A Global Experience: School Year Abroad

Abroad400After saying au revoir to my parents and sister and passing Logan Airport’s security, I clenched my fists and chewed my nails. The imminence of being on the other side of security, separate from my parents and sister, ran through my head, however, the hope of a great year ahead of me prevailed. Looking to what was to come, I turned the corner and boarded the plane. Surprisingly, the thought that I was actually leaving the United States didn’t hit me as hard as it hit the other crying SYA’ers. But the plane landed and I was ready to experience something new. It’s fascinating looking back almost seven months later and seeing all that has already passed in such a short period of time.

When I arrived in France, I thought that the 8am to 6pm class days would be a struggle, but I accustomed myself to it fairly quickly. This year, I have taken eight classes, six of which are conducted in French: AP French Language, Honors Literature, Honors History, Honors Art History, Honors Culture and Economy in French Society, Honors Pre-Calculus, AP English, and TPL (a pronunciation class). Although the curriculum is as difficult as that of Deerfield, the professors understandingly gave us some time to adjust to the new language, new culture, and new life. It was a rough start for many, including me, because the language was new but gradually with time and hard work, we all saw our language skills progress.

I quickly took up the numerous opportunities offered by the school and community by volunteering at a local retirement home, joining a judo club, participating in the politics club, and tutoring English. Around 2:30 in the afternoon after the short schedule on Wednesday, I headed over to a retirement home called “Gast”. My friends and I danced with the residents to an accordion, created Christmas decorations, played dominoes, and merely talked with the residents about our contrasting and distinct lives. One of the residents with whom I played dominoes turned 100 and Ouest France published a compelling article. The judo is like wrestling last year, new and addicting to practice. But I am learning cool “throws” and “sweeps”! Thursdays are the long hauls, but it is totally worth the sleep loss! The politics club met every Thursday evening and discussed hot-button political issues, differences between all the countries of the world, and plans to visit specific places in Europe. This past December, I had the privilege to be selected to go to Brussels, the unofficial capital of Europe, and discover all the European institutions situated there! Friday after the courses end, I head over to a house around the corner from mine to tutor a French boy in English by playing games and teaching him the verb tenses. Come to think of it, Monopoly is probably one of the hardest games I’ve had to teach!

From looking at Monopoly in a different way to seeing how a French citizen views the world, I have observed that there is an immense world outside of the United States with people who think differently. Seeing different perspectives of life in different societies and immersing myself in another world have increased my knowledge and have widened my perspective on the world. Communication and understanding, in my opinion, are two fundamental components that will help the world come much closer. The classic question, “Where are you from?” leads to interesting conversation because people come with amazing stories. I have learned to not put a barrier in front of myself when I hear something I don’t like or don’t agree with but try to understand. When I have traveled, I have seen things that I’ve never known existed, heard things I’ve never heard, and experienced things I have never experienced. I have discovered that I was entirely wrong about some viewpoints. That does not mean, however, that I necessarily agree with everything presented in front of me. To this day, there are components of the French society that I find better than the U.S. society and vice versa. Even in different regions or cities alone, I find that the Loire Valley is not like Brittany, that Rennes is not like Paris in a plethora of ways ranging from the people to the food to the ways people think, etc. I am not back in the United States yet but I can assure everyone that I will not come back the way I started.

Everyone has heard of the phrase, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” This is probably the most sincere thing I have come to believe while living in France. When living abroad, I come to miss the little things in my life back at home, especially at Deerfield. I miss going to Christian Fellowship every Wednesday, singing the songs on the white screen, and hearing Mr. Bakker give his five star presentations. I miss the fantastic mouth watering food from the DA kitchen and enjoying either sit down or walk through meals with my friends. I miss wrestling in the middle of the cold winter and exploring the nature around Deerfield for Elements during the crisp and green spring. The list goes on but it can wait for now. Mr. Brochu, president of SYA France, a week into the program began by saying (in French of course), “It’s the one week mark everyone! The tourists are beginning to leave, however, you’re staying here for the whole year. This is your country. Go out and discover it!” It’s my time to explore, dream, and discover!

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