Operation one school year in France: complete
As I write this, I am sitting on the TGV to Paris, to go back to Norway for 10 days before I start a summer internship in Grenoble. My last exam in the French school system was today; my year at school in France is over. More than any other moment this year, I really feel that today is a turning point, a moment of triumph. Also, rather symbolically, I'm doing the same journey I did on the way here in reverse. I'm alone again, crossing France with my gigantic bicycle bag. Going home.
I succeeded - I survived my year in France! "Survived?" you might ask, "But I've been read all about how much fun you've been having riding your bicycles and skiing all over the Alpes!" This is true. It's time, however, for me to reveal The Truth About Being An Exchange Student. Here goes:
Sometimes it really sucks.
For every hour that I've spent enjoying the mountains, I've also spent an hour in line dealing with the bureaucracy the comes with moving to a foreign country. For every time that I've made a new friend, I've also had a moment of absolute, overwhelming loneliness. And I've gone through a few of the most intimidating moments in my life. The moments where you have to take a deep breath, and walk into a room of complete strangers, who all speak a foreign language.
Let's talk language barriers. I spoke some French before I came, and am fairly fluent now (as in all my classes and exams for the last have been in French). I had this idea that learning French would be an uphill process. It would be hard at first, and then get easier the more I practiced. Unfortunately, this has only partially been true. I think the French language is a tiny bipolar person that lives in my brain. So some days he's like, "This is awesome, let's go!" and other days he's morbidly depressed and won't do anything. So even now, 10 months later, I still have days when I open my mouth, and all that comes out is gibberish. I want to personally apologize to every Frenchman, especially those who have had to do project work at school with me, for every time I have butchered the French language. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to try to understand what I'm saying.
I wouldn't give up all this adversity for the world. I know now that I can take unintelligible sounds and turn them into a language I speak; I can enter a room of strangers and turn them into friends. And yes, I can fill out boring paperwork. In some ways, maybe I'm just teensy weensy bit more grown up.
(Nah, totally kidding.)
Thank you for bearing with me through today's philosophical edition of the adventures of a Wild Bazilchuk. I still have two months left in France, I promise to fill this blog with croissants, Tour de France and wine.
-The Wild Bazilchuk