Au Revior!

Authored by:
Mandy G.

Our lives are made up of experiences; this much has been said before and will probably be said again and again until the age when we have nothing left to do but reflect upon what we have already done.

Undeniably, experiences usually fall into one of two categories- good and bad. That being said, anyone who has ever felt something is “bittersweet” knows that it often takes a lot of time and reflection to distinguish between the two. Some experiences are easy: coming in last place at regionals last year = bad. Getting an A on a history paper = good, or so it seems.

The two previous experiences were dots in my personal timeline but my study abroad experience in France was a dash that took a lot more ink to draw. I could easily draw conclusions about which category the last six months collectively fall into, I’ve had eight hours on a plane to do so, but I’m not going to- not yet. Was my miserable Thanksgiving worth walking through the Christmas Market with my host family the week after? The thing is, I don’t know yet.

Haste is a dangerous thing and making decisions too quickly can tarnish a memory before it can be analyzed clearly. It may take years before I know how France truly affected me as an individual- anything I feel today is hazed by emotion.

I would encourage anyone considering studying abroad to stop trying to predict the results of the experience before having, well, experienced it. Instead, I want you to think about your motivation, not the prospective outcome. By this I mean, why do you want to go to France? “It will look good on my college application,” and “I want to create a network of contacts abroad” are not good answers. Why? Because you’re trying to use a possible outcome as a justification.

First and foremost, ask yourself, Do I want to spend half a year in France? Do I want to focus on learning a new language? Do I want to travel and compare cultures? With these sorts of motivations, you don’t have to wait until the program is over to determine whether you’ve met your goals; all you have to do is go.

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t come to France with the right intentions, even if I tricked myself into thinking I did. I had far too many goals that I may never know if I achieved. That’s not to say that I didn’t have an amazing time and that I’m not happy that I came because I am, but it means that I’m left with regret. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, regret is the devil; avoid it at all costs.

Spend time with your host family, that means watching TV with them every night, going on errands, and striking up a conversation with your host siblings if you happen to be in the same room. At the end of the day, your history assignment can wait and so can your friends back home. You’ll have plenty of time to stress about AP tests once you’re back on US soil. Participate, and you’ll wind up with more experiences to sort and mull over.

Trust me, your future scrapbook will thank you later. 

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