Last Fall’s students have long settled into their routines back home, but that doesn’t mean we’re not still thinking of them and vice versa! Sarah, a Foreign Language (French and Arabic) major at Scripps College in California, just contributed this moving post — one she wrote at the end of last semester — about leaving France and the importance of taking advantage of time abroad. As the Spring semester draws to an end, and life’s adventures come and go, we wanted to share Sarah’s inspiration with you. Thanks for sharing Sarah!
« Something of a pivotal moment hit me yesterday evening as I walked home from a lovely three-hour coffee with a close French friend Sandrina, through the onsetting dusk and the sparkly Christmas lights upon their installation this weekend, and the glitter of this magical town waking up from a string of seemingly endless rainy dreary days. The freshly turned blue sky was darkening splendidly and I kid you not, it literally took my breath away. A bout de souffle.
I needed this moment. A push, something to shake me and remind me – HEY! You’re in France for goodness sake, stop moping about un petit peu de pluie/a little bit of rain. It’s easy to fall into routines, especially as we make our way well into the third month of the program. It’s easy to stay cuddled in pajamas all day, stuck surfing the web and procrastinating on homework, instead of getting up to take a stroll around town. It’s too easy to get into habits of school, class, homework, class, homework, class, homework, repeat. Don’t get me wrong – some of the habits here are what make Aix – Aix, what make France – France. Le fromage après le dîner still delights me every time. The satisfaction of successful French interactions in grocery stores and cafés doesn’t get old. Every bise, every bonjour, keeps me feeling invigorated and, au fur et à mesure, little by little, I grow more and more at ease with the steady pace of French life. But falling into routines tends to get me down. I get restless, frustrated with myself for my own lack of motivation, I start to yearn for ailleurs, elsewhere. And that’s just where I was beginning to find myself, and the rain and clouds weren’t helping.
So I started counting moments. It started with our first cheers of our last cooking class – Friday evening. We were drinking prosecco – light and crisp and delicious. Our cooking professor and hero in general rose his glass to us, “A la vie.” he said, with a reminder to keep these moments forever. That sometimes in life, you find yourself in a moment, a time, with a group of people, that happens once. And if you miss it – it slips away. This is starting to sound a little like Ferris Bueller… Tant pis/too bad. What I mean to say is that it’s precious. And no matter how often I remind myself to realize this, it’s all the better if you’ve got someone in front of you – doing the reminding for you. We dug into our final flawless repas: une tarte aux avocats et crevettes, un poisson magnifique – avec des lentilles et un sauce au réduction des crevettes. Pour le dessert, des crêpes à l’orange – parfait.
Dancing at Zumba with ma soeur d’accueil/my host sister, to ridiculously upbeat bass-heavy pop music, surrounded by disco lights and gorgeous French women dressed in orange and black – for the Halloween Zumba party… on November 14. We laughed together at our ridiculous inability to follow the complicated dance moves – neither of us having any dance background whatsoever. Sweating and laughing and dancing and singing, and I reminded myself to make the memory last.
Cooking une tarte aux pommes with my host mom and host sister. Peeling and slicing crisp, juicy apples, melting down butter and sugar to cook the apples in, the apples go into the crust and cook while we enjoy our dinner, and 40 minutes later – the big reveal, bubbling and golden and smelling like liquid joy, we all got to marvel at our masterpiece.
Buying three fromage sandwiches at 3 am at the 24-hour boulangerie when Pizza Capri is already closed and we’d had enough of the dancing and the singing and the heat that embody our favorite underground clubs.
I spent a week in Spain over our break – the last week of October. An unforgettable, amazing, overwhelmingly beautiful trip – yet at the end, I was yearning for la France. I started missing it deeply, this town, this country, this house, this school, that over the past three months have found their way into my heart. I got back into Aix on a frosty Sunday morning after a sleepless night on a bus. Trudging upwards through the still sleeping centre ville, towards home, I was crossing my fingers hard that I’d find an open boulangerie at 7:50 am on a Sunday. Much to my delight, the door to Café Jacob was wide open with that practically perfect fresh bread smell wafting out. I was relieved to be able to order again and be understood (my broken Spanish had not gotten me very far in Spain), and even more relieved to finally have my precious pain au chocolat in hand – piping hot – I ate it in about 6 bites.
I talk about the food a lot, but I promise it’s not the only thing. I think it’s just that it’s easy to write about as a way to make this experience that I’m having as tangible as possible for those who are reading.
But it’s no one thing that makes the life here as special as it is. It’s the people, each individual who’s touched my life here. It’s the language – each new word that I learn without an English alternative delights me. It’s the moments in the living room with my host mom and sister, laughing at the ridiculous French sitcoms, where it’s always a triumph if I’ve actually understood a joke. It’s the 30-minute walk to my Arabic classes at La Fac de Lettres, or strolling through a boutique and indulging in the silky fabrics and fluffy sweaters – fighting the urge to buy everything. It’s the moments of solitude, the moments of friendship, the moments of family, the moments of missing home deeply (yes they do come). It’s sitting on the couch when mon chien d’accueil, my host dog cuddles up to me and falls asleep. It’s strolling through town with ma mère d’accueil, my host mom and picking out clementines au marché and marveling every time at the beautiful fountains scattered throughout. It’s everything. Together. That I’m trying to keep forever.
As I walked the dog with my host mom today we realized that I literally only have 5 weeks left. I guess I’ll just have to come back. Je dois. »
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