There are times when we must veer off the road we are most familiar with, to journey on one which will bring us closer to our dreams; and I did just that. Je m’appelle Bénédicta et je suis ghanéenne. February was when it all began when I decided to actively pursue my dream of studying in France not because KNUST did not offer a good education but to know the French way of agriculture and have an international experience in Lille, a city known for its historical center and diverse student populace.
As was required for admission, I showed up for the interview and put my best foot forward. I had to leave a good impression on the panelist if I would be considered for funding by Erasmus. The last thing I wanted was for this opportunity to pass me by. After the interview, I applied to JUNIA (Grande école d’ingénieurs) and then went on a hunt to find ways of getting a scholarship and securing accommodation aside from Erasmus. As a matter of fact, the hunt was all but a merry ride - I had to navigate the way all by myself as there was no one with enough time on their hand to offer the help I needed. My search did well to spend my Easter break, as the break lurked closely behind the interview. During my search, I realized that finding accommodation when you are not here in person was not a walk in the park, let alone student accommodation, so I had to halt that to focus on landing scholarship funding. I still had Erasmus at the back of my head though, who would not jump to the ceiling if they were selected? During my search, I came by livinfrance , a group in collaboration with my school. They organized lots of meetings and allowed sessions for questions and answers which was very helpful.
The moment of truth finally came, hearts skipping beats here and there - Erasmus had shortlisted its applicants. My widely lit eyes were snuffed out when I saw I was not in the number. As if that was not enough, other scholarship portals I could have taken solace in had already been closed as when the doors of Erasmus had been shut in my face. I searched eagerly for other scholarship opportunities but found none. For a time, disappointment and despair were my companions, my hopes of funding being shattered. I had to put myself together and face the situation the hard way; offering prayer and bracing myself for whatever would unfold.
As I combed through travel documents, I realized I would need to have an equivalent of seven thousand euros sitting in my account if I would want to travel without a scholarship or proof of scholarship funding. I was left with the headache of how to secure such an amount within the shortest possible time - it was worth a fortune in my local currency, about seventy thousand Ghanaian cedis. After much conjuring and running pole to pole, my family and I managed to secure an amount close to the stipulated. This was my green light to go ahead with all my documentation - I went straight on without any hesitations and kept my fingers crossed in wait for my acceptance.
For a while, I had not received any acceptance alert from the School I had applied to. Some of my colleagues on the other hand had received theirs during the easter break and had already had their piece of excitement. My mind began to wander in thoughts - as though the tension I was already under was not enough. Anxiety did its best to taunt me. Growing impatient, I went ahead to contact the school’s international office and was directed to follow a protocol. Call it a miracle - I received my acceptance alert the following day! You could only imagine my reaction; excitement was only an understatement! All that remained now was to psyche myself up and prepare for my new academic experience.
The academic year had already begun a month ago at JUNIA, but my colleagues and I had to wait to complete our third year before attending the next academic year. Making this new chapter of my life a reality was not a walk in the park. As though the disappointments and the hustle and bustle of procuring the money were not enough, securing accommodation and booking a flight were other giants I had to slay. Thanks to Livinfrance, I was able to secure a housing attestation- one giant slain! Prices of the flights were always on the increase each time I would go to book one, and those with decent prices would already be booked. I had to keep searching till I found one that could fit into my pocket. It was such a relief. I then forwarded the link to the friend I would be traveling with. I was the aid she would need at that time due to a health challenge she has. After arrangements were made with her mother, we booked the flight, after all, if two walk together they can go far.
All was set and we got to the airport, Kotoka International Airport. I could feel the euphoria of a new beginning already. My friend and I requested to sit together and it was granted to us. We then proceeded forward for our bags to be weighed. I was not willing to part with even a single pin; I had a planned use for every single item in my luggage. My fears would soon materialize when I read from the scale that my luggage weighed way over the recommended weight for the airways. I guess Qatar airways was not strong enough to bear the weight of my happiness. In full-blown reluctance, I took out some of my belongings and gave them to my parents to be sent back home, trust me, each item I took out felt like flesh being ripped off my body - very painful. Hard as it was, my friend and I went past the checkpoint and marched toward the airline - our coach to the haven awaited us in all its splendor. We were greeted with bright faces by the flight attendants - tell me angels welcomed us to heaven. The flight was a peaceful one, and the people we sat beside could not be friendlier; unlike what I would experience on our second flight.
We transited to Paris from Doha. As a rite of passage, we had to book in, only to be stopped midway by the officials when they realized my friend had an eye problem. We were detained and asked to wait for a medical check to be done on my friend to ascertain if she was safe to travel. Our heads spun, we thought we would miss our flight, which was to take off in less than minutes. Our anxiety was calmed when we were assured by the officials that the flight would not leave us behind. To my best of remembrance, no medical team arrived, and no check was done on my friend. After what felt like forever, we were allowed to proceed to the flight. It was rather unfortunate we did not get to sit close to each other. Unlike our first flight, the passengers I got to sit by were hostile. As though I did not deserve politeness, I was harshly ejected from the seat I sat on by the way the two passengers next to me looked at me, simply because it was the wrong one, the kind flight attendant showed me to the right seat. Leaving that seat, I could tell from their demeanor it was what they wanted, the weird look I received when I got there never welcomed me at the very beginning.
After a rough ride, we arrived in Paris in the afternoon, having spent about thirteen hours soaring in midair. Stepping out of the plane I could feel the breeze of a new chapter welcome me, as the soft wind blew over my skin. Unsure of where to go next, a senior colleague who came there for us took us to the “gare” (Charles De Gaulle [CDG]) just beside the CDG airport in Paris to pick up our tickets, since we booked a total journey. He did all the French-speaking for us while at the “gare.” Unfortunately, he could not cross over to the restricted area, so my friend and I had to do the workings there by ourselves, with me directing her due to her health challenge.
After dealing with the “gare” we headed for the train. That was another unpleasant experience. Despite there being enough empty seats to accommodate my friend and I, no one wanted us to sit by them, for reasons unknown. "Non! non!!" one woman shouted at my friend, hitting the chair violently - It could only mean one thing. We turned our backs in hurt and went to find a sitting place by the entrance of the train, there we spent the next hour till the train got to its destination.
It was joyous seeing our seniors at the Lille train station, ready to welcome us. The warmth and excitement were enough to soothe the bruises from the journey. Our seniors were willing to host us for a while as we settled into the unfamiliar environment. That was the beginning of a blissful stay.
Thank you, writer and poet, w_a_smith00 (Instagram) for your help in making this article a better piece, much thanks to you too, reader, and I hope to share more information and tips about my stay in Lille! Feel free to like and share my article if you liked it☺☺️☺️!
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