Bonjour tout le monde ! I am writing this final blogpost to you from my bed in New York. Its unbelievable how quickly junior year has come and gone. It feels like just last week that I was packing my suitcases with a whole year of adventures ahead of me, and now I’m in the midst of unpacking in May with all my amazing experiences in my memories and on my camera roll. For my final post I didn’t want to write a typical recount of my travels from Dijon to NY, instead, I have written a reflection on what it has been like to end one of the most amazing and memorable years of my life.
I didn’t feel it when I landed in JFK, nor when I was recounting all my stories of the semester face to face with my friends and family for the first time. Rather, I felt it when I ate my first “family style” dinner, when I went out to get ice cream on a Sunday night, and when I was confronted by a stranger who’s English I mistook as French for a minute. Culture shock. It was the same feeling as I felt when I first arrived in France. When I sat through my first two hour-long dinner with my host family, and when I first realized I couldn’t really go anywhere on a Sunday afternoon in France. But why was I now feeling culture shock with my own culture? The sentiment is unmistakeable, feeling like an outsider of the place you’re in by not understanding (remembering, in my case) social understandings/ way of life/ and general attitudes of the people around you. All things that I expected when showing up in Tours, but not in my own hometown.
I had previously read about reverse culture shock, but did not believe that I would be experiencing it. I assumed that I would pick up my American habits without any problem, and I was right, but every slight difference between my life in France and my life in the States became apparent while going through my daily motions this week. The “shock” didn’t come from the difference in habits, but from the realization that I had adapted to my French way of life and had to re-acclimate to my style of living back at home. This meant no more trips to the corner boulangerie, no more practicing conversations in my head, and no more avoiding gilets jaunes (anyone wearing yellow vests). Its been strange to revert back to my old ways, but not difficult. After being in “French mode” for so long, all I can do now is keep the habits that I want to keep, get rid of the ones I don’t, and comment “iN fRaNcE tHeY dO iT LikE tHiS,” about as much as I can to remind my friends and family that I lived abroad for a year.
Another thing about re-acclimating to life back home is answering the question that I’ve already gotten dozens of times this past week, “so, how was your year abroad?” The tough thing about this question is shortening down my response to a few short words/phrases in order to keep the conversation going. Yes, the people asking genuinely want to know how the last year of my life has been, but many of them just wouldn’t understand if I responded “It was life changing, so many highs and so many lows. I see the world in a total.y different way now, yet I’m so relieved to be home.” So I tend to keep the simple, “It was amazing ! I went to so many different places, and really had the time of my life.” Being back home is interesting because of how much my individual world has changed this year, yet I have come back to a relatively unchanged life. I am still just a rising senior in college, getting ready to work my summer job, and waiting till I’m legal to drink again in the States, even though I feel that I have changed and grown so much since I left home nine months ago.
I have had so many incredible experiences this year. And through them all, I’ve not only learned about other cultures, met so many great people, and been to hundreds of new places, but I’ve unexpectedly learned a lot about myself in the process. I now know that I can be thrown into an unfamiliar environment and not only survive, but thrive. I was able to arrive in Dijon not knowing a single soul, and then leave there nine months later knowing that the connections I made in the city will one day bring me back to revisit. No class at Holy Cross could have taught me lessons like how to budget my summer savings to travel an entire continent for a year, how to relate with people who don’t have the same culture as me, or how to skillfully maneuver public European transportation systems. A year abroad is an invaluable experience that I would not change for the world. These past nine months have been the best of my life, and I am so blessed to have been able to go on this adventure and to have had you all to share my stories with.
As this is my last blogpost, thank you all for coming on this journey with me. You have read about all my ups and downs of the past nine months and have hopefully felt like you were right there with me every step of the way. Being the only HC student in Dijon made life a little lonely at times, but I am so glad I was able to share my genuine thoughts and emotions with so many people who read this blog and get great feedback in return, which made life feel a little less solitary at the time. I hope my posts have inspired at least one perspective student, one HC sophomore, or anyone else considering the idea of going abroad to take a leap of faith like I did, and to explore what the world has to offer.
Merci for being apart of Dijon with Sean
A quote that has been circling around the HC students abroad who are getting sentimental that our year is just about over :
« This is why once you’ve traveled for the first time all you want to do is leave again. They call it the travel bug, but really it’s the effort to return to a place where you are surrounded by people who speak the same language as you. Not English nor French nor Spanish nor Italian, but that language where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited. » -Kellie Donnelly, blogger