Alumni News: Matthew Harrison
Matthew Harrison (BSc Physics with International Study, 2015) tells us how he's enjoying life as a graduate in Toulouse, France.
Since the exciting culmination of four years of hard work and fantastic experiences that was my graduation in July, I have been trying to ease myself into graduate life - the "real world". Reluctant as I was to come to terms with the fact that these were to be my last summer holidays, I really made the most of them.
The English-teaching programme in which I participated in Hungary, with the Angloville organisation, was an exhausting yet thoroughly fun and rewarding experience. As one of the roughly twenty "Anglos" (native English speakers), I helped twenty Hungarian participants in an intensive, immersive course to improve their fluency and language skills through one-on-one sessions, group activities, and mentoring to produce a presentation. One of the most fascinating aspects was hearing the stories not only of the Hungarian participants, whose professions and experiences varied hugely, but also of the Anglos, many of whom were expats or travellers making their way around Europe or the world.
After a short week back at home, I took off to sunny, overwhelmingly hot (for a northener) Valencia, to do exactly the opposite! At the Escuela Albufera, a campus located in the beautiful Albufera National Park, I found myself amongst other students from all over Europe being taught Spanish by an extremely flamboyant Ecuadorian salsa dancer. I improved my Spanish and had some time to explore the area as well as Valencia city centre, and I am determined to return to see more.
Finally, after just two more days at home, I set off on my last and biggest adventure: moving to France. Ever since I did my ERASMUS year abroad in Toulouse, I have known I wanted to live there for a part of my life, and after graduation seemed like the best time to do it. So I did it. I quickly made friends and found some part-time work as an English-speaking childminder for a French family, the idea being to help their children to grow up bilingual. I am now in the process of getting into teaching English as a foreign language since completing a TEFL certification (I realise this is perhaps a cliché for anglophone expats). Yet I am sure I will not be doing this forever; I have other plans for the future.
Toulouse is a beautiful and vibrant city, and I could not be happier living here. I did, though, enjoy returning to England one weekend in October, both for my cousin's wedding and to attend the annual Agincourt dinner of the University of Birmingham Archery Club, of which I was a member for two of my four years at UoB. This was also a nice excuse to spend an afternoon on campus and catch up with plenty of old friends, as well as to hear a lot about the exciting ongoing and upcoming campus developments from the EPS Alumni Relations team.
In short, I had a busy, fantastic, and worthwhile summer, and I am now fulfilling one of my dreams - living abroad - in one of my favourite cities in the world, no less. Graduation already seems a long time ago.