Where do I even begin?
There’s too many things to say and not enough time and space to say it. It’s been a month now since the spring semester has ended and I’m only now finding the time to put my thoughts on paper. The roommates and other CEA students have returned home to the states and the summer students have arrived. The departures happened so fast. In fact, they’re still going on. Many of our other friends, Americans and from around the world, are leaving everyday. Saying ‘goodbye’ is officially becoming one of my least favorite things to do. My days seem a lot more emptier yet still so much more free time. The upside is that I’ve had lots of time to reflect on my experience and can share the best and worst about the whole study abroad experience.
S T U D Y I N G A B R O A D
The French education is very different from what I was used to growing up. University life took some adjustment. From longer class hours, less homework, harder and lengthier exams, I somehow managed to find the proper balance to make sure I still benefited from it all. I think my capabilities as a student really improved. If ever I should be a student again in the US, I think I’ll be able to exercise more discipline when it comes to preparing for exams. I enjoyed that our professors challenged us intellectually and stimulated our desire to participate in class discussions. I really enjoyed my language professor. At the beginning she assessed our abilities and personally made sure each of us improved in the areas we needed. Thanks to her my French is finally at the level it should be at. I can’t just say I’m fluent but I’m able to carry intellectual conversations and I can even work here without problems. I have a lot of respect for the French education system and for French intellectuals. I feel almost deprived of so much having grown up in the US. Even younger students are so well informed. Everything, from literature to politics, the average French student knows quite a lot. Interacting with French students, even other Europeans in general, I get to challenge myself intellectually. It’s quite evident that the learning doesn’t end in the classroom. For students, especially American students, studying abroad really enables us to expand our horizons.
C E A
Choosing CEA was the best decision of the experience. CEA is the absolute best. Everything was clearly mapped out for students, especially in the pre-departure process. The office staff were always ready and available to us. That was only the beginning. The arrival and everything since is really owed to my program director Vivienne. Vivienne took an already exciting experience and personally made it the best for each person in catering to each of our needs and finding things that she knew would stimulate each of our interests. Vivienne made herself available to all of us even for non-program and study related concerns. Even now that my CEA experience has ended, I’m still working with her and I foresee maintaining a lasting friendship with her. She’s more than a program director, she was our mom away from home. I’m sure I speak for all of my program mates when I say that it’s her who allowed us to have the experience we had. CEA hooked us up with the best of everything. The best apartments, the best excursions, and overall, the best opportunities. It helped too that Vivienne is well-connected in Aix. She knows so many people and shared with us all her knowledge of this town.
A I X
Aix in simplest terms was and still is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. It’s my home now. No matter where I go, my heart will always be here. Aix is perfect for learning, growing, seeing, and adventuring. It’s a perfect French town. It exceeded all my expectations. The weather is beautiful all year long. The region itself is amazing and it’s enough of a city where there is still lots to see and do while maintaining a small town character. The best word to describe this place is tranquil. I now know a tranquility I’ve never before known.
E V E R Y T H I N G E L S E …
This year has been the best year of my life. I’ve seen so much. I’ve experienced so much. I’ve learned so much. To sum it up, I really did the most. The friends I’ve made, even the small acquaintances from around France, will be forever in my heart. This year I feel as if I finally reached my destination. Growing up, even in these recent years, I felt like I was on a path to an unknown destination. All the school, all the decisions, the trials and hardships, even the happy moments; the jobs, cheerleading, coaching, working dead-end jobs; fighting with my family, myself, and losing and making friends from across the world, it all led me here. I find myself today in a place that’s not only beautiful but a place that’s mine. I feel like I finally know myself; I know what I want, who I am, what I want to be, and where I want to be. I know what’s important and what’s not worth fussing over. I feel like I’ve reached a point in my life where everything from here on out is totally in my hands. I’ve grown so much emotionally and spiritually that my approach to life is a lot more optimistic. I’ve finally learned to appreciate the small things and to find big happiness in small moments rather short-lived happiness in big moments. I’m easily inspired by everyday happenings. The famous American Dream that I once sought after is nothing but a thing of the past. I’m no longer on a quest for material happiness and no matter where I go, I will always have this outlook on life. When I think of the person I was a year ago, I have pity for that person. He was so small minded and petty. The person I am today is someone I have a lot of respect for and it’s thanks to all the moments and experiences I’ve enjoyed since my arrival.
I owe lots to the people I’ve met who aren’t just my friends but my soulmates. We all grew together and we all see now how to take the next step in our lives. It’s sad to say goodbye but for me at least, as long as I continue appreciating and welcoming life in this way, they will always be with me. Have I figured out the meaning to Life after this experience? No. Was it so extraordinary that now I’m all knowing? No. This experience was simply a growing and cleansing stage. It came just when I needed it. I’m done with college and ready to approach what really will be the rest of my life. I’m ready to welcome it with optimism and faith like I’ve never known it before. From now until at least the next big revelation, the way I think, talk, feel, love, hurt, and live will be better.
For all my readers out there, the final word I can give you is try to find happiness like I have. You might find it by studying abroad like I did or by some other means. Either way, this is a high everyone should know. Challenge yourselves to do something different. Break out of your shells, escape all your worries and troubles and make a change. It’s never too late and it’s never too early to choose to see things differently. This is the beginning to something good. I can’t wait for what’s next. Can you say the same?
**version française à venir….