It’s hard to explain how time progresses when you’re abroad. I feel like I’ve lived 3 full lives and simultaneously feel like I only arrived here last week. It’s crazy to me that its already time to reflect on the person that I was when I arrived here over two months ago. A version of me that couldn’t have imagined everything that was going to happen in the following months.
The version of me that arrived in France at the start of my program was fearful, excited, and somewhat unprepared for the beginning of my adventure. I feared all the things that could go wrong, I feared that I wouldn’t be able to communicate in the target language, and I feared not finding friends abroad. By the same token, I was so excited by all the opportunities I would have to travel, excited to practice my French, and excited to meet people from all over the world. The fear existed alongside the excitement. It took me about 2 weeks to get calibrated to my life in Reims before I started to plan trips to other cities and countries. I ended up spending almost 400 euros my first two weekends of travel just on TGV tickets. This was my first lesson, a my most expensive lesson that I learned. Now I know that it is much cheaper to plan trips and book train tickets ahead, and with a Eurail pass, than it is to just buy them all separately especially if you are planning a lot. I know better now.
The thing that most surprised me about my experience here is how independent I have become. I went on my first weeklong solo trip, and it was empowering to be able to navigate a new city and rely completely on myself. I was totally free to see and do whatever I felt like and I had my own adventure in each city that I travelled to. I got over my fear of eating alone at a restaurant and even had the owner of a restaurant join me for lunch one day. The best part of solo travelling is being open to meeting so many new people along the way. Since I was alone, I was more open to seeking out new connections and striking up longer conversations with waiters, cashiers, and other locals. This also ended up being one of the best opportunities to enhance my French proficiency as I was having all these conversations completely in French.
In just 2 months, I have noticed a tremendous growth in myself. I can confidently say that I have a new perspective on life and a whole year’s worth of lessons that I will be bringing back home with me. I am so glad that I have had the opportunity to discover new cultures, meet new people, and expand my worldview.