Becoming Home

Going abroad means a lot of social transitions, new experiences and the ultimate routine changer. It means a culture shock into a painful adaption period into an eventual acceptance of a new life.

I’ve found this acceptance comes in the form of several different shapes and sizes. You walk to class every day, for example, and one day you realize that the tiny alleys that characterize French towns no longer seem foreign; they just feel like average streets. Or it could come when you’re grocery shopping for meals rather than eating out every meal because eating out everyday for four months isn’t quite feasible.

For me, after three months, I had gone through a lot of these experiences. Aix-en-Provence was beginning to feel more and more like my new home with every passing day. However, I knew there was one thing I still needed to do, because every morning it was staring me in the eye. Quite literally, I mean.

My hair had become incredibly long, way more so than I was used to. My general rule was that when I can pull down on my hair and it reaches my eyes, it was time for a haircut. I was to the point that I could pull my hard down and it would reach my nose.

There are a number of reasons I had been putting it off. For one, March is when professors decide to make papers due and have midterms, meaning my less-than-stellar studying efforts in January and February were taking up all my time as I played catch-up. There was also the deterrent of the price as most salons in Aix charge at least 25-30 euros for a men’s cut.

But there were also nerves. Back home, I’d been going to the same hair stylist since third grade. She’s made it clear to me several times how hard it is to cut my hair. It gets thick, curly and is a handful for her. It took her two years to learn how to cut my hair, and bad haircuts from trying to find somebody in Madison taught me to be wary of change.

But, hair at the nose meant it was time for me to go, one of the last things I knew I would have to do before settling in completely was about to come off the list. And to my pleasure, it was a very pleasant experience.

It started off with telling her that I was American, at which point she instantly changed to English, which is relatively normal here. Knowing I could try to talk to her in French but have English to fall back on made me more comfortable.

It also started off with nothing I’ve ever had before at a haircut, which was a message, which calmed my nerves even more. The whole thing went off without a hitch, and I walked away satisfied, and more importantly, able to see once again.

In a week, I’ll be three months into my four-month study abroad program. The end is near. There’s been times where I’ve felt like I was never going home, and there’s been times where I’ve wanted the experiences to slow down. But it’s the little things, like getting a haircut, that makes me feel like Aix is my home.