Before leaving, it was well anticipated that the hardest part of this experience would be leaving the life I’ve always known behind, and starting over in a different city, different school, different home, different family, and a different language. After having done this, I think I can honestly say, yes, that is the hardest part.
Life constantly throws new challenges at us, and it forces a lot of goodbyes. Whether long-term or even at the end of a phone call - joyous or upsetting, final or until next time, full of love or just out of politeness - a goodbye is a goodbye. There’s no way in avoiding it, and once you say goodbye, can you really be certain that you will return? That’s the joy and mystery in life, you never know.
But with all the goodbyes you have to face, there are an equal number of hellos.
Even with the immense changes – new family, customs . . . language, I’ve found that every hello (or bonjour in my case) has opened different doors for me.
At school I’ve meet people and made friends, allowing me to experience French culture from an even greater depth where I have learned common phrases, the “slang,” and the behavior/attitudes of kids my generation.
I went from having the comfort of my closest friends in Lansdale who know me inside and out, to kids I’ve never seen before in my life. However, thanks to common interests and comical incidents (you need a good sense of humor to be an exchange student), it’s easy to build new relationships with people, hopefully ones I’ll be able to keep after I leave.
In my class there are two other Americans, so obviously, a friendship between the three of us has formed, (although that admittedly impedes on the “total” French emersion), but every day I feel the relationships between my friends (French and American) growing stronger.
Of course I can’t automatically recreate the bond I feel with my closest friends back home (friendships that go back several years), but in just a few months, I’m even surprised at the closeness and comfort I feel with my friends in France. (This is all just proof that the humans are truly a social species, and we thrive on our connections with other people).
I do miss my friends back in the states, but luckily for me, I know they’ll be there for me when I get home. Most of them have been extremely supportive and encouraging of me taking this giant leap. But with the distance and the time change, we don’t get to talk very often. Things like Facebook, Skype, and email help maintain my relationships and allow me to keep up with what is going on at home.
But however important friendships are a family connection has a unique and strong power. I once read an article on a study about the power of family. This girl had suffered a traumatizing accident, and everyone was impressed by how beautifully she was handling it and how posed she was. It wasn’t until she was reunited with her family that her true emotions surfaced and she completely broke down.
I feel like this exemplifies the irreplaceable security one feels from their family. We all act differently when our only audience is our family, and it’s the exact same with my family, so obviously their absence from my life right now is bizarre. I love my family, and I miss having then here, but at the same time, I was so lucky in falling into my new family.
My host family so graciously opened their home to me, and now I consider them my second family. Living together obviously sped up bonding, and I absolutely adore them, and it’s going to be just as hard leaving them in June as it was leaving my family back in America.
My brother back in the states asked me who I loved more, my family here or them, and with no offense intended, I admitted that I can’t chose. It’s like asking a mother to choose between her children. I love having both in my life, and I’m dreading having to say goodbye to my host family in June.
The time is passing so incredibly fast, as January is already coming to an end. My trip is halfway done. I feel like every day passes by so fast, and I’m constantly wondering to myself, where is the time going?
It’s not that I’m wasting it, it’s just that there’s so much I want to do, and finding a way to accomplish it all will require some serious organization. But I can’t dwell on it, as I still have so much to look forward to. Plus I still need to get my French accent down….
Even though I’ll be saying goodbye to France in June, I know it won’t be for forever. Plus, I get to say Hello to America once again.