I feel like someone just woke me up in the middle of a really good dream and now it is morning and I am back in my bed in Madison. We were told we would go through another culture shock when we arrived home. To some extent, this idea was false. It wasn’t hard to fall back into my regular routine of eating cereal, drinking large glasses of milk, and sitting in front of the TV after 5:00pm dinner waiting for Seinfeld to come on. And to further ease my coming home jitters, my mom bought a – drum roll please: crepe machine. I feel bad I only sent her an email on mother’s day now. Well admittedly, those things aren’t hard to do. The culture shock I did go through started in Culvers. I knocked into someone and softly said “pardon” in a sweet French accent. And then when we got our food I said “Merci”. I feel like when people hear me say a little French to them it makes me sound pretentious. Or probably just goofy. Those little courteous words are a habit I can’t break. We were drilled in the beginning of our stay to always say “Bonjour” when you walk into a store or else the storeowner won’t acknowledge you (Side note: not particularly true but nonetheless, always good to be polite). Well now back in Madison, I literally has to bite my tongue to hold me back from saying hello in French, but I was a little put off she never said hello to me first. However possibly the strongest culture shock that embarrasses all other culture shocks is when I saw a camouflage hat and vest on a heavy set men at a restaurant in my hometown. Although I should recognize the fact that hunting deer and squirrels and the color neon orange and camouflage patterns are the foundations of the great Midwest region! Respect.
Coming home has been both relieving and sad. I miss Paris with all my heart, but my friend once consoled me by saying Paris will always be where you left it. It’s not like Hogwarts where it’s only real in my head and I’m still debating its existence, Paris is actually real- as much as it felt like a dream. I sometimes wonder if I like Paris more than Disney World, and I believe my answer is (yes)! And just like how my yearly-sometimes twice yearly visits fuel my passion for Disney, I know one day I will return to Paris to rekindle my love affair with the place.
When I arrived home, my friends thought I looked “French” or “European”, which is funny, but it was my goal. When I got off the plane to be picked up by my parents, I played up the stereotype and had my red beret and sweater with elbow patches on. I forgot to take out a cigarette and ask them to light me up- because I sadly left Paris without a pack. Speaking of goals though, I challenged myself with nine goals in four months.
The first goal was to order food for my parents in perfect French. “Perfect” French was a little over kill because every time I did try to order for them, they usually would just order for themselves when the waiter spoke English back to me. However, the crepe chefs were a little more gracious to me, and let me order the way I like! Maybe they knew I was trying to show off…
My second goal was to be able to not be able to carry on a conversation with my host parents. Generally she did the talking, I did the head nodding.
Third goal: to know the routes, museums, etc. etc. you betcha I did. Being able to understand the metro makes you look street savvy to outsiders.
One of the more important goals for me was to be able to communicate in French without being replied to in English. This goal I more than likely failed. The French love speaking English, so when they hear an English accent, they don’t hesitate to practice their English. Secretively, I find this selfish of them. Hi, I’m clearly the American student here….
Another goal was to be “part of the family” in my host family. I’m pretty confident this was achieved when my host mom told me she considered me like a daughter. That was a moment I’ll never forget.
So I wrote “Not wanting to leave after my semester is up” as a goal. HA. Easy peesy.
Goal: “Meet Monsieur Vrai”… well I’m pretty sure he doesn’t consider me “Madamoiselle Vraie”, but he was from Aix-en-Provence and his name is Thomas where you don’t pronounce the ‘s’ and he drove stick shift. I’m in love. On another note, people ask me two questions in this order “Did you like it?” followed by “Did you fall in love?” And I always say “Yes, I fell in love with Paris.” And then they usually go into a story about a girl they knew who is still in Paris with her French boyfriend. I almost feel like a failure when this is brought up because I did not lasso one up. Everyone seems disappointed immediately after you say no. Conversation inevitably ends. So, when I mention my mental love affair with Thomas, it pales in comparison to an actual love story. But failed goal? Nahh..
I did not totally liquidate my bank account. Although it crossed my mind. I wanted to go all out and not come home until I spent every dime. Being abroad makes your money in Euros seem like monopoly money. I have to admit, it was hard to take spending money seriously. “Another bottle of wine? Yeah, okay- it’s on me!”
And final goal: to follow through with this blog. Well, this final post carries out that goal successfully.
I made these goals before I knew what I was getting myself into. I feel like they pushed me to try harder and speak French successfully and make myself more bearable for my host parents.
My suggestion is to consider yourself a full-time traveler, and a part-time student. Also, keep a blog or a journal, leave with a few pen pals from the country you study in, take lots and lots of photos until you’re nicknamed the “mom”, and if your bank account permits it, splurge on weekend dinners, souvenirs, travelling.
I can go on and on describing my fireworks of feelings for Paris, but they will all begin to say the same thing. So, I will just leave you with this. It’s offensively and hilariously accurate.
And as a final note, I would be more than happy to help or talk to anyone that is interested in studying abroad. It is such a joy to talk about it with someone.
Merci beaucoup pour lire mon blog!