So many things to get to know, to learn, to experience
Whenever I remember my Erasmus year in Lyon, I get a big smile on my face… It was a very interesting year of mine! I had so many things to get to know, to learn, to experience.
In Lyon studies normally start in September but since I had an important concert in Vienna I was a bit late to arrive there only in October.
When I was younger I was always asking my classmates in Lithuania how it is to live in a student dormitory. In my teenage years I was even seriously thinking how cool it would be to live with other young friends and without parents. So I got my chance, just a bit later… In Lyon I got a room in the student dormitory which was in the same building as the Lyon Conservatory. People were saying it’s great, because you could basically attend lessons with your flip-flops. It is a big advantage, although there is a danger in staying indoor all the times. I always appreciated a close proximity from my room to the library because it allowed me to pick up some books or scores I wanted in less than a minute.
I was very surprised when I got to know that during more than three hundred years, this antique building’s walls have successively homed nuns, future veterinary doctors, and now musicians and dancers.
I very much liked that the school was small in population (especially comparing to the mdw) so one could get to know pretty much everybody. I particularly lived on the same floor with younger ballet dancers. I remember funny situations (I’m using the plural here because such situations happened more often than one would expect). For example, when the alarm siren loudly went off, all students were forced to go outside in the middle of the night for safety reasons, very often in pajamas. We had some good laughs!
If somebody asked me why I had chosen to spend my Erasmus year in Lyon I would say because of my wonderful professor Marianne Piketty. I actually got to know her in our mdw university where she was giving masterclasses then. We understood each other and I liked the fact that she invited me to come to Lyon to study with her. I got a lot of wonderful lessons – I remember she would work with me with big enthusiasm until late evening. She shared life advises and taught how we musicians need to do physical exercises like yoga which are very important for our mental strength. In this year I had a chance to study chamber music with great Prof. Yovan Markovitch who’s a member cellist of Ysaÿe String Quartet. He always gave very inspiring lessons with a lot of imagination and perfume-like smell.
In the conservatory, many concerts or masterclasses were organized where we could go and listen to the performers at any time. I was very happy that I had no problem to get a hall when I needed to record some pieces for auditions. There even was a sound engineer who helped me with big pleasure and without any payment! Another good thing about the Conservatory is that it offered a few rooms which we could use the whole night for practicing!
Before my studies in Lyon I didn’t know French therefore I couldn’t take any theory subjects, so I had enough time to go sightseeing, to discover French specialities, French museums, cute little Cafés and all the beautiful places.
Before I came to study to Lyon I heard that the French cuisine is really very good and now I can speak for myself and say it is delicious! I was trying all kinds of french macaroons, chocolate tarte, la crèpe, crème brûlée, different kinds of cheese… Even in the conservatory canteen they offered a very tasty lunch for a small price every day.
Whenever I had some free time I loved to go for a walk. I enjoyed walking on beautiful small streets and going where my eyes led me… I really felt that Lyon is located much more southern than Vienna. The winter time was not cold at all and small spring flowers were blooming much earlier than in Vienna.
One thing happened to me that I will never forget. While I was spending my Erasmus year in Lyon sometimes I needed to travel to Vienna to perform some concerts. I tried to find a cheaper way of travelling. From Vienna I went by plane to Geneva where I changed to the train. One day I came by plane to Geneva and wanted to catch the last train to Lyon and couldn’t believe my eyes when I looking on the timetable – no trains going today!
I was not the only one: there were many people who couldn’t go home and no one understood what happened. When I asked a police officer I got to know that in all of France all public transport, trains, busses and metros have stopped because workers were striking because of very high taxes and low wages. I couldn’t believe that I needed to wait for the next train which happened to go at 7 am the following day! So to save money I spent the whole night in Geneva train station, waiting with some strangers on the benches! The night was a bit scary, because even in Swiss Geneva you can see many different people who seem, quite frankly, weird! But even though the night was crazy long, it passed and I could return to my safe dorm bed. This reminds me to this day why it is so great to study and live in Vienna! 🙂
If I’m to advise students, I’d surely say – go and use this great opportunity! I had a chance to get to know so many wonderful musicians, great colleagues and friends!