Creative writing during the Year Abroad

We are delighted to announce the results of the Year Abroad creative writing competition: the winner is Sophie Hogg, whose piece ‘La Covid: A 2020 Year Abroad’ offers a new take on vocabulary learning:


La Covid : A 2020 Year Abroad


I tried my best to learn my vocab before descending on Paris

« Quelle heure-est-il ? Ça vous va ? Et je m’appelle Sophie. »


But what I didn’t expect, what I didn’t foresee, the thing that sent me crazy

C’était le vocabulaire dont on a besoin pour survivre une pandémie !


Le covid, non, la covid – est-ce qu’il vient du virus ou de la maladie ?

L’Académie française dit : féminin. So, that’s what it shall be.


I pack my bags and head to France – what could possibly go wrong?

Well, I turn on the TV and who do I see? Merde, c’est Macron.


« Le port du masque est obligatoire pour contrôler la propagation »

Dans les bars, les restos, au travail, au sommeil, même en traversant les piétons !


« Zut alors, tant pis, mais il faut vivre avec.

On y va les gars !  Pas de panique ! Tout va bien les mecs ! »


So, I don my mask and head to work — I’m ready for my first day!

Oh my god. Oh my god. This isn’t happening. I can’t hear a word that they say.


What is she saying? Is she talking to me? As if I didn’t see this coming.

The mask is muffling her words. Or maybe she’s just mumbling?


Ok no, it’s definitely the mask, she’s not understanding me either,

Is it my French? I’ve got to reply or she’ll think I’m a diva!


Just smile and nod and do your best. At least the mask will soak up your tears.

Maybe one day you’ll laugh at this… check back with me in 40 years.


I raise my head, peer over my desk and summon up the courage to ask:

« Pourriez-vous répéter ça ? Je ne peux pas entendre avec ce masque. »


Days and weeks pass, I start to adjust. I can even hold a conversation.

Now there’s only the occasional faux pas, faux ami, or phrase lost in translation.


But soon enough, he’s back on TV. This virus has a mind of its own.

It’s Lockdown: Round 2. Pack up your stuff and get yourself home.


Essential travel only. No uni. No office. No fun.

We’re all working chez nous. There’s nothing to do. I can’t even go for a run.


Oh well, that’s a shame. But time for télétravail.

I’ll have to reschedule the trips I had planned to the theatre, le Louvre, and Versailles.


My studio is my new office. Plus my kitchen, my gym and my bedroom.

And my new coworkers are great. Enchantée, Teams, Skype and Zoom.


J’ai un rendez-vous virtuel dans cinq minutes, I better get out of bed

I’m still in pyjamas… I’ll just pull on a jumper, they can only see my head!


Est-ce que tu m’entends ? Non, pas vraiment ? Ugh, attends, attends.

Mon ordi bugge. Je vais me reconnecter. Donnez-moi une seconde. 


Mais néanmoins, j’avance bien, je dirais même que je suis top.

And it’s only then that I remember that le Royaume-Uni va quitter l’Europe.


Ce putain de Brexit, je te jure que j’en ai marre.

Bon, je devrai compléter la fin de mon stage at home with my ma and da.





Sophie Hogg

3rd Year, French and Spanish


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