Studying abroad in Nantes, France was an exciting, unique experience that I am endlessly grateful for. Now that I have been back home for a few weeks, I have been reflecting on this past semester and what it means to me. One of the recurring thoughts that I keep coming back to is that studying abroad made me realize how much I love home. I really want to clarify that this is not meant to paint my time in France in a negative light. Rather, I mean to say that being so far away from home for so long revealed what is most important to me.
I greatly enjoyed studying in Nantes, but as the semester went on, I started to miss home more and more. The things that I love most began to really stand out to me in my mind. Even though I was now adjusted to the abroad lifestyle, I found myself constantly longing for the comforting familiarity of the little things that make me happy that I could not access in France.
For example, I was seriously missing all of my favorite American snacks and meals that are not sold anywhere in France, like Panera Bread mac n cheese and Trader Joe’s corn puffs. By the end of the semester, I had not had those foods in months. Instead of forgetting about them and replacing those desires with cravings for delicious French pastries, I found myself wanting these foods more than ever. I was without a doubt making the most of the local French cuisine and thoroughly enjoying all it had to offer, but the cravings for American food just never went away.
I also found myself thoroughly missing my cats. Luckily, I found a cat café in Nantes, and so I was able to go there whenever I wanted to relax and pet a cat. Even so, I could not get over wanting to see my own cats because they are my family. I had a feeling they wanted to see me too, and that thought made me that much more anxious to get home as soon as possible so we could be reunited after such a long time apart.
When the long-awaited December 18th return date arrived, I could hardly believe it was finally happening. After an insane 24 hours or so of exhausting international travel, I was home and it truly felt surreal. The first thing I ate as soon as I was back in my hometown was an order of that Panera Bread mac n cheese that I had missed so much. When I was back in my house, my own room, and my own bed again, everything finally felt right and back to normal. I could hear my family’s voices filling my surroundings and my cats were coming into my room to say hi and be pet.
I knew how much I missed these things because I could not stop thinking about them while I was gone. When I step back and look at the bigger picture, I can see that it is not just specific things that I wanted while I was abroad. If you threw my favorite things in a package and shipped them over to France, I do not think I would have been satisfied. What I really was missing was home and everything I associate with it, and I simply could not replicate that abroad. I missed my house, my town, my state, my college campus in the next state over, and I suppose you could even say my country.
These are all environments that I consider to be my home, and France never quite felt that way. Again, this is nothing against France and my amazing experience there. It is just that I left my whole life behind in the United States, and there is no way to bring all that I have established over the course of my 21-year-long life with me to another continent on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
I loved my time in France for what it was, which was a study abroad semester. It was a chance for me to grow, learn, challenge myself, step out of my comfort zone, and go on an unforgettable adventure. Being there, however, taught me that I am not meant to live in France, and that I love my home too much to leave it. Maybe I am just a big homebody, but I do not think there is anything wrong with that.
I am grateful that my time in France helped me come to this realization. Perhaps it was more of a reassurance because I sort of already felt this way back in August, but I am glad that it has now been confirmed. In the past, I may have thought I only wanted to stay put because I was scared or apprehensive of going to a new, faraway place, but now that I have gone on an adventure abroad and loved it, I know that I only feel this way because I truly love home and the life I have established here.
I will always appreciate my study abroad experience for showing what is most important to me. Now that I am home, I have a newfound, greater appreciation for those things. Needless to say, I will not be taking them for granted any time soon.
To all of you who have read my blogs, thank you! I hope you enjoyed following me throughout this journey, and I am glad that I was able to share my experiences with you.
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<p>My name is Amanda Carrier and I am from Branchburg, New Jersey. I'm a senior at Gettysburg College double majoring in Political Science and French. When I'm on campus, you can often find me at rehearsal with the Sunderman Conservatory Wind Symphony as a percussionist. At home, I love playing with my two cats and going down to the Jersey Shore in the summer!</p>