It's been almost a week since I've been back in the States. I don't know if I can say that I'm feeling full-on reverse culture shock
just yet (though I have been taking a whole lot of naps), but I can say that I've been trying my best to remember what I learned in France. That is, I've been attempting to incorporate some of my French habits into my American life. I walked 30 minutes to my local library. I went to the farmer's market with my mother. Right now it's all a bunch of little shifts in mindset, and I wonder if that will be more apparent when I see more of my friends in a couple of weeks. I wonder if they'll get it.I've been getting pangs of nostalgia for Aix. I've had a couple of dreams where I was back there, back with all of my wonderful-beautiful-amazing friends who understood.
I am so incredibly grateful to have met the people I met at IAU, and it does actually sting when I think about how much farther everyone is from each other now. I'm lucky enough, however, to have also shared a lot of memories with people from my school, and I'm excited to see them once they come back from their extended European stays. There are many things I miss about my time in Aix already. I miss the daily markets. I miss being surrounded by old stones with stories to tell. I miss
the bread. I miss my bed. I miss my host family.
Me, my host mom, my host sister, and my host dog. Not pictured: my host cat.
But while it's all good and fine to miss certain things, I feel that it is extremely important to remember. And there is so much to remember. I will remember the uncertainty and excitement I felt during my first night in Aix. I will remember my initial confusion over how to take a shower. I will remember almost getting lost after too many pints at Manoir. I will remember that time we had a band. I will remember "Get Lucky" at Kiwa Sushi on my 21st birthday. I will remember the poil all over my leggings. I will remember the constant kindness of my host sister. I will remember how I felt when my host mom said, "Tu vas aller loin dans la vie."
I will remember because that is what this experience deserves. I will try my best to come back, but I know that what I had here, during that moment in time, will always be its own.
Now I guess it's time for a new adventure. Thank you, Aix. Thank you for teaching me so much about France, about the language, about people, and about myself. I won't forget you. Promise.
I have one week to go before I board a flight that will take me back to California. I mean, okay, it's a flight that will take me to London and then take me to California, but still. Bref, I'm leaving. And it's so bizarre. It's not that I didn't know the end was coming - I've been blogging about saying goodbye for a while now - but it's that I didn't think it would feel quite like this. I had dinner with a good friend of mine last night and we basically reflected on our entire experience here in Aix. We realized that there were moments where it was great (which is what everyone sees in your Facebook photos) and there were moments where it could have been better (which is what only a few people get to know), but all in all, our time abroad helped us grow so much as people, and I hope that comes across when I return home.
At Le Maharaja. Yeah food!
It's weird to think about how most of us refer to it as going back to "real life." Does that mean that this experience wasn't real? I'm hoping it was real. I'm hoping that what I learned here will not fade into some deep recess of my mind but rather weave itself into every part of my being. Maybe calling this experience "unreal" works to further emphasize how great of an experience so many of us had, but I think it also works to overlook the lows that have shaped us as well. I think our time in Aix deserves so much more than a glossy postcard or an excited retelling of your favorite Friday night. Study abroad was not a holiday, despite what our photos said or what stores decided to keep the metal gate closed.
For me, Aix gave me the opportunity to learn not just about the language or the culture, but about myself. And that's what was most valuable. I know that almost every study abroad program says this, but it's true: I learned so much about who I am and what's important to me. I'm not sure if I've undergone a transformation since being here, but I can tell that certain things have started to stick with me. For example, the other day I was speaking to my friends about going to a photography showcase, and I said, "They should at least have cheese." It was verging on the edge of snobbery, but I think that statement showed that I've gained a huge appreciation for some of the finer things in life. Like cheese, I guess. I've realized it's not necessarily a bad thing to like nice things. It is possible to be against social inequality and still enjoy a good bottle of wine every once in a while. Or at least I think so, anyway.
I've learned to cherish more things. My food, my time with other people, and the fact that this little community will probably be one of the few people who will really get what this moment of my life was like. It's going to be difficult leaving this place, but I'm excited to share what I've experienced.