We are now 12 days away from the end of my semester abroad, and to sum it up into one phrase, it’s been one crazy journey.
My program adviser here in Lyon said the very first day at orientation that we didn’t actually know who we are, but at the end we would discover who we truly are. My friends here and I have been talking about this a lot this past week.
Who are we? Have we really changed that much? We feel different, but do we actually? Is this feeling a real feeling or is it because we want to believe we’ve changed?
My answer to all of those questions is that I don’t know.
I feel braver now, and I feel more free. I think there’s something really special about studying abroad for a month, a semester, a year… no matter how long you’re gone it doesn’t really matter, what matters is that you took that risk. When you take a risk like that you will be different, but studying abroad doesn’t really change you. All it does is unlock that part of yourself that was still afraid. It doesn’t matter what your fear was really, but when you leave behind everything you’re familiar and comfortable with, it’s like you can finally just be you, and just experience the world with this beautiful and liberating sense of wonder.
It’s difficult to think about how I won’t be living in Lyon anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so incredibly thrilled to be going back; I miss my family and friends so much, and I can’t wait to be trampled and licked to death by my dogs. But while I’ve been here in Lyon I made new friends, and my host family is genuinely like my second family, and it’s going to be so hard to leave them behind. Lyon truly has become a home for me.
That’s something they try to explain to you, but it never sticks pre-departure. You leave a part of yourself in your host country when you return home, a portion of your heart remains, and I haven’t even returned home yet, but I know it’s going to be a very tough transition. This experience has been so life-altering and rewarding, and it’s going to be difficult going back to the day-to-day life in the US.
There are a lot of things I’m really worried about for my return. I’m worried I’m going to be in-denial about not returning for a long, long time even though I know I want to be back some day, it may not be for a while. I’m worried that I’m going to throw myself into different aspects of my life to try to forget about the Lyon-shaped hole I’ll have. I’m worried that the reverse culture-shock is going to be way worse than the culture shock coming in, and that was already pretty bad.
However, I can’t let that get to me before I’ve even left. I’ve been trying to make plans for how to prepare myself for any counter culture-shock, such as keeping in contact with all of the amazing friends I’ve made here. We all live in different states, but we are already making plans to visit one another, and I know that we will all remain friends for a long time; you don’t go through something like this together and just forget about one another. I also have plans to keep in touch with my host family, and they’ve encouraged me to call as often as I need to if I ever just want to chat in French.
Speaking of French, I am also planning on rejoining French club so I can continue to speak French, because it would be shame to lose all of the progress I’ve gained this past semester just for lack of practice.
I know that it’ll be super tough, but I have a lot of love to surround myself with when I return. Memories of my time here, the life I shared with my host family and my friends here, the sense of joy I’ll feel to be with my loved ones back home again… the possibilities are endless.
My journey may be coming to an end in Lyon, but the adventure never truly ends, and I’m excited to see where the adventure of life takes me next.