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.