Thursday, February 17, 2011

life lessons from angers.

“you’re going to have such an amazing experience!” “studying abroad was one of the best decisions i ever made, you’ll be so happy!” “i always regretted not being able to study abroad in college..”
i can’t describe how many times i heard statements like these in the months leading up to my departure. it seemed like everyone i told about my plans thought that i was going to have the time of my life. and they were right, in a sense.. i’m definitely having a once-in-a-lifetime experience. i would like to add, however, that this semester is in no way easy.
my classes may be less intense work-wise, but they’re all in french – an obvious fact, but you don’t realize how much brain power it takes to think in a foreign language until you do it all the time. i’m here to become fluent in french, and that process does not happen overnight. i’m slowly but surely becoming more confident in my speech, but there is so much i have left to accomplish. and then there’s the fact that, while it’s great to know the names of all the different kinds of trees in the world, i’m definitely not up to par in my daily-life vocabulary. on the opposite end of the spectrum, i’ve actually started to not be able to think of words in english. today, it took me half an hour to think of the word ‘exhibit’. so my languages are definitely swirling around up in my brain, mixing and melding together to form a perpetual franglish.
another difficulty i’ve been experiencing relates to distance from home. for this, i blame a) the close proximity of my university and hometown (25 minutes), b) my desire to know my surroundings (belmont, nashville, etc), and c) my seemingly unbearable separation from my friends and boyfriend. i miss being able to run down to franklin for an evening or for church on sundays. and i really have gotten to know angers pretty well, but nothing compares to the feeling of “home” i get when i’m in nashville or franklin. and i have to admit, if i weren’t in a relationship.. the first two problems wouldn’t be nearly bad enough to make me as homesick as i’ve been. but i find myself experiencing a constant ache in the pit of my chest, like such an important part of me is missing that i have a physical reminder of it.. various forms of internet communication have served to numb this pain to a certain extent, but i’ve probably replayed the image of our august reunion in my mind about a thousand times. that being said, i’ve made some excellent friends here. incredible, really. i’ll be heartbroken when we say goodbye in may and go back to our respective corners of the world. they’ve been a source of comfort, companionship, and camaraderie practically since day one. without them, i’d have probably boarded a plane back home already. well.. maybe not. but close. i’m beyond grateful for them.
the final difficulty is a personal battle – i’ve always joked about how i wanted to just come back “french.” totally adopt the culture and lifestyle, just transform myself into a new person. after all, study abroad is about self-discovery and transformation. but when it comes down to learning who you are, you realize that there is no way to change who you are at that moment. you can decide where to go, but nothing will alter where you’ve been. i still have lots of problems with the united states and the “american” attitude that some people have. the stereotypes of typical americans, i’m sorry to report, are mostly based on fact. i’ve met a few exchange students here who don’t speak french – they don’t even have a desire to learn french. apart from having no idea why they’re here at all, i’m a little depressed by the fact that they are as much a representation of america as i am. but i can’t change it, and they have to be them. i just hope that french people can meet as many open-minded, accepting, respectful americans as they do loud, inconsiderate, judgmental ones. but even with all my issues in regards to my country, it’s still home. and i love home, so i love the united states. it took moving 4,000 miles away to realize that living in the same country as glenn beck is worth it, because that’s where my loved ones are. it’s a more-than-worthy exchange. (that’s how much i love you guys).

ANYWAY- enough ranting. here’s a brief summary of the last few days! :)
monday, 14 february.
valentine’s day. for obvious reasons, it was a little rough. i made it through art history in the morning, but by noon, i was feeling pretty awful. there was no way i could have made it through a 3 hour grammar class.. so i cuddled with a hot water bottle and napped/played on the computer for the afternoon. that evening, after my hour and a half conversation class, we had a valentine’s day mexican fiesta, which was amazing. i made a MUCH larger batch of guacamole (we ate all of it anyway) and we cooked up some spicy chicken for quesadillas. for dessert, i splurged on some vanilla ice cream to go with the peanut butter / nutella grilled bananas that natalie loves to make. it was a great night.
tuesday, 15 february.
no classes on tuesday meant i got to have a bit of a lie-in. it was raining all morning, so i stayed in my pajamas and did homework until the weather cleared up. around 4pm, natalie, emma, and i went into town for a little shopping/errands excursion. we stopped by the bank and the post office before hitting up a few stores. it was the last day of the semi-annual sales, so everything was really cheap. i made some pretty excellent purchases, and then got my dinner goods at monoprix. we headed back around half 6, and i cooked/ate my pasta. after dinner, we had a little study party to compare our notes for the translation test on wednesday. it was fun to hear everyone’s versions of the texts! i tried to skype after everyone left, but the internet was being atrocious. it was very frustrating, and i wasn’t pleased.
wednesday, 16 february.
you know it’s going to be a rough day when you wake up with the previous night’s black mood cloud still hanging over your head. i woke up around half 8 and went to meet natalie and claire to do a bit of cramming for the exam at 10. i calmed down from my rampage enough to get through the exam, and then promptly went back to bed. i just needed to restart my day. so i woke up a couple hour later, feeling expontentially better. i went to my speech class, where i even spoke out loud in class, with no grave errors. culture class was fun too, and we were given an assignment to go to a local bar and do a little evaluation. sweet! i stopped by superU to indulge my craving for the day; a cheeseburger. i hadn’t eaten once since the night before i left for france, and i was seriously craving one. so i bought a little patty of ground beef, some buns, and an avocado (i already had the cheese) and went to town. i still had some potatoes from my lidl trip, so i even made wedge fries!! i’m not kidding when i say it was one of the best meals i’ve ever made. the burger was perfectly done, and the cheese/avocado combo was delicious. the fries were perfectly golden and crispy, and i had some crisp, raw green beans as a side.. amazing. i took pictures, check facebook. haha. i was feeling a little needy, so jessie indulged me by coming and talking for a while. she eventually went to bed, but then emma came and talked for another while! it was great to just get things off my chest. i chatted to drew for a bit and then went to bed around 1am.
thursday, 17 february.
today was a pretty stinkin’ great day. i only have class until noon on thursdays, which is lovely. plus, i found out my grade on the translation test from wednesday.. i freakin’ annihilated that thing. so hooray! i had made plans earlier this week to meet up with a girl i met on couchsurfing for lunch. she’s also a student here! rachel and i met up with her and three of her friends, and we had a great meal at the caf together. we even stood outside for a while afterwards and chatted! it was lovely. the weather today was gorgeous, nice and sunny and warm. tonight, there is a “student party” downtown.. it’s a black and white soirée – so i’ll finally have a reason to wear my black dress! yay!! my group from culture class is meeting up before the soirée to do our little bar evaluation, and then we’re moving onto a different location for the party. it should prove to be a fun and social night!


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