On August 29th, 2012 I wrote my last blog post about living in France for a year as a study abroad student. In that post, I wrote, “I think I’ll be back to France one of these days, maybe short-term, maybe long-term. But for now, I am going to enjoy the U.S. more so than ever, because I have learned more about myself, and about my country, thanks to being abroad.” Just about one year later, in the beginning of August 2013, I moved back to Paris. It’s been about six months and the experience has been drastically different then when I was an exchange student.
My project upon returning was to improve my French enough in order to apply for a masters at a university in Paris. But, my project was not as constructed as when I was an exchange student. I enrolled in language classes, took a job as a nanny, and moved in with my boyfriend (at the time). But, for the most part, I was on my own, without a network, without a solid step-by-step plan. I wasn’t scared, but maybe I should have been.
After six months, my one network was ended when my relationship ended. His family was my family here, his friends were my friends here. I was left feeling completely isolated and questioning why I was here in Paris.
It’s been one month and I’ve remembered why I’m here: living in a foreign country is a challenge in independence and strength. You have to work harder and more in order to succeed; systems aren’t designed for you, the foreigner – they’re designed for the national. Everyday can be a little complicated with the language, with the people – things are different. But that is why I am here, it’s why I returned. What better way to explore who you are, what you want, than to be constantly surrounded by differences and adversity?
Don’t get me wrong, living abroad is just as much of a privilege as it is a challenge. But, it’s a privilege and an opportunity that tests us to constantly seek who we are and who we can become.