June 4, 2008
I’m back in the US.
The week or so in Dijon was without a doubt one of the best weeks I spent there. Despite having a couple 8 a.m. exams and some papers to turn in, I had so much fun fitting in all the “lasts” and the “to-dos” before I left. Where to even begin? I had a wonderful last lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Dijon, and both Marie-Pierre (one of the other host moms) and Daniele had delicious last dinner parties for us. I took a glorious last ride on the 5 bus back from campus with Sasha after we dropped off our last (last-minute) essays at the fac, and got to see my last film in French (Sex and the City -- dubbed!) on my last night. There were firsts, too, as I had a lot of things I hadn’t yet done to fit in before the end of the week. The first French barbeque, at Sasha’s house, one of the few homes with a big (beautiful) yard. A bunch of us finally climbed the tower of Philippe le Bon, an ancient building that gives great views of the city, and – as we had all promised ourselves we would all year – I finally stayed up all night with everyone to get freshly baked pain au chocolat from the boulangerie at 4 am. I bought cheesy Dijon souvenirs to put in my apartment next year, took an excessive amount of photos, and wandered through the city feeling almost dazed – so unbelieving that it was all coming to an end.
When I left back in September, I flew out of Newark airport in tears, terrified, having no idea what to expect all the way across the ocean. I certainly never expected that I would be leaving in tears as well. I am so happy, and so proud, to say that this year was truly among the best years of my life, and I think it always will be. I learned French, and it really started to click in my last few weeks. I lived with a complete stranger who became like a second mother to me, and I loved it and I was happy. I ate foods I would never have even touched before leaving. I saw some of the most beautiful cities in the world, and gazed at art and magnificent architecture that I can’t wait to see again. I had some of the most bizarre and hilarious experiences I will ever have. I met a lot of new and very different people, and I made seven amazing friends who I can’t wait to see next year at Holy Cross.
The last few weeks there, I was sad about leaving, I knew it was happening, but it didn’t seem real. This place became a true second home; Dijon became a city I knew better than my own town in the US. The idea that my time there was over, that it would never again be a home to me – it didn’t seem possible. I can never return to those same circumstances, to Daniele’s bright warm apartment, with Sasha and Jackie just up the street, a vibrant downtown only a few minutes walk.
But that’s life, things change – you finish elementary school, you graduate high school, you move to a new town, you make different friends. You go through so many experiences and situations you can never return to again, and it’s sad and seems impossible at the time, but it happens. What makes it bearable is the potential for new experiences. I may have left Dijon, but I have a new year at HC to look forward too, a graduation that will be hard, but also exciting, and should I choose, the opportunity to return France after school.
I’ll never go back to the same situation, but I can go back to something new in a country I now know so well. I knew that as I took my last walk down Rue de la Liberté, knew it as I walked past the Arc and Place Darcy for the final time, and knew it as I hugged Daniele and said goodbye. I still know it now as I sit here and compose this final entry. Be it as a teacher, a student, or simply a traveler, I’ll go back.
So with that thought I leave you now, with a few thanks and a few wishes. To everyone going abroad next year, be it to Dijon, to Spain, to England, China, South America, all of the other fabulous places HC sends students – good luck to you all, I hope you love it, because you will never forget it. To anyone thinking about going abroad, but a little unsure – do it. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
And to everyone, to HC, to all the teachers, the advisors, host parents and real parents, to all of the chouettes (ha!), and of course to all of my readers – Thank You.