This is it. Today marks my last in Angers. I finished packing yesterday and most of my friends left last night or today. It’s hard to believe that by this time tomorrow I’ll be back in the US. I’ve gotten used to how things work here more or less and I’ve found a routine in the last 4 months. Everyone warns you about the adjustment period and the school gave out a sheet on the signs of culture shock and ways to, maybe not prevent it, but to make the transition easier. I think the reverse culture shock is going to be bigger though. At least for me. I was fine coming here. Whether that’s just because I adapted fairly easily once I started to get my sleeping habits under control or if it was because I’d just been to Europe before so I kind of knew what to expect, I didn’t seem to have a problem on the way here. I think I might on the way back though. I’ve heard that adjusting to the time change will be easier since I’ll be going back six hours instead of forward. I already know that it’s going to feel extremely weird hearing all english all the time. I’ve gotten used to hearing french with just little pockets of english whenever I talked with other english-speakers. And cars. I wonder how good/weird it will feel to be in a car again, let alone behind the wheel. In the past 4 months, I will have been in a car a total of three times. Once when I first arrived in Angers when Madame picked me up, once when she drove me to the post office so I could mail a box home since it was kind of heavy, and in just an hour’s time when she drives me and my luggage to the train station to catch my train to Paris.
I’m spending the night near Charles de Gaulle Airport and then taking the shuttle from the hotel to the airport in the morning. It will definitely be a little weird I think because I’ve never spent the night in a hotel by myself before. Guess this will be another first to add to my list. I’m slightly worried about how everything’s going to turn out but that’s just me getting nervous and restless. I hate the waiting part of traveling. It’s even worse if you travel by yourself I think because then you don’t have anyone to talk to and if something goes wrong, you’re on your own. Plus, having a few hours’ layover by yourself is boring. If I can just get on the train to Paris with my two bags then I’ll be good.
This semester I have learned so much. My French has definitely improved, which is good considering that’s kind of the whole point of studying here. I thought it was un peu bizarre in the beginning because at home I hated speaking up or answering questions in french class but then I get here and after a few days to remember the french I knew, I was okay more or less talking in french with a french person. Kind of funny, huh? I’ve also learned that the french don’t believe in reusable water bottles or even public recycling from what I could see. That was surprising, how thirsty I was the first few weeks from walking everywhere. Recycling exists here, don’t get me wrong, but while there are recycling containers or bins on most campuses in the US, UCO didn’t seem to have any. Which we all found ironic considering most of us had to buy a new bottle of water every few days. What else have I learned? It rains here a lot but there’s only been one true storm and it didn’t last long. I found that I didn’t mind the 10-15 min. walk to school everyday, I actually enjoyed it. And I got better about judging the distance of cars and when the best time to cross the street is. That was an interesting discovery. We all learned how to cross roads when we were little and how we had to look both ways before crossing but what you don’t realize is how rarely you actually cross a street. Unless you live in a big city, of course. But I don’t, I live in a little town in the South where you drive everywhere. We don’t really have a need to cross streets on a regular basis unless you’re walking downtown (which for us is more like one street).
For all that I’m a little nervous about everything (really, I just want to get going) and for all that I know I’m going to miss France and the friends I’ve made here, I will be really happy to be home. I can’t wait to see my family. Emails and Skype, while they help and certainly are convienent, can’t really compare with actually seeing or talking to someone. I just keep imagining that moment when I land and see them as I come down the escalator. That is something I truly can’t wait for. And then after Christmas, seeing all my friends who will be in town for break. I will definitely be making the most of my month at home.
I’m just so grateful to have had this opportunity to be able to do something that I’ve been dreaming of for about as long I can remember. I know I’ve said this before but really, I still find it hard to believe that I’m actually here even now that it’s coming to an end. To everyone who has helped make this happen and who has supported me while I lived one of my life’s goals, thank you so much. Truly, this has been one of the hardest and best experiences of my life so far. Thank you guys.
PS- It’s official, we’ve lived through the “end of the world.” Won’t that be something to tell the grandkids one day. Instead of “You know, when I was your age, I had to walk uphill both ways through two feet of snow barefoot to school everyday,” we’ll get to say, “You know, when I was your age, I lived through the end of the world..”