Year Abroad Series: Tash Hylton and la vie en rose

La vie en rose: chronicling my year abroad by subconsciously curating a photo album

 

I’ve never considered myself a photographer. I’ve always enjoyed taking photos, whether that is via a disposable camera, a digital camera, instax polaroid or my phone.  No one has taught me how to take photos “properly” but that hasn’t stopped me from trying, particularly on my year abroad. I’m almost nine months through my fourteen month long year abroad- it’s definitely longer than most people’s – but I’ve decided that the best way to capture these treasured moments is via photography and my blog.  In my second year of university I was always somewhat envious of my friends on their year abroad. I would pore over their Instagram accounts; watching their dalliances in Paris, meanderings around the streets of Madrid, even jet setting across Europe every other weekend. By the time my year abroad came about, I was extremely anxious. Nevertheless prospect that I too had my own adventures in store, was exceptionally exciting.

This year has been a rollercoaster; I started in July 2018 in Paris, working a 9-5 internship. 

I had a great group of friends; there was always someone to do something with, somewhere new to explore. As much as I appreciated and valued my time with my newfound friends, generally I’m quite an insular person and I often find socialising mentally and emotionally draining at times. After large bouts of social interaction I find myself having to return to my own cocoon for a few hours, or sometimes even days. It’s easy to lull in this bubble of self-indulgence however I’ve found that the year abroad has encouraged my independence and challenged me in more ways than one. 

I took pleasure in my solitude; rather than staying at home watching Netflix I made myself get up and go out and about.I discovered that I quite enjoyed wandering around the streets of Paris taking photos. 

I was enamoured by the winding streets and the outlandish graffiti. It captured my attention so much so that I decided to write my year abroad project on it. I found that in Paris it’s impossible to evade culture: it’s a city teeming with art galleries, expositions, live music- the architecture in itself commands your attention.  On my days off, or sometimes in the evenings, I would find myself looking for a new expo or art gallery to visit; I was like a sponge and I wanted to soak up as much culture as I could. I didn’t mind going alone or with friends either and visiting galleries and events was my way of unwinding from a day at work, something that I still try and do here now in Valencia. I found a penchant for modern art; without any academic pressure I found myself researching and reading about sculptures, street art and installations – simply learning for fun. After second year I was academically drained, however art and photography slowly enabled me to enjoy learning again. 

The year abroad, though, hasn’t always been rosy for me. Sometimes people tend to emphasise the positive aspects and they often neglect to talk about how difficult it actually is to move to another country. It’s not just the language barriers that can be difficult to manoeuvre; there’s the bureaucracy, making friends, studying and working. It can be a stressful time and I did succumb to it.  Luckily when I have these moments- because the peaks and troughs never really do go away- I’ve found that looking back through my camera roll or Instagram stories can often cheer me up and spark memories. My photos remind me of all the things that I’ve seen, done and accomplished and it reminds me to keep on going.  Even though I only choose to post the ‘positive’ photos, they work as a stimulus for me. Their device is to remind me of the great things about the year abroad, encouraging me to go even further.

I’ve also been blessed with the most flexible work timetable this year. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to travel Friday to Monday every week if I choose too. Relishing these opportunities, I have travelled nationally within Spain, and internationally too. On my travels – both group and solo – I’ve found pleasure in taking photos of not only the extraordinary, but the ordinary too. I find excitement in the “small things”: a small café that I stumble on, a weird shadow or some cool street art. Taking these photos is like collecting tiny puzzle pieces that fit together to make my year abroad mural.

 

So, what I’ve found is that I didn’t start taking photographs purposefully, more that I just kind of fell into it. I started a blog half way through my time in Paris – a lot of my photos are accompaniments to the posts – but most of the time I take them just because, well, why not? I don’t post all of the photos that I take, most of the time they are for me. The year abroad has enabled me to foster two new hobbies, writing and photography.  One thing that I’ve learned about the year abroad is that time passes by so quickly. The past nine months have passed so quickly but I’m glad that I’ll always have my photos and my blog as a reminder of these formative fourteen months, whenever I have wanderlust or I just feel like reminiscing.

 

Follow Tash and keep up to date with her exploits at http://www.ouisiyes.co.uk for travel updates, discussions regarding life on the year abroad and more wonderful photography!

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