As my French studies were coming to an end, I had to make a décision: finish my degree without studying abroad or study abroad. I knew I owed it to my future French students to experience French first-hand, so, after months of debating the pros and cons, I made the décision to study abroad in France. It was the best décision I could have ever made in my life (and one of the most expensive décision, too)! There are two major characteristics that sum up my experience: smiles and sadness.
When I stepped onto the KLM flight, I had no idée what I was in for. I was nervous, excited, sad.
It’s true what they say after you return home: no one understands you (and you feel lonely as a result of this) and you are no longer the same person you were before you left home. Somewhere between the pain au chocolat, the hardcore French classes, meeting mon chéri, and traveling with my study abroad friends (SAFF), I became a changed woman. But, how did this happen?
I arrived in Aix in Septembre 2012.
It took me about a month and a half before I truly warmed up to the city.*
Why did it take this long? Well, for starters: I was alone for the first time Ever.
My boyfriend (of 7 years) at the time was hardly responding to my calls and texts. All of my family and friends were in the U.S. Needless to say, I felt like my life as I knew it was slipping through my fingers.
How did I overcome this feeling?
- I made friends.
- I traveled with these friends.
- I made progress in speaking, understanding, and communicating in a foreign language, so, ordering a baguette, a crêpe, a sandwich became easier.
- I met mon chéri.
- I embraced the culture.
- I decided to take risques – in the sense that I would not miss out on experiences just because I was nerveuse, homesick, or whatever…
I tutored French with mon chéri (of course, this was before he became mon chéri). I said, “Oui” to mon chéri‘s (before he became mon chéri, of course) offer to show me les jardins d’Albertas, which was a brisk car ride away from Aix. (I went alone! But, I told my host mom where I was going because you never know…)
I traveled in France to Paris (with my SAFF)…
and to Lyon (with my two favorite mecs)…
as well as outside of France to Italie:
and Firenze (with SA
& Barcelone, Espagne (with mon chéri and 2 SAFF).
- I decided to accept that some things just weren’t meant to last. It was time for a change – time to move on. I was libérée.
When it came time to leave, there were tears. Back in Septembre 2012, I never would have thought that in Décembre, I’d never want to leave Aix. Even today (2015), I find myself reminiscing about the times I shared with my SAFF. I miss it; I miss them.
I miss the feeling of excitement and anxiousness of exploring a city that I didn’t know would become my permanent home.
And, of course the traveling with fresh eyes.
When you miss something so badly that you want to scream, you also want to talk about it.
Eventually, people back home begin to tire of your stories. They no longer know where their place is in your life (even though you know that you secretly wished they took part with you in your adventures). It becomes very difficile for them, for you! What can you do? You keep in contact with your SAFF so that you can still share stories and talk about the “good ol’ days” without offending anyone. At the same time, you learn who’s really important in your life and you “glue” them to your hip. And, sometime after you’ve returned/moved abroad, they will find a way to come visit you…And you can share your experience with them. ♦
*When you find yourself feeling all alone in a foreign land, don’t worry. Give yourself at least a month to get used to the culture différente and to make friends. It takes time, but by the end of this experience you won’t want to get on that return flight.
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