Moving to a completely new place where you don’t know anybody is an exciting adventure, but definitely not an easy one.
My first few weeks in Laval weren’t great in terms of my work placement, but my social life wasn’t a worry at all. I had made friends with the other interns and we usually always had plans after work, even if it was just one drink at the pub or watching a new Netflix series together, and at the weekends we would usually go shopping and out.
Then all of a sudden the old interns left Laval to begin the second half of their respective years abroad, and soon after Alex left to spend a few weeks at home before her move to Paris (where she has found a new job) at the end of this month.
So things switched, as my new placement was (and still is) going really well, but I was struggling in my free time. Living in a studio flat is great because I love having my own [clean, tidy] space and the freedom to do exactly what I want when I want; not being constrained by other people’s schedules. But it can lack the familiarity of some friendly faces, and after everyone I knew upped sticks and left Laval it quickly became pretty lonely.
Don’t get me wrong, I know how to make friends – but here in this small French town it’s actually where to meet them that’s the problem. My work colleagues are lovely but all older than me, I don’t have any flatmates, and there isn’t much of a student scene.
If opportunity doesn’t come knocking, build a door… which is, quite literally, where I began. After hearing what I thought was some English chatter down the corridor, I stuck a note on the door and hoped whoever received it wouldn’t think I was completely crazy. A couple of hours later a German girl came to introduce herself and later that week a group of us went for dinner to celebrate her birthday.
I also went to the Maison de l’Europe, an association that promotes integration and is linked with the European Voluntary Service, where I was given the contact details of another English girl. Mya reassured me that meeting people in Laval is difficult, as we joked about the lengths that I had gone to, and also introduced me to some of her friends.
Living in a place where you have to actively look for friends is really strange (seriously, sometimes this town feels so much like Sandford that I expect to see Simon Pegg around the next corner), but my search absolutely paid off and has led me to meeting some great people from all over Europe – Finland, Lithuania, Germany, and Spain (not to mention France and England).