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I have now officially been in France for over 4 months. I know... HOW. Where has the time gone? Is there a way to slow it down? Do I HAVE to go back? I have gotten to that point in my exchange, the point where you never want to leave. These past four months have been a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences and I wouldn't trade that for the world because I am now a different person than I was when I left. I don't really consider myself a writer, all though I do enjoy it, but having a blog has made me realize how difficult it is; there's soooo much I want to say but it's impossible to say it all otherwise my fingers would fall off. But I am going to try my best to sound coherent and make sense. With that being said, I realized that my last blog post was pretty easy and fluid to write because I stuck to a theme and a list so here goes this theme: turning points.
Christmas break: Let me just tell you how needed this break was. French school is crazy long and really demanding and yes I'm aware I've already mentioned that before. But I got so much well needed rest over the break and got to sleep in for the first time in forever. And I actually ended up losing weight which is ironic because they eat a LOT for Christmas. And when I say lose weight it was one kilo out of the five I've gained being here so I'm still living up to the exchange 15 don't worry.
Chambèry: I got to visit my exchange friends in Chambèry! Me and three other American girls in my district all met up in this super cute city in the mountains. It was even cuter than normal because of the Christmas lights and a charming little Christmas market. Basically this was also much needed because you get to vent and be reminded that you're not alone on all the ups and downs of exchange. That, and the fact they're all super awesome and hilarious. (@ Ellie, Amanda, and Hadley :))
Christmas: Basically it's just an excuse to eat for non-stop for two days. Traditional Christmas foods that I do not like: oysters and foie gras. I'm not sure if I've already mentioned foie gras before in a past blog post but if I haven't I'm warning you now. It's disgusting. I've eaten it three times and after the third I realized it's not gonna grow on me and it's not gonna just all of a sudden get better. But besides foie gras and oysters they have really good Christmas foods like la bûche and smoked salmon to make up for it! If you've never had la bûche, I'm sorry. It changes your life. It's literal tiny angels dancing in your mouth sprinkling sweet sensations over each individual tastebud. And I'm not over exagerating either. But also I got the sweetest gifts from my host siblings! And from my sponsoring rotary club! It made me feel so loved and got in me in the Christmas spirit so thank you to all who made this Christmas so special!
Villard de lans: Family vacay!! A tiny village in the mountains that was so breath takingly beautiful it almost made me cry. (Not literally cry but it was beautiful and did leave me speechless). And for a Floridian who hates and despises the cold (the Swedish in me only tolerates it) I finally understood why people liked winter; it's the snow. There wasn't enough snow to go skiing yet but there were some baby snowmen and people going sledding. By the end of our three day stay I discovered that I indeed do like the cold (as long as there is snow). And we hiked a LOT. Which I've always enjoyed but have never experienced in the cold. One of the days we hiked a total of four hours to get to this tiny restaurant that had no running water and no electricity. We ended up having the most magical-fairy tale-candle lit lunch EVER. My only complaint would be the out house haha. First time for everything!
Changing host families: Bitter sweet. I was excited to change families and have a different experience but it was hard because I was saying good bye. Not just to my host family but to the past four months of my life, to my village, to my bedroom, to my amazing view from the shower, and every little small thing in between. That, and it also meant my exchange is 1/3 over. But my new years resolution is to continue living in the moment and making every second so I've decided to look at it in the fact that I've only just begun.
NYE: My first french party! My new host sister (who I already love) invited me to a NYE party. It was so much fun and the biggest turning point socially for me. It made me fall in love with the people. I didn't need more convincing that France was beautiful, or that the food was amazing, but I still hadn't broken social barriers. Most European countries are like this in my opinion. They are all pretty closed off to new people but once they finally let their walls down, they fully accept you. It's taken 4 months for me to feel this way but the patience and work was worth it. French people are some of the most caring people ever. If someone falls asleep at the party someone else will put a blanket over them and make sure they're okay. Those are just some specific examples but my point is, I'm finally french. Maybe not legally but in every other way that's how people are finally starting to treat me. And I love it!
Today: As I was getting ready today I was listening to music and brushing my teeth and then a spotify ad came on. By the end of it I realized it was in French and I understood every word. Yeah it was only 30 seconds but still! It just made me realize all the progress I've made and was a little encouraging reminder that all though it's hard, it is possible.
Reflection time: I was reminded today of truly how amazing it all is. One of my best friends, and practially a sister, who's also on exchange (@ Emma) asked me "What if?" What if I hadn't gone on exchange. And it made me realize and truly reflect on these past four months. The answer is I can't imagine. I physically can not imagine my life if I had never gone on exchange. The things I've learned, the person I've become, it's all so a part of me now that it's like asking what if I was never born. It's just impossible to imagine. France is my home and truly a part of me now. Before I had submitted my application, which feels like an eternity ago now, I told Emma I wasn't sure if I should go. I owe it to her for being my rock through it all. As much as I can't imagine me never going, I even more can't imagine not having you through it all. So thank you Em!
To any future outbounds: You're in for the ride of your life. It's gonna be hard but the rewards are worth it a thousand fold! The holidays are sometimes just a pure struggle but hang in there because trust me, it only gets better.
Posted on Sun, January 15, 2017
by Terri Wescott