I’m starting this blog while sitting in Edinburgh airport, waiting for my flight to Bordeaux where I will catch another flight to Basel. Then its a bus and train to Mulhouse and finally a lift from my landlord to my appartment! It’s a long day of travelling to come at the end of a summer of somewhat lengthy and somewhat rapid preparations for the big move.
In the immediate aftermath of accepting the position of lectrice in Mulhouse, there wasn’t really much to be done. It was only the end of March so not only were there still five months until I was needed in France, I had much more pressing matters to deal with – final year exams. After making intial contact with the head of the English department at the Université de Haute-Alsace (UHA) in Mulhouse, I pushed all other thoughts to the back of my mind, at least for the moment.
Once exams and pretty much everything else uni related were out of the way, there was still quite a lot of waiting around to do. I had decided almost immediately after applying that a visa was a hassle that I wanted nothing to do with. It was time to embrace my Irish roots in the most post-Brexit way possible – applying for an Irish passport. Even though the actual application was all done online and was super easy, there were a lot of delays due to covid. I wasn’t able to send of my supporting documents until June even though I applied in April. With an expected turnaround time of 6-8 weeks, it was pretty tight to even get it back in time for my expected departure at the end of August or start of September. I didn’t want to book flights or sort any accomodation until I had the passport in hand.
While I waited, I enjoyed my last few months in Edinburgh and also a couple of months at home. I was put in touch with the previous lectrice, Annabelle, who also got the job through Edinburgh University and was able to video chat her and ask lots of questions. I wasn’t really worried about the job itself, feeling like it was a challenge I could take in my stride but I was still keen to get more information about the set up so I knew what to expect. I also wanted to know what Mulhouse is like! Around the same time, I joined the end of year meeting with the English department at UHA which was very encouraging. It was great to meet everyone, even through a zoom call, and everyone was really welcoming. I got a bit more information on what the position requires but mostly it was nice to get a feeling for the people I’ll be working with next year, and a good feeling at that!
I also cast a net out on Facebook mostly, looking for other people that might be heading to that part of France that I could connect with. Annabelle had recommended some FB groups for teaching assistants which have proved very helpful. Through that group, which covers all of France, I found a Whatsapp group for the area around Strasbourg, which includes Mulhouse. I even met up with one of the girls who is from Glasgow and doing British Council in Strasbourg!
My Irish passport finally arrived in the middle of August and it was all systems go! I booked my flight to Mulhouse, flying via Bordeaux, and also an AirBnB for the first week I arrived so that I had somewhere to stay while finding more permanent accommodation. When I started reaching out to flat shares last week, I had some very speedy responses and actually resulted inme finding a really nice room in a shared appartment! I also had my second vaccine dose pretty much the first day I could. In Scotland, you had to wait at least 8 weeks between your two doses, regardless of the make, which was cutting it fine for being two weeks in the clear before arriving in France. There was a little bit of tension around making sure that my proof of vaccination arrived in time but it all worked out in the end. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
This whole summer was a bit of a weird time. The excitement slowly started to build after exams were over and preparations for France were in full swing. At the same time, the excitement was accompanied and tampered by the stress that came with it. Trying to travel in the covid era is a whole different thing. I can’t count the number of times that I double checked and triple checked the entry requirements, that I had valid proof of vaccination and a million other things. With everything hinging on my Irish passport arriving on time, there were times when the stress overtook the excitement. There was nothing to do but wait and there’s nothing I hate more than things being out of my control.
I started writing this blog three days ago while sitting in Costa in Edinburgh airport and now I’m sat at my kitchen table in my new appartment in Mulhouse. As you can probably tell, everything worked out perfectly in the end, seeing as I’m here. It was a long but fairly easy day of travle and it’s been a busy few days since I arrived but more to come on that later.