After two weeks of being back in the United States, I have realized just how much I learned during my stay in France. Below, I've attached three of my favorite photos taken during the program as well as my overall reflection from this program.
This photo was taken during our program's excursion to Saint Malo. When I look at this picture, I remember the vast ocean and its strange properties. When we first arrived in Saint Malo, the ocean covered everything around the city. But, later in the day the tides descended, revealing a pathway to two separate islands. The picture above was taken on one of these islands. I thought this was truly fascinating as I had never witenessed tides so extreme in the United States. I can still hear the gentle purr of the ocean waves and I can see the vivid colors of the wildflowers. This excursion was definitely one to remember.
This second photo I took during our weekend excursion to Cornuaille. Specifically, I took this at the hostel we stayed at in Concarneau. I remember how truly mind-boggling it was for me to be sleeping literally right next to the ocean. Where I live in Colorado, we are very far from any ocean. As a result, I cherish every moment I get to see the ocean when I travel. When I woke up the morning after sleeping in the hostel, I decided to go for a run. Not only did I have one of the most spectacular runs I've had in my life with stellar views, but I was able to take a dip in the ocean right afterwards. Because France is so far North, the ocean water is very cold. This would make a lot of people not want to swim in the ocean, but it was absolutely perfect for me.
My second favorite photo was taken on the very last day of my program with my host family. Of all the people I met during my program, the one with my host family was by far the most important to me. From the very first day up until the last, they were always there to support me and love me even when I had challenges. I was also fortunate enough to have my real mom meet my host family. I remember my mom taking this picture before we went to the train station and I could see the emotion in her eyes. Here were four people she had known for only a day, yet she already had such a rich emotional connection with them. I will never forget my host family, and I truly hope I can meet them again.
This program was very suprising in a lot of ways. For one, I expected it to be way easier than it turned out to be. I thought that my French-speaking abilities would come naturally and I would be fluent, but that was not the case. I learned that learning a language takes a great deal of hard work and dedication. It's not easy at all, but I can improve as long as I work towards it every day. I also learned about myself and my independence. This trip was the first time I had taken a plane by myself, and to be honest it was very scary for me. I was forced into an uncomfortable and challenging situation so I could improve in a wonderful way, and I think that I can trust my gut and my own choices easier after this program. In addition to learning about myself, I learned things about real French culture. Before I went to France, I had several preconceived beliefs about the French and their way of life. Almost all of these were proven wrong, and I know hold a much deeper respect for the French and their way of life. I have learned that the world is enormous, and every single culture is different. However, that doesn't mean that other ways of living are bad or strange, it just means that they have different values.