Friday was a long day – the wakeup alarm had been set for 7am as I started off by packing all of my things into suitcases and, thanks to the first week in Sciences Po, multiple tote bags that could fit hoodies, jackets and the like. Because the place I was staying in was in the 7th floor and there was no lift, I had to take three trips down. I did one more trip to go to the shop, so altogether, if I got it right, I travelled more than 800 stairs before jumping on the taxi at 9:30 in the morning. That was a good dose of exercise, but there was still a bit more to follow: the taxi couldn’t get next to the new flat because fire engines had blocked the way. As a result, I carried all of my earthly belongings for some 200 metres, slaloming between fire hoses and slightly baffled firefighters.
After Skylar (who had come with equally heavy baggage) and I had picked up the keys to the new flat, I quickly unpacked everything, showered and shaved in a couple of hours, and packed my light luggage for a weekend in Bucharest where The New Federalist and Young Europeans Romania would be hosting a “Summer Retreat” training weekend.
Everything fit in my school bag, with which I went to see Maria, the chair of JEF Sciences Po, for lunch. She wanted to talk about the local group’s plans for the year, and also told me that she would like to appoint me as the chief editor (on JEF Sciences Po’s part) of Le Taurillon en Seine, the local Paris print edition of Le Taurillon, which in turn is the French edition of The New Federalist. Editing publications in two languages should be cool experience, and certainly unique language practice!
After lunch, there still was an hour or two for JEF work in the Sciences Po library. Even while all the move-in logistics were going on and I was with suitcases, I remained European throughout: a fellow Edinburgh student was asking for tips for what to say in a British All-Party Parliamentary group roundtable discussion on Brexit that he had been invited to attend, and I was messaging with people about the Bucharest event that was already starting that day. I also signed up for writing on the blog of EuroPeers UK, a British network promoting Erasmus opportunities. Having mobile data while outside makes your life much easier.
On my way to the airport, I saw a group of more than 20 young men all dressed in identical red T-shirts, jumping across the barriers at the underground station to avoid paying for the tickets. Given that it was Friday afternoon, maybe this was the start of a long night of French induction rites. “Lad culture” may be a distinctly British expression, but the phenomenon itself is no stranger to France either, it seems.
My flight itinerary was from Paris Charles de Gaulle through Warsaw to Bucharest. Arrival was scheduled for 1:30am, and from the airport to the venue the taxi would take half an hour. It’s no wonder that I spent the flight to Warsaw napping. On the flight to Bucharest, it was time to be productive, as I wrote some four pages of notes from a long Strategic Studies paper within about an hour. I nearly finished them, but up until this point I still have “finish Strategic Studies notes” on my to do list. Maybe tonight!
The taxi journey from the airport would have been simpler if I had had enough cash with me for the taxi (Romania still uses lei, but the taxi driver accepted euros). Being someone who makes life and travel an adventure, though, I realised that I didn’t have enough cash to pay for the trip, while the driver wouldn’t take card payments. A tall language barrier constrained our communication but in the end, the driver agreed to take the outstanding amount (corresponding to five pounds) in pounds, and I was free to leave. The long and eventful day had started from the 16th arrondissement of Paris, passed by the 5th, and ended in a three-person bedroom in a brand new Romanian student accommodation complex.
As I was stepping on the airplane to Warsaw, I suddenly realised that I was crossing the old Iron Curtain. I barely had to show my ID, and I was travelling wearing a T-shirt and carrying my schoolbag, as if I was on my way to a lecture. I can take this for granted, but my grandparents’ generation could barely have imagined it. I never had the chance to try travelling across Europe before 1985 (when the Schengen Agreement was signed), but I think I prefer it the way it is now, thanks!
P.S. Want to read more about what happened next? I wrote an article about the weekend on The New Federalist here: https://www.thenewfederalist.eu/jef-members-edit-wikipedia-and-discuss-fake-news-in-bucharest