By Harsh Tomar
Frantically applying for internships to keep myself well occupied, learn some useful skills and also earn some money, it was already nearing the end of Spring ‘17 semester. While applying, my goal was to look for a good experience irrespective of where my internship requires me to be. On the morning of 4th May, I got lucky and received a mail from ESI Group, headquartered in Paris, telling me they would love to have me in their Lyon office as soon as possible. Lyon. France. The gastronomical capital city of the most gastronomically acclaimed country. My decision was a no brainer!
The tedious paperwork and Visa application (can’t thank Allison Noffsinger in the OIE enough for helping me throughout) meant that it wasn’t until almost halfway into the Summer term that I was actually able to get to France. They had offered me a 6-month internship, which meant I would be working until mid-December. The only French I knew before getting the offer was ‘Bonjour’, ‘Bon appetit’, and ‘Oui’. So I downloaded Duolingo on my cellphone and started learning as much as I could. Three months into the internship, and I still can’t really converse in French! The truth is, you don’t need to know French to survive in France, but you do need to know it to live life here to your fullest. Most people here are uncomfortable talking in English, but even then, try their level best to talk to you and be inclusive. While praising about such instances to my French friends, I have many a time been told by their sorry looking faces “…but French people are known to be very rude…” Hearing this coming from them breaks my heart. In the three months here, I have said ‘Merci, bonne journée!’ (Thank you! Have a nice day) more times than I have said in my entire life! If you thought Southern hospitality was sweet, you might die of diabetes after coming here!
I’ll share the 10 best/unique things about being in France as an intern:
1) The food. I can go on, and on, and on talking about how amazing the food here is. From the best Michelin star restaurants (really expensive; can’t afford) to cheaper local and really Lyonnais cuisine (some, even 100 years old), you’ll run out of days before you run out of restaurants to eat at over here.
2) Public transport. Lyon has very convenient trams, buses, metros, and trams-that-look-like-buses-I-don’t-know-what-they-are. Travelling from one part of the city is very easy and fast!
3) Farmers markets. Just on the outskirts of the city, farmers grow their produce and open small markets in many places across Lyon. This happens every alternate day so you can easily get fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the farmers!
One of the many Farmers Markets in Lyon
4) The working hours. The minimum working hours in France in 35hrs/week. This gives everybody a lot of time to pursue their hobbies and also spend time with their families. I loved going to the basketball court to keep my fitness in check.
5) Food. Yes. Again. Another amazing thing about French food is that the underlying ingredients the French use aren’t any different from what you would usually find in every country. It’s just the way they cook it.
6) Exploring the city. Lyon is a very scenic city. Two rivers, Rhŏne and Saŏne meet at the heart of the city at a place called The Confluence. Spending evenings by the riverside is a very beautiful experience. There are some really large boats as well permanently lined up at the riverside which have some really great restaurants and pubs.
7) Explore the history. Lyon has a very rich cultural and religious history that you can see from its museums and holy places of worship respectively. The most famous attraction of Lyon, Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, is one of the most beautiful structures I have ever seen.
Notre-Dame de Fourvière
8) Baguette and Cheese. The French love their cheese and baguette. They usually eat this combination between the main course and the dessert. There is a ‘Boulangerie’ (Bakery) on every street and an isle full of different cheeses at every grocery shop. They’re really amazing!
9) Travel abroad to other great cities! Traveling isn’t very expensive within Europe. From Lyon, Paris and Geneva are less than two hours by train. Other amazing cities like Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Munich etc. can be visited by a cheap ‘EasyJet’ Airline!
10) I looove the French. I find French people some of the most approachable, friendly and beautiful people on the planet. I have never come across any person in Lyon who has been remotely rude towards me. Just as an example, there are many restaurants that have large tables so that random strangers can have a meal together and get to know each other!
All in all, these have been some of the best months of my life!