Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Year Abroad: Debrief Part 1 - Toulouse, France.

TA and I in Toulouse.
Today, I finished my exams here in Alcalá, meaning I'm officially done with university until this coming September (yay!) so I figured it was time for me to start what I am coining my year abroad debrief. I've decided to do this is three parts - Toulouse, Alcalá and then finish with my post-year abroad appointment I have in July, where I'll compare what the numbers and 'a1c's say.

I only started writing when I got to Alcalá, but there's a whole other four months or so of living abroad that is just unaccounted for on the blog, which is now going to come to light, albeit briefly. Surviving year abroad is my biggest diabetes accomplishment to date: after two years of being surrounded by constant support, I left England in September 2012 to move to France and study at the Université de Toulouse II (Le Mirail) and it was the most amazing experience!  I was lucky enough to be studying in France with a good friend of mine (whom I'm gonna call TA, picture above); it was like having a security blanket, someone there to go through the experience with. And it's safe to say we had an absolute ball. We made friends, travelled, got drunk, ate so much food, went to uni...most of the time...it was awesome. 

Sergant Garcia Concert.
On arriving in France, I was greeted with constant hypos as I tried to adjust to la vie francaise but eventually I got there and my sugar levels started levelling out without too much hassel. The first time diabetes was "brought to light" was on our first Erasmus night out (picture on the left), and the other girl we were with was English and was very cool about it (I always seem to fear the worst when the time comes for me to bring up my diabetes!)  

The next people we met were a group of Greeks! Now, three of these girls weaved their way in my life just like K did, and I miss them so much. I'm so grateful I met these girls. They taught me some Greek (which I still remember), threw us a Greek night (which consisted of the most amazing food I've ever eaten, Greek alcohol, Greek dancing which I failed at - the whole thing was just awesome!) and Denise and I used to have frequent movie nights as we lived on the same floor in our crappy student accommodation! Their reaction to my diabetes never fails to make me laugh. I remember being at a bar in town and checking my blood sugar, and then explaining to Denise that I had diabetes. She gave me what I can only assume was a sympathy hug. TA and I did find it rather amusing!

Christmas in Clermont.
I did a fair amount of travelling whilst I was in Toulouse. I went to Bordeaux, which was an experience. I met my best friend, Nem there, and then we met up with the Greek girls. They then left, and TA showed up with another friend from Toulouse, so we were all there at some point or other over the weekend. Of course, being in Bordeaux, we went wine tasting. I swear, nothing has compared to Bordeaux wines! They were amazing! I also went to Clermont Ferrand, the place where Nem was studying. I showed up unannounced, which took a lot of planning and liaising with her friends there, but I pulled it off and the look on her face was so worth it. Clermont was beautiful, but bloody cold - I had prepared for the Toulouse winter, not the Clermont winter! But I had a lovely time, nonetheless, and discovered the best thing ever: lemon-meringue cheese cake. 100% worth the massive bolus I needed to cover it.

It was after Christmas that things started to go downhill: the lack of routine caused my diabetes management to really slip and before I knew it, management was just non-existent. But things really got out of hand when I was in Alcalá (which is why I started writing again).

Lemon-meringue cheesecake.
Basically, my time in France was incredible. The uni sucked (as you've probably guessed with my lack of writing about it), and I had issues when it came to injecting in public because of the looks I got, but I have no complaints when it comes to the rest of my experience there! I made friends that I plan on keeping for the foreseeable future, and if I could go back and do it all again, I would. The one stupid diabetes-related thing I did was lose my balance whilst hypo, and I called my old housemate, Fernandez for help before realising I was in another country and she couldn't actually do anything. Force of habit - for the two years prior to year abroad, she occupied the room below mine!

So hopefully that gives you a bit of an insight into what I got up to during that first semester and how diabetes fit in with all of that. To be honest, it was pretty smooth-sailing right up until Christmas - it was after that things began to slip. But more on that in part two!   


  1. Hey Vicky, I'm diabetic too and am heading off to France for my year abroad soon- how did you get prescriptions for insulin while you were away, and could you get the cost of them reimbursed?

    1. Hi! I actually stock-piled before going, and my DSN wrote a letter to my GP explaining that I needed extra to cover my time away. Then there was a fridge in my room that j used to store my insulin. I travelled home at Christmas and Easter, so managed to stock up that way. The one thing I did do in France, however, was get my flu jab. Very weird. I had to buy the vaccine from a pharmacy and then book an appointment with a nurse to administer the jab, the cost for which I did get reimbursed (not that it cost very much). If you have any more questions, feel free to drop me an email. I hope you have an incredible year abroad. I absolutely loved mine, so I hope you love yours too.

    2. Thanks for your advice Vicky! Just out of interest, who did you use for your year abroad insurance? I'm struggling to find a company which will cover diabetes.

    3. I think I actually took mine out with Diabetes UK! I think they still do travel insurance :)