My six weeks in Aix-en-Provence have come to a close. It’s hard to imagine how much of an impact 6 weeks can make on your life, but change knows neither boundaries nor limits. In some ways, it’s too soon to see any sort of difference as time allows for the greatest reflections. In other ways, I feel quite different from the person I was before France.
I know I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog post, but one of the best parts of my study abroad experience was my French professor, Stéphanie. She is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. There were only three people total in my French class, myself included, and our class was every day for 3 1/2 hours for three weeks. This made it quite easy to get to know her. As part of our class some days, she would take us somewhere in Aix to hangout where we would have full conversations in French together. We were able to ask her anything we wanted as long as we could say it in French. She made it a point to connect with us, even though we would only be in her life for three weeks.
Her lessons taught me self assurance when we had to ask locals for directions to places, trust in myself when I had to give a full 10 minute presentation in French, patience with myself to not get so frustrated when I didn’t get something on the first try. She instilled in me that it’s okay for things to be difficult, and it’s perfectly normal to not be perfect at something while you’re still learning. That’s something I always have trouble with. When I’m not good at something right away, I lose faith in myself and I get frustrated and give up. My experiences abroad have taught me to stick with things, no matter how challenging they may get. I may have only spent three weeks learning from Stéphanie, but the lessons she taught me about life will stick with me for a very long time.
As incredible as my study abroad experience was, it didn’t come without its fair share of challenges. There were some days where it felt like everything was going wrong and the homesickness felt so strong. I now am able to view my obstacles as learning opportunities, with something to learn through every challenge. When things went awry, I had more chances to learn and grow. This mentality allowed me to continue to tackle challenges instead of letting them get the best of me. Embracing challenges and resilience will allow me to find success throughout my educational and professional journeys.
Resilience is something I have never truly understood until going abroad. I remember being asked a question about resilience in an interview for college and my answer being subpar. I knew what it meant, but now I understand it in a new way. From navigating unfamiliar streets to interacting with people from various backgrounds, adaptability becomes a vital skill that ends up being the default. I have never embraced the unexpected more than these past six weeks – like when our flight from Venice to Marseille with a connection in Frankfurt was so delayed that we missed the connection and had to spend the night in Germany at the last minute, or navigating public transportation in countries I didn’t speak the language of. So many strange scenarios were thrown at me, but accepting these challenges instead of running away from them has fostered an immense sense of personal growth and flexibility within myself.
To simply call this end bittersweet would be doing an injustice to how life changing this experience has been. I am so lucky to have been able to immerse myself in such a unique culture and way of living. The people I met were extraordinary, and I already miss them so much. The places I visited these past six weeks were so incredible. I was challenged academically, socially, and culturally. I have been pushed in so many ways, forced to step up to the plate to make split second decisions, face problems head on, and find a way to have fun while doing it all. I know this trip is one that I’ll tell my kids about one day.
I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience. I’m grateful to my parents for raising me to strive for more than everyday life and to face new challenges with open arms. I am so appreciative to the donor from whom I received a scholarship to be able to have this opportunity, and for Pitt Business to allow me to share my experiences with others (and keep my parents up to date on my experiences!)
Till next time.
A bientôt, Aix.