Five months later, here I am at the end of my semester abroad in Europe.
There have been things that I’ve fallen in love with, things that I’ve not liked at all, things that have made me smile, and things that have made me upset.
One of my favorite things here are the friends that I’ve made. I met people from France, Spain, Panama, Ghana, Korea, China, and Japan. The first day I was in Europe, I met an amazing French guy and have been with him ever since. I had every opportunity in the world to speak French whenever I wanted to, and I was situated right in the middle of Europe and able to travel wherever I wanted to and however far my money would allow (9 countries and 18 cities to be exact). Even within Caen, I lived with no car and could easily get around the city thanks to an amazing public transportation of busses and trams. I wasn’t working, and besides being in class I had so much free time I didn’t know what to do with myself.
But of course, there are things here that I won’t miss at all. For example, I won’t miss the constant strikes that cause the convenient public transport systems to shut down and that also kept me from seeing my mom while she was in Barcelona. I won’t necessarily miss having to pay for an expensive phone each month, or not having a real kitchen or refrigerator, or not having internet in my building. I wasn’t a huge fan of the coed bathrooms everywhere, causing me to become very confused while I’d be washing my hands and a guy would be using the urinal behind me. I didn’t love the cold rainy weather that the Normandy region of France is famous for, and I definitely didn’t like the Dollar to Euro exchange rate.
Yet, I found myself constantly smiling thanks to little things every day: pink toilet paper in every bathroom, the ever-so-chic French fashion, Carrefour (the French version of Wal-Mart), bunnies frolicking around on campus, a gigantic ancient castle in the middle of Caen, delicious French food (fresh baked bread, lardons, crème fraiche, pastries), going to friends’ apartments for apéros at 7pm, automatic coffee machines in nearly every building where I could buy a cup of coffee for just 40 cents, the Rue de la Soif full of bars (“Thirsty Street”), and becoming a regular at a little kebab shop thanks to their free wifi.
But still, I could’ve done without being in class for 19 hours a week, creepy people hanging out at the train stations, strict French professors, super early closing hours, extremely long classes (we’re talking 3 ½ hours here), translation difficulties, and ugly graffiti all over campus.
With all that being said, I must admit that this has been one of the best semesters of my life. Sitting here at my little desk, with all my stuff packed away in my suitcases, typing this, I am so sad. I can’t believe that these 5 months passed so quickly and that in just a few days, I’ll be back in Dallas with my friends and family. I am so incredibly excited to be home, to be back at Baylor soon, and to see everyone that I love so dearly again. Yet I still can’t help but feel ridiculously bittersweet about this situation. I’ve learned so much; my French has improved drastically (although it’s still nowhere near perfect), I was able to directly experience the French culture, and I’ve discovered a lot about myself. I’m even applying for a position as an English Teaching Assistant in France for October-April of 2011-2012. After this semester, I have two places in the world that are really important to me: the United States and France. It will be hard at first, but I know that I’ll find a balance eventually.