For those of you who have been keeping up with me while I’ve been in France, I think it’d be valuable to know that I’ve come a long way. Not just language-wise, but also as a person. Before I came on this trip, I thought that I was that one candidate in interviews that truly meant it when I said, “I like to take challenges.” I’m known for going above and beyond what I’m capable of. When I say this, I mean that I always went for the Honors programs and the AP classes. I’ve been through some of the hardest application processes to get what I have. I’ve pushed myself in sports and leadership skills, founding programs left and right.
Everything I have is with me because I earned it. And I mean that with all my heart.
But those weren’t the most challenging things. We go by everyday constantly finding and learning something new, whether it be big or small. Some of us push ourselves everyday to do more and more. Never has some of us thought, though, that maybe “more” isn’t the challenge. Perhaps it’s “different.”
Was going to France something “more?” Yes. Was it something “different?” Oh, hell, yeah.
Looking back at my first few posts, I can see how much of a wreck I was. Going to a different country is strange. All my friends told me that it would be the funnest thing in the world, that I would be spending 4 months in Europe. Well, yeah, I agree, but I’ll be honest: that was the last thing on my mind.
I didn’t even want to come here, originally. I didn’t think I was ready (says the girl who thought she liked to take challenges). And, perhaps I wasn’t ready.
But that’s part of growing up. We have to set goals for ourselves, and that involves going way out of our comfort zones. During all of high school, I complained about how much my life sucked, using this blog as my facilitator. I was petty, talking about getting out of this place and exploring the world. Yet, ironically, when I got the chance to do that, I wanted to turn my back on everything I thought before.
I wasn’t ready to go across an entire ocean for more than three months.
I wasn’t ready to live with a bunch of people who I knew I could barely talk to.
I wasn’t ready to be the least experienced person in a group of girls who I was supposed to be comfortable around.
I wasn’t ready to be exposed.
My perspective on life has changed so drastically since I’ve been here. My goals…well, it’s hard to describe my goals because I never really thought about it before I came. All I could think about was my fears. I wanted A’s in my classes, and that was really it. I wasn’t going to let this trip drag my GPA down (which says a lot about me, unfortunately).
In terms of speaking French better, I’ve gotten so much better. It’s amazing, and I’m probably at a high working proficiency now. I’ve still got a lot of room to improve. I’m still translating a little bit. But it’s getting better. No, I have not reached my full-on fluency goal in life, but that just gives me an excuse to come back. Like I said, there is so much power in knowing another language.
Thankfully, I’m not as scared anymore. At the 5 week mark, I hit a point where I just stopped worrying. Stopped caring. Because I was going to bed every night with a massive headache, which I really didn’t need on top of my course load. I felt like I wanted to cry every other night because I couldn’t communicate the simplest words to people I am living with. I missed being in a place where I felt truly comfortable. Where I had taken the act of speaking for granted. Something that I never thought about.
I’m being asked constantly how challenging this is for me, and I’m going to tell you the truth: this is the most challenging thing I’ve ever been through. There have been multiple periods where I’ve felt so alone. Yes, I like to be alone sometimes, but you have to understand that being alone and not being able to communicate how alone you feel to another who understands is one of the most challenging states a person could go through. Luckily, I was able to talk through it with an old friend because she read my blog posts.
A lot of people did not believe I could do this. I was told by many people that I would most likely fail because I didn’t have enough experience or practice with the language. The only person who believed in me was my mother, who does not speak French or even really know my level of French. So I didn’t believe her. And she isn’t here with me to help me through it. Nobody’s got time to Skype me every night.
What has helped me get through this? I don’t know, honestly, which is partially why I say this was the most challenging thing I’ve gone through. Only after 5 weeks did someone tell me I was improving and that was only after I asked if I was. My host family didn’t even think I was improving. I had to ask to make myself feel better, to reassure myself.
But I am so incredibly grateful. You have no idea.
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