Mara, outbound to France

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I have been in France now for 3 weeks, and all I can say is, what an experience. In just these three weeks I have learned so much, and my language skills have already improved. However, nobody, no internet source, no book, can truly prepare you for what you will experience abroad. Sure, those devices help you learn, but you’ll never know what it is truly like until you step foot in the country and experience everything first hand. For example, you can read up on the culture of your country, and the different mannerisms, but they aren’t always entirely accurate. That’s like saying that in America eats Little Debbie snacks for breakfast, because you read that online. (Okay, that’s a bad example, but you know what I mean). You can’t predict what your experience will be like because every one’s exchange is different. I was taught in school, and read online a lot of things about France that don’t necessarily apply (at least to my region), although I did learn a lot that did. But there are so many things I thought I knew that I didn’t. I thought I knew the language SO much better than I actually did. Everyone says that even if you study the language for a really long time, you will step off that plane and be shocked at how much you don’t know; but here I was, thinking that that wouldn’t happen to me because I took 5 years of French. 
But Rotary really does have an amazing way of placing students where they are truly meant to go, and I am extremely grateful that I have this opportunity to be in France. I had heard stories about people who studied a language for a long time and got sent to a country that spoke the complete opposite language, so I thought for sure I’d be sent to a country like Brazil or Taiwan, but I am so glad that I landed in France.

In these 3 weeks, I have met so many new people, started a new school, and even faced some things that I never would have imagined would happen to me. School here is so different than back home. Talk about culture shock… Again, school is one of those things that I learned about, and read about, but it’s a whole different ball game when I came here and actually showed up and started going to the classes. But although there are so many differences in the culture, and language, there are also a lot of similarities, and a lot of things that remind me of home. For example, in the US, if you are late to class, you go to the office (or you don’t sometime), and then you just show up and walk in the classroom and sit down and if you have a pass, you hand it to the teacher. Here, it is so different. In fact, since the schedule here is different, I didn’t have to be to school until 9 am, and since I have to take the bus and the metro to get to my school, I took the bus an hour later, since I had to be there an hour later. I was cutting it close on time, but according to my clock, I got to my class with 3 minutes to spare. Unfortunately, my clock and the school’s clock are not in sync, because apparently I was a couple minutes late. I did as I would do in the US, and I just walked in and sat down, and I got kind of yelled at by the professor because, I did not know, but here you have to knock on the door, say hello, present a note, and then the professor decides if you can stay for the class. Well, I think the teacher didn’t realize that I was foreign until I started speaking with an American accent, and she told me it was okay once she realized. But that is just one of those things that you can’t really prepare for, but now I know!

Leaving behind my friends, family, and everything I’ve known my whole life for 11 months is definitely a really tough thing to do, but I know that it is all worth it. I am experiencing a whole new culture, and speaking a different language every single day. I am so grateful for this experience, and I want to thank Rotary and my family for helping me through this crazy adventure, and for giving me such an amazing opportunity like this.