Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Chapter 2: A New Beginning

              First of all, I know I haven't posted anything here in more than six months, but as I am officially declaring a new chapter in my experience, I am going to seriously and try to update my blog these days.

             Goodbyes to my first host family came Monday night, with my host mom reminding me in French "Your adventure will continue without us." She told me that a week ago as well, but at that time, I didn't want to hear it. In some ways, I didn't want the adventure to continue. I wanted them, the life that I had the last four months. I will be blunt and say that saying goodbye to them was so much harder than saying goodbye to any of you in the US. When I left my fellow Americans, I had a date I would be back. For my host family, I have no idea if I will see them in two weeks, two months, or two years. More than that, they have been all I've known in this country. They picked me up from the train station in Troyes when I hardly knew how to speak their language. They taught me it. They explained their culture to me, when it was possible! Everywhere I go and everything I do reminds me of them. It is a good chance they taught me whatever I am doing or saying. Also, I felt so blessed to have such a wonderful family who made me feel so welcome. Some exchange students want to change families, but for me, I was "swimming in happiness", as they say, in French. It's possible that they will never know how much they mean to me. They never studied abroad. They never had a stranger welcome them into their home and teach them how to live in another culture.

            Eleven days after the hard news that my beloved host family and I would be parting, I think I am ready to move on. I went through my stages of sadness, anger, confusion, and there's no reason to believe I may not go through them again, but I think the acceptance stage is here. I see that, as many other times, my host family was right again. Even without them, I will be ok. And, honestly, it was the love they showed me during our goodbyes that I knew I could call a successful end to Chapter 1 and that I could find the desire to go on, though it took some digging.

           I guess I will always wish I could've given them a better few last weeks. The days leading up to our separation were not the best. For three weeks, I was super homesick and cultureshocked. After the news of our separation, I feel like I had hit rock bottom completely. However, they took those time periods pretty well, even if they didn't understand all that was going on inside of me.  I will always wish they could've see the day where I could speak perfect French and the day where everything suddenly clicked. I wanted to celebrate my 17th birthday with them. I will always wonder if we could've stayed together if "this" or "that" did not happen.What can I say? The one time where I really felt life was perfect and I was happy with what I had, it all changed.

        I still have six months left in France. I can say I think I successfully made it through the hardest part of my exchange and that I feel like after surviving this, I can make it through anything. However, I will be careful! At this present time, it kind of feels like September again: new people, new ways of living, different way of talking, etc, so I am trying to be patient with myself. I think I can learn a lot from these past four months. There are two things I aim to do these next six months that may have not been priorities the last four months. As I am in the middle of switching families and resituating myself, I am going to focus on less contact with my family back home and more on learning French and getting to know my surroundings and people here. I will still do my best to actually update my blog here and Facebook, but those evenings I've spent texting all of you will now be replaced with a French book for example. I trust many of you got your time in with me these past weeks when I was so homesick and missed beautiful America so badly. Secondly, this French accent has to improve. I am so sick of it.

              Like my good friend Clément said, we usually think that the AFS motto "It's not better, it's not worse, it's just different" can only be applied to cultural differences, but it can also be applied to changing host families. I don't have to forget the past four months, but I can't be afraid to move on, to learn and to discover. My former host mom said the same thing in fewer words Monday night as we had our last hug and kiss: "The AFS adventure continues for you."

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