2018 Fall External Programs France Honora Feinberg IES Abroad

Embracing the Distance

There’s something to be said about the feeling of disconnectedness while abroad. While that distance can provide a respite from the stress-inducing environment of American universities, it also can make you feel out of touch. Last Tuesday, I found myself frantically typing out an email in a Czech café. My phone had less than one GB of data remaining for the rest of my fall break and I could only get online in restaurants that offered free WiFi. Usually, this wouldn’t be a problem as a break from my phone is always a welcome occasion. However, it was not so welcome when I was receiving emails from my department heads about spring course registration, which was taking place the following day. So far, I had been able to manage my anxiety while abroad pretty well, but when the question of registering for classes next semester came up, seven different question bubbles popped up above my head, looming like gnats. Accustomed to the quasi-carefree, carpe diem atmosphere of my study abroad program, I had almost forgotten what awaited me back home.

Prague sunset. A nice distraction from academic planning.

While registration is usually not a big deal, in making a plan for my following semesters, I came to the realization that I could graduate a semester early. This struck panic within me. I thought about the money I could be saving and how I could get a head start in the job market. I also thought about how I wasn’t ready to start at an adult job and how I would have to figure out an apartment for next year already. In these times of panic, I would usually go see my CLA advisor. Without that resource, I was feeling a little lost. I felt so far from home, from school, from my parents. Tinged with feelings of homesickness, I began to think of December 15th, the day of my flight out of Paris. If I were just home, this would be so much easier to figure out. However, this was also where the disconnectedness of being in a foreign country came in handy.

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Czech vetrnik.

After I had finished my registration and shut my laptop screen, I was able to taste-test specialty pastries and visit the Lennon Wall in the heart of Prague. While my worries about the future continued to linger in my head, they no longer seemed as grave. The great thing about exploring a new country is that getting lost is expected. That is often, in fact, how you find the best restaurants or parks or exhibitions. Realizing a lack of direction and being okay with forging my own path has been a major part of not only studying in France, but also traveling to other European countries. While seeing everyone’s Halloween costumes on social media or photos from a family gathering makes the distance feel greater than it is, I am also able to step back and realize how fortunate I am to be in the here and now. While there may be stresses that await me when I land in Baltimore, right now I am in Nantes, France, and I couldn’t be happier.

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