It’s interesting when I think about the number of songs that I have had come on shuffle throughout my travel back home. Maybe it’s because there’s something about being in between a place of departure and the memories that are left behind and the destination where the possibilities of what will happen next are infinite. I’m now experiencing the inverse of being over the Atlantic Ocean. The Return.
Since my last post I have been lucky enough to experience life to its fullest during my last few weeks, days, and finally, hours in France. Whether it was when my crazy awesome mother came to visit me two weeks ago and I had the pleasure of sharing her glimpses of the life I made for myself over the past ten months, with friends from school downtown Saint Raphael, with my host family as we chilled in the pool, or with my family of exchange students. My sendoff was neither regretted nor paced out in any way. I literally feel like I’ll be going back to school to see everyone in a few days.
The amazing thing about exchange, and the part that I feel like allowed me to be an exchange student, is that I had to accept that even after all the effort I put into making friends and feeling like a part of a family that at its high point that I would have to leave it all behind. And be okay with it.
Alright, maybe you should talk to me in a few days and we’ll see what my response is…
One thing that helped me cope with the fact that I am the only one who will understand what my year was like was that my mom came to visit me for ten days. Even though it was completely different than my normal life (I ate lunch for more than ten euros; it made me cringe and think of all the shampoo, socks, and train tickets I could have bought instead) she is now able to have a better perspective.
Here’s a bit about our trip:
We went biking with Diatou, my lovely host sister, the first morning and ate tiep with family friends. Then we left for Antibes and spent time on the beach and in town where I showed my mom some of my favorite places in France. Next was Nice and we based ourselves out of our hotel there in order to go to Cannes, l'Ile de Lérins for an incredible picnic and Villefranche-sur-Mer (BEAUTIFUL!). When we came back from our adventures we spent the last two days taking a boat to St. Tropez with Diatou and then going to Agay, which was the first beach I went to and swam in the Mediterranean.
After my mom got on her flight home, evidently being on the same flight as Martha Stewert and being forced to stay overnight in New York, my “lasts” began.
As I was on my way to my friends’ house to give her a gift yesterday I realized something. I came to the conclusion that we either all matter as people or no one matters. Walking by strangers to her house, getting looks from people in the airport, and saying goodbye to my friend, Rebecca, in a freaking Monoprix grocery store earlier this week, I thought to myself each time, “These people have no idea what I’m going through.” But yesterday I realized, isn’t that true for everyone?
No one is going to go through the exact same experiences as I am but I can’t assume that whatever the other person is going through isn’t just as significant. I’ve had plenty of “me, me, me” going on this year that this realization made me step back a bit. This came just in time because I’m preparing to come home with not expecting the world to have stopped just because I left. That’s where my self-reliance will be my crutch.
While I have this blog for a little while longer I would just like to take a little bit of time to say an enormous thank you.
To my host family: El Hadj, Simone, Lucie, Marie, and Diatou as well as all of the extended family that I had the pleasure of meeting. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience while at your house. I learned so much about cooking, the culture, language, the environment, and especially about myself. I will never forget your hospitality and the incredible moments we shared.
To my USA family. Without your support I would not have been able to fully immerse myself and enjoy my ten months in France. It takes a lot to trust another family and organization, but most of all, me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to become a more mature, confident, and independent young adult.
To my classmates: I had the best class in the world. I am so touched that you threw me a surprise party; that will forever be one of my favorite moments ever! Each and every one of you were so welcoming and always politely corrected me. Thanks to you guys I’m fluent in French. Special shout-out to my guys – I know Castle won’t be the same because I’m not there to kick your butts, but I’ll come back. I just expect everyone to be able to shuffle like bosses.
To my girls: Emma, Caroline, Sarah, Fiona, Marine, Claire, Clara, Malou, Anaëlle, Marie (#1 and 2), Eléa, Darline, Amandine, Paloma, Johanna, Marie, Celine, Clelia, Léa (#1 and 2) and Lorelei. I love you guys and I couldn’t have done any of this without your warmth, understanding, and kindness.
To the Northfield and Fréjus Rotary clubs: This is an amazing organization and I can’t believe how safe, taken care of, and happy I was where I was placed. This was another extremely successful exchange and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your organization and support.
To my faithful readers: Thank you for reading my blog! Not only will this help me transition back to Northfield because I won’t have to explain my year in two sentences, but I also have this wonderful souvenir of an online journal. Wow. Thank you so much.
Before I sign off I think you all deserve the greatest Madge Update in the history of Madge Updates. I had been gone for quite a while because of break and I traveled around with my rotary and my mom so I didn’t see Madge for some time. Then I was granted with the opportunity to ride solo with her so we had a nice chat about my exchange and then how she wishes she could have vacation for after vacation to recuperate from “having a good time.” However, after two days of Madge, there was an incident. A boy on my bus was calling a girl a name and she followed him out of the bus when he got off at his stop in order to talk to him. She came back on the bus huffing and puffing with a face as red as a tomato. We all pretended like we didn’t have our faces plastered to the windows. The next day, Madge was not there nor the next day, and the day after that.
I am sorry to say that Madge was suspended. This means that I have no picture for you guys. In a way I think it has to be like this because those of you who looked forward to Madge Updates had a certain image of her in your head for over nine months and I’m not about to change that for you.
P.S. I also met two Northfielders in Saint Raphael. Who knew?! The guy was proudly sporting a St. Olaf t-shirt so I had to go up to him and ask. The world is so small.