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Here I sit, listening to Carla Bruni on my laptop, drinking some Trader Joe’s "French roast" coffee, eating some macarons from an authentic french bakery down the street, while reading some of my favorite quotes and writing simultaneously. Maybe it’s a little over the top but I like to think that in my own small way it’s giving me a head start into adapting to the French culture that I will soon know quite well.

As I write about this, notifications keep blinking on my Facebook, with new messages. The thread is between my three roommates at my college in America and their new roommate for this semester when I’ll be away. They’re discussing things like which TV to bring, which posters to hang in the sitting area of their new townhouse, and who will be in charge of cleaning the dishes per week. They await the adjustment to their new semester at school, imagining what courses they’ll enjoy, which of the roommates will be bringing their cars, and how many jars of Skippy peanut butter my friend Sam will eat in a week (her go-to food). It’s interesting the difference between their thoughts and mine. These matters, which once monopolized my thoughts before school, seem so trivial to me now. Instead of traveling three hours to school this fall, I’ll be traveling 18+ hours to France, and stepping out of my comfort zone completely (they probably don’t even have the Skippy there!).

In eleven days I will be departing on a voyage I only thought would be real in my dreams. I will be making completely new friends, discovering places I’ve learned about only in history class and story books by Hans Christian Anderson, and eating foods I can only find in the beautiful streets of Provence and elsewhere abroad. I will discover more about myself in the three months I’ll be abroad than I can imagine.

To say the least, my feelings toward my new French home, though, are varied. While I feel excited to test my boundaries, and it’s empowering that I’ll be so independent, it’s quite nerve-wracking that I’ll be on my own. Using my four years of French as my only guide to communication, and navigating my way through a country I’ve never been to before will be challenging. This summer it was difficult enough finding my way to my internship in New York City, and while I am not too sheltered, I will admit the farthest I’ve been from the United States has been the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (seriously). One thing I’ve learned throughout the many experiences in my life though, is that it really is true that nothing worth having comes easy and that in taking leaps you gain knowledge about who you are and what you love to do. My quote book, which sits on my bed as I write this, has helped me adjust to different changes in my life, especially one of my favorites by E.M. Forster, “Let yourself go. Pull out from the depths those thoughts you don’t understand, and spread them out into the sunlight and know the meaning of them”. I know that my experience will depend on my openness and the openness of those around me.

The more I think about the positive, my nerves are settling. I will not be learning French from a professor in a classroom, but by virtually everyone– everywhere I go, every day I am there. I will get the opportunity to travel beyond Provence—to Germany, and Italy, Spain and London; Europe will literally be at my fingertips.

I have a huge passion for all things natural—nature itself and healthy, real food; so I love the idea that I will be able to live in the south of France and document my travels through pictures and writing, eat fresh veggies and fruits, truffles, and spices native to the area. I’ll get to relax in the countryside and on the beach, and I won’t have to worry too much about being in the way of New York taxi cabs and the metropolitan highway traffic—because there really isn’t much of that in France I’ve heard. I’ll be able to learn about the history of the town, and even take some cooking courses at local culinary places if I choose.

In France, I’ll arrive with a game plan: speak in French most of the time, start thinking in French, and thus become used to the way of life. Then if I get homesick I can confuse myself into thinking I am French and the native french people too because my accent will be so good that they’ll accept me as one of their own (I’m hoping at least!). And if worse comes to worse, I’ll just pretend I’m in Epcot at Disney World, because that’s always comforting. The more I think about these positives, and how fortunate I am to be given this experience, the more excited I am to take part on this journey.

So, in eleven days, with my quote book and love of French music and cuisine, I’ll depart. I’ll leave the United States and take a leap towards discovery and adventure, and make new friendships with people who live and know a culture different from my own, but probably very similar as well. While there I’ll keep in touch with friends and family, via Facebook and skype, phone and email, knowing that in three months I’ll be arriving back in the United States with a newfound understanding of the world abroad, an appreciation of the French culture, and maybe some real French roast coffee! And what I’ll keep in mind is that really we can’t be that different. After all, “We all started out as naked children playing in the mud” (see, that quote book works wonders..). With that, I’ll say here’s to all things good: bons amis, bonne santé, bon appétit, et bon voyage! Wish me luck : )

xox,

Trish


 


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