoon 5 more or so turned up for a swim. Laurie said that yesterday though they had 80 customers- the numbers will increase as we enter the summer months!
 In the evening after her shift had finished, we headed back to her place for a meal with her parents, sister and Khlèo, and then just ended up chatting away the evening. On Friday we went back to the pool for another of her shifts from 12-4 and then her Dad came to pick us up and take us to the train station in Bourg-en-Bresse where we jumped on a train going to Lyon Center. It took about an hour, and then we went straight to Morgan's flat to drop off the suitcase and wait for his friend to arrive before we all went for a wander around the new shopping mall (La Confluence) near his flat. For dinner we just opted for a Mc Donald's meal as it was pretty easy for me then seeing as I'm a veggie. I had a goat's cheese wrap meal which was lovely- it doesn't exist in Spain, Italy or England so I had to enjoy it whilst I had the chance, and we all sat outside overlooking the canal. We then all headed back to the flat to get ready for the evening where we saw that the sky was turning the most lovely shade of pink. Morgan started producing the most delicious mojitos ever, and soon enough Laurie and I were singing along to Rihanna's songs, having a karaoke session. Shots then followed the mojitos, which was then followed by more champagne which resulted in a very tipsy group of people. We all then were driven by one of the guys who hadn't been drinking to the club where we all had a great time dancing during the night.

The reservoir area near Morgan's flat
The new shopping center near Morgan's flat- Mall Confluence
The pink sky from Morgan's apartment
Morgan making the cocktails
Laurie and Me in the flat with our mojitos
Laurie enjoying her karaoke session!
SHOTS! (lethal I swear)
Champagne on Morgan's balcony!
Laurie, Morgan and Me
The group
Morgan and Me
Laurie and Me dancing
slightly more than tipsy at this point .........
Morgan and Laurie
A pic which was taken by one of the photographers in the club
Saturday morning we all woke up a bit hungover and Laurie and I had a walk around in the sunshine to try and feel more alive: it gradually worked, and then around midday we went to a wonderful park which is just on the outskirts of Lyon. It is called 'Parc Miribel' and is a large exceptionally beautiful nature reserve of 2200 hectares which has been shaped by the river. It is a popular area for outdoor sports such as hiking, boating, horse riding, cycling, camping and the main feature is a 350 hectare lake surrounded by a pebble beach. It was packed with people and also there were lots of people sunbathing and chilling out on the surrounding hilly grassy areas. It was really a stunning area and we had a lovely afternoon just sitting around, swimming in the lake and chatting. In the evening after a quick rest, we went for a wander in the centre of Lyon and to a pub to watch the Spain-France football match. It was very crowded in there though, so we left and went for a walk in the centre.

View towards the lake
Along the beach front
Laurie by the lake
The boys in the water playing ball
Laurie and Me in the water
Me and Laurie
A modified shot of the beach & lake
Us two! :)
A shot along the beach
That's pretty much all from my short trip over in France. We didn't get around to sight-seeing in Lyon, however I am not too bothered as I have seen everything before in November when I went to visit Lizi and Sarah there. It was nice this time just to see Laurie and enjoy chilling out.  I loved the lake most of all I think- it was just a very beautiful area. My return yesterday was a very quick plane trip as well, and I especially enjoyed looking out of the window where I had the most amazing views as we flew over the Graian Alps in the east of France which boarder with Italy and Switzerland. It's amazing what you can see when so high in the sky! 

The Alps out of the window of the plane
Well here I am just about to start my last week of Erasmus. A calm week was planned today to do some last minute revision, 2 short oral exams in Spanish tomorrow, as well as the one for my film translation class, followed by one last exam on Wednesday for my Italian Acquisition class. Wednesday afternoon Flo is arriving and then on Thursday we're off to the 'Cinque Terre' villages until Friday. I have Saturday to spend with my friends in Pavia, and then on Sunday I am due to go to Milano Marittima to start my au pairing for the summer. There has however been a major problem which has just occurred and is pretty much another of those 'SOOOO ERASMUS' situations which I mentioned in my last blog entry. I had a reply email from my spanish teacher saying that my essays were good, and then adding that she won't be in Italy next week. This sounds fine, however alarm bells started ringing in my head as I know that I'm meant to have 2 Spanish exams with her tomorrow. I just thought to myself 'Whaaaaaaat!' when I read that email on Sunday and then quickly whizzed over for a look at the University homepage to double check the exam timetable. I was expecting to see that the dates for the 2 Spanish exams were still the 26th of June, however unsurprisingly, they had indeed changed- and the 26th of June exam day (tomorrow) has been cancelled and replaced with the 2nd of July. I had no idea that an exam timetable could change once it had been set (Well it doesn't in England anyway!) and even if it did, I would at least expect an email from someone letting me know! My whole month has been planned around those exams which have been due to take place on the 26th June since the exam timetable was first released as at first there were 3 dates to do exams- early June, late June and then early July. I decided that It was too late to do the exams in early June, and July was out of the window as I leave for au pairing on the 1st of July- so this is why I purposely picked the exam days at the end of June. This is however now a major problem as I need to leave for au pairing on the 1st of July (Tickets all booked and this has been arranged for over a month) as the family don't have anyone to look after Rebecca if I arrive any days later, and also I really don't want to mess them about. I have emailed my Spanish teacher explaining the situation, and I'm just hoping to God she can see that it's really not my fault that I didn't know the dates had changed and that hopefully she can see me for 10 minutes in her office somewhen to quickly do the exams on a day privately as otherwise I risk failing my Italian part of Erasmus which would result in an overall fail for the year. This is highly unfair considering I have done essays for this teacher for these 2 modules, and she's the one who had changed the exam dates just because she is 'going on holiday'. Why on earth is an exam date allowed to be altered, and also why weren't Erasmus students (ie: me) notified of the change? The organisation is just a disaster.   

Okay that's all from me for this entry; we'll have to see what happens in relation to those two exams- but fingers crossed.

Dear Erasmus, I will really miss you, but I really won't miss attending these foreign universities!

A lovely quote which caught my eye at the airport in Lyon and I was quite pleased as I ACTUALLY UNDERSTOOD IT!!! It really is true what it says... ''Travelling is a passion, as much as ambition or love''