au revoir, paris.Paris French Studies, Spring 2011
when i stepped onto the plane at charles de gaulle airport, i thought back to the afternoon of january 12th, when i arrived at that same airport in paris after a long day of travel from the u.s. it felt like no time had passed since that day, that the past four months had somehow escaped from me, and (in my cynical-and-not-ready-to-leave-yet mindset) that all i had to show for it was an extra carry-on bag and a new haircut. as i awaited the plane’s departure, i looked out the window, hoping i wouldn’t start crying again like i had done for practically the entire train ride to the airport. i knew that it wouldn’t (it just couldn’t) be my last time in france, but the thought that it would never be the same is what saddened me most. i knew i’d miss the baguettes, the museums, the markets, the general mode de vie — above all, though, i would miss the day-to-day relationships i had with my host mom, the ies staff, and my friends.
on my last night in paris, i had finished packing my bags in time to have dinner with manou. as a last dinner surprise, she made cuisses de grenouille (frog legs)!
though they were unpleasantly anatomical in appearance, they actually tasted really good (and not at all frog-esque) in the garlic-buttery sauce that manou made. it was a nice send-off.
in the morning, we had croissants and coffee, and then with quick bisous, manou was off to work and i said au revoir to the apartment building that i had called home.
and to the bakery across the street.
and to my metro stop, reuilly – diderot.
but au revoir means “until we see each other again.” and we will see each other again, paris.
two weeks have passed since i arrived in minneapolis. though i still miss france, i am enjoying the u.s. with a renewed sense of adventure and optimism. during the first few days back, i experienced a wave of culture shock in reverse (i forgot how loud america is), and i even caught myself starting sentences in french or forgetting random english words like “napkin.”
i know now that i didn’t leave france with only an extra carry-on; i left with a better understanding of the french language and culture, confidence in my own language skills, a longing for more adventure and cultural explorations in my own country, and a multitude of memories and experiences that are both immutable and invaluable.
studying abroad in france was undoubtedly the highlight of my college life, and probably of my life in general. the experience surpassed my expectations in every way, from the city of paris itself to my home stay to the classes and the professors. i loved living in a foreign city, learning the culture, eating the food, and talking to french people. my one and only regret is that the time went by too quickly! i know that i will return to france someday (hopefully soon), but until then, i will hold onto this wonderful, life-changing experience and treasure it as one of the greatest experiences in my life.
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