Coming to France was probably one of the biggest transitions in my life. I’m not sure how, or when, or why, but the decision to pack up my life, ship myself off, and change what I know as normal, was one that wasn’t taken lightly. From everything from the stay in my new city, the studies, and my relationships with students, everything has been a journey and one which has changed me and helped me grow as a person.
My initial experiences in France weren’t all that positive. As soon as I had arrived, I had left my passport and wallet on the local bus. Through my tears, I had been greeted, or at least that’s what I thought, by a receptionist that spoke not one word of English. It was confronting, it was scary, it was intimidating, and at that point I was hit with the overwhelming realisation that I was now living in a different country, with a different language, and I literally had no way of communicating with these people.
I filled my first few weeks just trying to stabilise myself and gain a routine. I didn’t know anyone, it was sometimes hard to communicate, and I felt lonely from the beginning. Coming from a place of sunshine and beaches, and people who say hello just as you walk past them on the street, to a small village filled with granite architecture and a society that can be very different from home, I spent most of my days in my room, just wishing I could connect with another person to learn about this scary experience I was now a part of. However, it wasn’t until I started university at IDRAC that I learnt why I came to France in the first place. There is something about going through an experience, the emotions, the roller coaster that is moving overseas, that bonds people together for life. This is what I had with my fellow international students. You live through these moments with one another, support yourself, support each other, and grow as people amongst the chaos.
From little things like going to coffee, doing group assignments, sharing a wine when things get stressful, and having someone to hug even when you feel like your life is falling apart, are the things that make the stressful moments just that much more positive. I am so lucky to say I have made some friends that I will have for life, and even more thankful that their cultures are a far cry from what I am used to. I guess I have plenty of holiday destinations for years to come, plenty of foods to try, families to meet, and experiences to have, and that gives me a future I am excited to be a part of.
At least within the next two months I’ll be visiting, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic, Austria, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and Croatia, but have already conquered Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, Belgium, England, and obviously France during the semester. Just a few countries on the list and many experiences to talk about soon…