This is the reality check of all reality checks:
In two short days I will arrive in Paris, France, get into the car of a borderline stranger, unpack my clothes and eight pairs of shoes in his family’s apartment (and yes, I am quite proud that I was able to narrow it down to eight, so don’t judge me too harshly), and begin a five-month-long journey that puts my high school French Immersion Day 2005 to shame. For the rest of the semester, no more Hoya basketball games, no more Five Guys burgers, no more hulu.com, and no more English. Okay, I’m taking poetic license on my very first entry; there will be some English for sure, but certainly not in my classes and probably not at home unless I’m Skyping!
Obviously this sort of extreme change and cultural transition comes with its fair share of anxiety, particularly over preparations. First I heard nightmarish stories about applying for a visa from non-Georgetown friends and thought the process would give me an ulcer (definitely nothing to sweat about here). Then I found out shortly after Christmas that ALL FOUR of my wisdom teeth needed to be removed before I went abroad to make sure they didn’t bother me while I was overseas. And while I’m happy I took care of it and had time to heal before I say au revoir to New Jersey, my recovery progressed at a glacial pace, to steal Meryl Streep’s line in The Devil Wears Prada. Add all the other errands I ran and the lunch/dinner/coffee/dessert dates I went on with friends and family as if I was on Cher’s Goodbye Tour, and you can understand why I’ve had a few mini-meltdowns prior to take-off.
But interestingly, I’ve only given in to these short-lived moments of anxiety and weepiness twice since I came home for Christmas break. Knowing my personal track record with big changes that force me to become independent (read: going away to camp for two weeks or going to college for the first time), I would have figured that the meltdowns would have started just as Christmas ended and relentlessly harassed my family with the same frequency of Jenny Craig’s new commercials. But through all the stress, which has truly paled in comparison to things like finals, I’ve remained rather excited and remarkably self-assured that I am about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.
I think I owe this to the fact that whenever I start to worry about what lies ahead of me (which is something I do often, as the premature wrinkles on my forehead can attest), I remember that this semester in Paris is a goal I set for myself almost ten years ago. That’s right, from pretty much the first day of 6th grade French, when I first started studying the language, I decided that I would have to spend my spring of junior year abroad in France’s capital. The remarkable thing is that this plan has never changed, although my eleven-year-old self sits in absolute wonder and disbelief that this day has actually and finally (!) arrived.
What exactly it holds for me is another story. I want to put Samantha Brown to shame and become the well-practiced traveler I’ve dreamed of being for years – to discover other parts of France as if they’re my own and to explore Europe so as to grow towards becoming a citizen of the world, rather than dwelling inside my microcosms of familiarity and comfort. But most of all, I’d like to improve my speaking skills. Sometimes I stop myself in the middle of the day and think things like, Hmm, this shirt will need to be ironed at some point. Crap – how do you say “iron” in French? I knew the word in high school… at least I could pantomime ironing if I had to ask my host mother for one… It’s funny to me how far away I feel from being fluent, despite what you might expect from a gal who wrote a ten-page French final in December. (And no, I wasn’t boasting here – I’m actually pandering for sympathy!) Lame humor is my crutch in the English-speaking world, so I wonder how long it will be before I can fall back on it in France. In the meantime, thank God I have this blog as an outlet for any corny puns I need to unwind!
Until next time, when I’m on the other side of the Atlantic!