“When one does not have what they love, they must learn to love what they have.”
My last month in France. The fact that I’ve already been here for two months now is crazy to me and probably a surprise to you because lets be honest I haven’t been on my A game with my blogs. Whoops!
To quickly catch you up to speed here are some photos of what I’ve done so far:
(Pro tip: Click on the first image and then swipe through the images to get a better look)
Now for the real stuff – my thoughts and feelings. Being in a foreign country is a challenge and I knew that the second I hopped on the plane. I was aware of my faults and open to the idea of discovering new parts of my personality and well, not to be a cliché but all those things are way easier said than done. Let me explain. I knew that I would have to switch on an outgoing personality in order to make the most of my exchange and I thought that this would simply just mean me merrily answering every time people talk to me. Oh boy was I mistaken. Actually being here has made me realize that people will not always take the first step and that if I want to improve my french and benefit from this exchange I have to risk looking stupid and walk up to people and chat about the most absurd things – even the weather! Sometimes the conversations take a great turn and sometimes they just falter off but either way I get to practice a little bit of French. So in a nutshell, I’m finding that exercising what I thought I would be able to do is so much more different than I thought it would be.
Secondly, homesickness. You don’t know how bad it is until it hits you. When I first got homesick, I didn’t even know I was homesick because I kept mixing it up with another feeling. Par example, I kept getting really angry at the smallest things that nobody could control, like the weather. An actual quote from my diary – “WHY IS IT SO SUNNY AND NICE IN THIS STUPID COUNTRY IT’S SO ANNOYING WHY CAN’T I JUST HAVE ONE GLOOMY DAY. STUPID STUPID. STUPID” Not the greatest literary works but hear me out. I couldn’t figure out why I felt like this and this in turn just made me more mad at myself. Why couldn’t I just be a fun, perky and happy exchange student all the time?! Well, after talking to my parents back home I finally realized that I didn’t miss the rainy days back in Auckland I was just missing a bit of love! Cute, I know. I was one of those people who refused to admit homesickness was even a thing, so I didn’t acknowledge the fact that I might have to take some time by myself to work on the fact that I am missing home. For future exchange students: While it’s important to explore your new country and be involved in your new life I’m finding that it is also important to take a few moments a day to do things you did back in your home country. It could be something as little as putting on your favorite face mask or texting somebody from back home. Most importantly, make sure you don’t try to hide or be ashamed of the fact that you’re homesick but also make sure you don’t dwell on missing home too much! Exchange journeys are often a mix of some very high highs and some scary lows – just embrace it and let yourself grow from it!
Lastly, although heavily romanticised, being the foreign kid does lose it’s charm faster than you would think. I was ‘assigned’ a group of girls on my first day of school but not being able to communicate with them and no matter how much your French teacher tries to convince you, being able to ask ‘what’s your favourite season?’ and ‘can you describe your hometown?’ are not phrases that come in handy for making friends with the French. For future exchange students – if you’re planning to go to a country with a foreign language don’t forget to prepare some key phrases to make friends and form good relationships with people in your chosen country’s language. I’d recommend talking to your language teacher and asking them about from ‘running phrases’ that people use in that language or even follow meme pages on Instagram in that language. It sounds a bit silly but it will help you pick up some words and phrases that the young people use in their everyday lives.
To end this blog, already being on the last month of my exchange is overwhelming because I have a month left to make memories that I’ll recall for the rest of my life. I hope this blog let you see what actually goes on in the mind of an exchange student. Although I feel like I have to put in a warning – I have had some amazing times here in France and I’ve had times where I was ready to pack everything up and go back home. I don’t feel like I’m a part of a romantic movie set in France all the time, but in the end, I can confidently tell you that I’ve become a much stronger person with a deeper appreciation for friendships, relationships and communication. My exchange journey has been so much more different than what I thought it would be like but I don’t think I would have it another way!
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