This week, University of California student Ana Cristina Garrido shares her experience in Paris, from her initial nervousness to the exhilarating realization that she can now navigate herself abroad.
As I sit here writing, wedged next to a crying baby and a frantic mother on a flight back to Paris, it’s hard not to reflect on how lucky I am to be here. For the past two months, my life has consisted of flights, French, and homework—a combination of things that makes for the most enriching experience I have ever encountered in my life. I spend my days practicing a new language at home, while exploring a city full of beauty and history. My afternoons and weekends are filled with long walks along café filled streets, hearing the chatter of tote-bag-wearing Parisians as they stride past me. I’ve made friends and have had conversations that have broadened my understanding. I have learned and seen so much—how could I ever complain?
Despite the excitement of these new friendships and experiences, I still find myself missing home. It is difficult to uproot your life, pack your bags, and say goodbye to the familiarity you’re used to—even for a few months. For two months now, I’ve been away from my home, and I’m starting to feel the distance. Sooner or later, the initial excitement of exploring a new country starts to fade. The thrill of exploring your new city starts to be replaced by new responsibilities and a new routine. Suddenly, you start missing the comfort food back home, the park you used to run through every morning, or simply being in the same time zone as your friends and family. You miss the comfort of knowing how everything works or being able to fully communicate in a language you know. Living abroad is undoubtedly among the most exciting and memorable experiences one can ever have, but the constant unfamiliarity can quickly become overwhelming.
When I look back at these last few weeks, however, from discovering the smell of Paris to learning how to order in French, and then to finally starting to converse in French, I start to realize just how much I’ve learned about myself. I’ve learned to navigate myself abroad, to communicate in whatever way I can, but mostly to be confident that I can carry myself through all of it. These are skills that are invaluable to our futures and our careers, but also to ourselves and the relationships we cultivate in our lives.
For me, it’s very important to remind myself that, regardless of where I am, I’m never alone. The knowledge that I’ve acquired and the support of those who are family to me will always be with me. ~Ana Cristina Garrido, UCEAP “Only in Paris” Program
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