Reporting to you live from Toronto Pearson International Airport, where I am currently waiting for my boarding group to be called! Despite getting hit with a 70-Euro Uber charge on my way to Charles de Gaulle and barely being able to lug my two severely overweight suitcases across the threshold, I made it. My U.S sim card is back in my phone, the woman checking my boarding pass said, “thank you” instead of “merci,” and water fountains can be spotted at every corner.
While I am definitely happy to hear English again and can’t wait to see my friends and family, my last day in Nantes and final day in Paris were filled with hard goodbyes and moments of deep reflection. As cliché as it sounds, I can honestly say that my semester in France has affected the way I see the world. However, I think that my experience living in a host family affected me most poignantly. I think back to when I was selecting my lodging and am so grateful that I decided against living in a university apartment. I owe so much of my language progression, cultural immersion, and comfort to my host mom, Helene, my host brothers, Matthieu and Thomas, and all of the other family members I had the pleasure of meeting.
When I first embarked on this journey, I couldn’t have even imagined some of the experiences I would get to drink in. I’ve never had so many “I can’t believe I’m here right now” moments in my life. In just four months, I got to go paragliding in the Swiss Alps, learn about wine culture and cultivation in Bordeaux, and walk through the streets of Munich in a dirndl. It is moments like these that I have Temple to thank for. I can promise, I was not paid to say this, but I would genuinely not have been able to undergo this adventure of a lifetime without the gracious donors and liberal arts staff at Temple University. For trusting me to make the most out of this experience and use what I learned to not only enrich my life but also the lives of others, I thank you.
What I learned this semester cannot be summed up in a blog post or even sixteen. However, what I can say for sure is that, in my fourteen years of taking French classes in America, I never learned as much about the French language and culture as I did in the four months I spent in the eclectic, charming, welcoming city of Nantes, France. Don’t get me wrong. It was challenging often. There were moments when I felt completely out of my comfort zone and wanted to shut down. But I didn’t. I took five classes in French all taught by French professors, I managed the public transportation systems of five different countries, and I managed to revive my liquid-damaged laptop from near death all while remaining (mostly) sane. Of all the challenges I’ve endured in my life, this is the feat I’m most proud of. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change anything about it.