Happy 6 months to meee!
I can’t believe today marks 6 months since I stepped off the plane in France! To celebrate, I spent the day in Lyon with my host family. We went to see the Henri Matisse exposition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts. It was such a beautiful exposition, I even got to see “Oranges in a Basket,” a painting by Matisse that I studied my freshman year of high school.
My life here is so amazing and I’m so sad to think I only have 4 more months left! Last week, I received an email from my rotary district’s ‘culture shock teacher,’ she helps all of the outbound prepare for the year they are going to have abroad and this year, she asked the current inbounds to write a letter to the outbounds going to the same host country. I was really excited to write this letter because there are so many things I have experienced being that I’m more than half way through my exchange age year, so I had a lot to talk about! Whether you are going to study abroad in the future, a frequent traveler, or one of my friends or family members back home, I hope you enjoy this letter I wrote! It honestly sums up these six months living abroad!
Dear fellow adventurer,
Bonjour! My name is Amanda, I’m from Canton, OH and I’m spending my exchange year in Chambéry, France in district 6650.
So I hear you’re going to France! Congratulations on taking one of the biggest steps of your exchange year , it’s a decision you won’t regret. I remember when I was an outbound, innocent and all, listening to the inbounds talk about their exchange and they always said, “This year is going to be the hardest/ best year of your life.” And that is 100% true. I have had so many mental break downs in these past 5 months, but I have also made some of the most amazing memories that I will never forget! All in all, you exchange year is going to have ups and downs, like a roller coaster, and it’s up to you to decide to get back up when you’re knocked down.
So getting back to my story, I counted down the days until I left, imagining all of the places I would go to, all the people I would meet, and all the delicious food I would consume (ps. exchange weight is real, i hate to break it to ya!) Only one thing left me hesitant to leave my home, where everything was in my comfort zone, and that was the language barrier. I did not speak one work of french before I left! I had originally chosen Spain as my first choice because I had studied Spanish for 5 years, but things didn’t work out the way I planned… spending my exchange year in france turned out to be better than I could have ever imagined. As an American abroad, you can get away with speaking English no matter where you go, it’s a widely spoken language around the world…and the French are obsessed with American culture and the language, they’ll try to speak with you in English all the time. However, you can’t let them talk to you in English the whole year, this was another struggle of mine. My host family spoke fairly good English and so did the kids in my class at school, so I really didn’t start speaking french until my 5th month in, when I switched host families (I only have 2 host families). Don’t make this mistake!! It’s better to make an effort to speak french and make mistakes than speaking English. And the ‘comfort zone’ is another important lesson I’ve learned from the moment I stepped off the plane in France. There are going to be moments when you have absolutely no idea what to do because you have never encountered a circumstance/ problem/ what ever it may be, but the important thing is to do what you think is right and learn from the situation. No book, person, etc. can prepare you for what you are about to discover. But the most important thing I have realized is that time flies when you’re having fun. I learned to let go of who I used to be back home and fully embrace every moment of my life in France! With that being said, I wish you a fantastic year abroad. Keep your mind open and try as many new things as possible because you were given an opportunity of a lifetime. And don’t sweat the small stuff like what to pack, what city you’re going to live in, or how you’re going to make friends when you get there because everything will fall into place, trust me.