Toulouse is one of those cities that just strikes you as beautiful. There is no gradually getting to love it, it is just beautiful from the first day on. It is often referred to as “la ville rose”, or “pink city” – due to its unique brick-based architecture. I think orange and beige would be better descriptors, but regardless of which colour it is, it looks absolutely lovely. I live near Carmes (arguably the most beautiful quartier), a place filled with lovely cafés, plant shops, small restaurants, thrift stores and bars. On my walks, I always carry a camera, and there is always a good scene to shoot.
My way to university is similarly beautiful – I cycle along the Garonne until I see a large new building with the words Toulouse School of Economics on it. The Garonne is a broad stream, crossed by many impressive bridges, and the trottoirs are shaded by old trees. Down on the promenade, people of all ages celebrate the end of their working day, their legs dangling from the quai.
The university itself is also beautiful. Most courses take place in the Manufacture des Tabacs, an old cigarette factory turned into lecture halls. Facilities are fairly new, there are trees everywhere, and even if it rains, the southern French sun dries all surfaces quite quickly, so there is always life on campus.
Settling in Toulouse
Setting up my life here was easy – in some ways. In some ways, it was and remains arduous. Any incoming student at TSE receives a so-called Toul’Box, which is essentially a university employee helping you to find a flat, set up a bank account, and so on. This is a great service, and it made a lot of the process of going abroad easier. I found a flat through them, and it is perfectly fine. I got really lucky with my roommates Naemi and Edu, and we spend a lot of time together. Most of the other stuff worked fine – however, the registration at uni and obtaining full social security proved surprisingly hard.
It is the fifth week of classes and by now, I have settled into a routine. The workload is really high, and everybody is keen to have a good social life, so it is a real struggle to find time to yourself and balance the rest. We already have midterms next week, and I can say with a certain degree of safety that I have never worked this much and understood this little in my life. Not to worry though, with enough effort the tide will change – and I came here to be challenged.
Studying with Covid-19
Aside from wearing a mask all day, it is really just like before Covid. All our lectures are in presence, the campus is vibrant, there are sports events and cultural happenings, clubs are open even without masks inside (as long as you have the Health Pass), and there are house parties and movie nights just like before.
All of us here are vaccinated, so we do not worry too much. Of course, we keep wearing masks and wash and disinfect our hands regularly – but I think the general sentiment is that we are all just so happy to see people again and be closer to our fellow students and teachers. For me personally, it is a huge relief. Social isolation was really hard living by myself, so having roommates and public life is healing beyond belief.
October 2021 | Peter Kamal