We’re back this semestre with our column, the Overseas Series. Read about St Andrews’ students times working or studying abroad, as they embark on their time away or are just returning to the Bubble. First up, Josh Samuels…
I’d like to let you in on a little theory of mine…
… I think that Super Mario and I…
Yes, you read correctly.
I think I am related to Super Mario.
Not because I’m an overweight (at least, not anymore), Italian anti-hero, who, despite supposedly being a professional plumber, only seems to be able to make money by headbutting wooden blocks and chasing after beautiful women, who are so desperate to get away from me that they go to the extreme lengths of being locked up by whatever creature Bowser is supposed to be.
But in all seriousness, there are some real reasons why I think I might be related to Super Mario:
Firstly, we both have multiple lives. Mario’s come in the form of magic mushrooms (don’t do drugs, kids), whereas mine come from the fact that I have now established myself in three different places: my hometown of Solihull in England, my university town of St Andrews in Scotland, and my place of work, where I shall be spending the next seven months, namely Lyon in France. And I don’t mean to use the cliché (although I really can’t pass up the opportunity of using another top-drawer Mario analogy), but each part of my life has helped me to grow as a person.
For example, in Solihull, I have my parents, who, from birth, have always helped me to strive to not just be the best that I can be, but to be the best, full stop. They’ve shown me what it means to love and to be loved, and I think, above all else, that’s all any Super Mario wannabe can ask for. I would say that the two elements of “aiming to be the best” and “appreciating love” are what have defined my St Andrews experience so far. I am not exaggerating when I say that I really do have the greatest groups of friends – and if they’re missing me just a fraction of the amount that I’m missing them, they won’t be missing me very much at all (just kidding, love you and miss you all!). But, on an even more self-indulgent note, there is no doubt in my mind that being at St Andrews has only fuelled that desire in me to endeavour to exceed all expectations. As Super Mario never said, I know where World 8 is, it’s just a case of finding the right path to get there. I like to think of Solihull as my World 1, St Andrews as my World 2 and Lyon as my World 3.
Which brings me nicely onto my second reason: we both love exploring different worlds. For the last 21 years, I’ve lived in a small, rural village in the heart of England. For the last two years, I’ve gone to university in arguably the quaintest student hub in the world. So naturally, when given the option, I opted to spend my year abroad in France’s third-biggest city. At the time of writing, I’ve only been in Lyon for two weeks, but I’ve still managed to capture so much of the city’s intrigue already. Granted, it’s no Mushroom Kingdom. But even so, a single bus route can take you from hot to not in the space of about half an hour. I didn’t quite go to the extent of photographing the “not” zones, primarily out of respect for my phone’s camera, but for me this is what the year abroad experience is all about – discovering different parts of the world and exploring new cultures, good and bad. After all, I opted for Lyon for its grandeur, history and beauty. Okay, so the actual answer I gave in my interview was, “because I like football and Paris is too expensive,” but the other reasons are equally as applicable and have all managed to live up to the hype so far.
Thirdly, Mario has the most incredible of moustaches, whilst I’ve just made a start at growing a bit of facial hair. I’ll update you on the aesthetic similarities in the coming weeks.
I should probably take this opportunity to introduce myself. I’m Josh Samuels. You may know me as one half of FC Politics (voted STAR Radio’s third-best show of the last academic year – just saying). Others will know me as, “begins with J, rhymes with posh” in the Class of 2020 Languages group chat. And I’m pretty sure there’s a small faction of St Andreans that, for some completely unknown reason to me, have privately nicknamed me “Tracksuit Josh,” despite the fact that I am inexplicably repulsed by the sheer idea of a tracksuit. I am currently beginning Year 3 of 5 studying French, German and Spanish, which I am spending working as an English teacher-turned-babysitter (officially, an English Language Instructor) for a French company called Babylangues (spoken with a French pronunciation at all times, por favor) in Lyon, which is where I’ll be until the end of April. I work on a Tuesday and a Thursday with one family, and on a Wednesday with the other.
Allow me to give you a little insight into what the job entails.
In the nuttiest of nutshells, I babysit French children, but I am contractually obliged to only speak English with them. In fact, they aren’t even allowed to know that I speak French. Which makes the job about as easy as defending yourself from a blue shell in Mario Kart, when all you’ve got for defence is a fake item box (that’s the last Mario reference – I promise). I don’t think I can name the children for legal reasons (the most meta joke you’ll ever see), but to enable me to give you an example of the kind of conversations I have with the children, I’m going to call them Mario, Luigi and Peach (okay, I lied).
So, here’s the general gist of how a conversation with the first family goes (Peach is 10 years old and is beginning to learn English at school, whilst her brother, Mario, is four and doesn’t speak a word of English – how selfish!):
Josh: Hi, Mario. Did you have a good day at school?
Mario: Je veux jouer au foot dehors! (I want to play football outside!)
Josh: We can’t, Mario. We have to wait for Peach to finish doing her homework.
Mario: (crying) Je veux jouer au foot DEHORS!
Josh: (crying) But we have to wait for Peach to finish doing her homework!
Peach: Josh, est-ce que tu peux m’aider avec mes devoirs d’Anglais, s’il te plaît? (Josh, please can you help me with my English homework?)
Josh: Okay, first of all, I’m almost eleven years older than you, so it’s “vous”. Secondly, yes of course I will. Let me take a look. Ah, so you’ve been doing basic greetings and phr–
Mario: JE. VEUX. JOUER. AU. FOOT. DEHORS.
Josh: MAIS. NOUS. I mean…but we can’t until I’ve finished helping Peach!
Maybe I’ve made the job sound a lot more pressing than it actually is. On the whole, the children from both families are an absolute joy to spend time with, and every day that I spend with them makes me realise even more why I went for this job in the first place. I had three options for my year abroad: study, work for a German automobile company (which cannot be named for legal reasons) in a 9-5 office job for five days a week, or have fun. The best part is, it doesn’t even feel like I’m going to work. I am literally getting paid to have fun. Isn’t that just the perfect job? I could take Luigi out to the park and play football for two and a half hours and get paid 25€ for the privilege. On a side note, does that make me a professional footballer, if I’m getting paid to play it?
Speaking of the park, Lyon is renowned for its “Parc de la tête d’or,” situated right at the end of the aptly named “Rue de la tête d’or” in the 6th district. It is unrivalled in being the most beautiful park I have ever seen in my life. Walking a lap takes roughly an hour, and if you, as I always do, make your way round clockwise, you walk past a stunning botanical garden, a crystal-clear lake, and the most elegant array of trees, all within the first half an hour. You walk through the gates and it opens up into something that is only comparable with paradise.
Maybe World 8 isn’t so far away after all.
If anyone has any questions about a year abroad, or about my personal experience so far, please don’t hesitate to email me (jpas2) or send me a Facebook message!