Thursday night and I’m back in the local John McBryne pub for our weekly karaoke night soirée. Everyone is jammed in the back corner of the pub sharing seats and squeezing into the booths. It’s crowded and clammy and our ears are plugged up with the sounds of people scream-singing to ABBA’s iconic "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" song. My fingers curl around the demi-pint glass holding my cherry red Monaco drink (I order it everywhere I go because it’s only 4 euros and tastes like Shirley Temple but just with a tiny splash of beer). My friends and I are all dancing in our seats. We take a brief intermission after ABBA finishes and start discussing how lucky we are to be in this place all together sharing this experience. “How are we ever going to be able to fully capture and describe what this time living abroad was like when we go back?” I tell everyone. So much happens in such a short amount of time. It feels like I’ve lived a lifetime just this past week. Everything is one giant fever dream. I’m constantly saying yes to every opportunity and living day by day. The week starts on Monday and my calendar is open but somehow I always end up being someplace new or on an unexpected adventure but having the time of my life. I’ll find myself back in bed and suddenly it’s Sunday night again. I’ll stare up at my ceiling thinking to myself, “What just even happened?” trying to recap all of the amazing things that just passed by.
Each day there are so many mundane experiences but each one is exciting because it’s all new and you’re living in freaking France. There’s the second language that starts becoming your first language despite the fact that you feel you’re constantly fighting language fatigue of using only French at all times, the weekend trips to local chateaus and castles where King Henry II once lived, visits to historic churches with architecture from the 13th century, taste testing on a quaint picturesque vineyard sipping on Muscadet wine, and biking around the Gulf de Morbihan as the wind carries that warm salty scent in the air while the tall green grasses sway in the wind. Not to mention all of the spontaneous walks around Nantes with friends, new restaurants you found while being lost in the city– like an Indian restaurant that becomes another favorite spot in town for dinner, or new cocktails to try on cool boat bars where you end up spending two hours playing a very intense game of bingo with your friends and the two french guys you met in conversation club. You take snapshots during the moment, they’re captured by the visceral sensations that overwhelm you in the moment—joy, happiness, love, pride, gratitude. Once it passes it becomes a flashbulb memory. The memories begin to swim around in your brain and suddenly you can’t remember which day it was that you ate at that ridiculously delicious burger joint where the shakes reminded you of the Minnesota State Fair only you were sitting in a wooden booth surrounded by your girlfriends and locals speaking French just after an incredible day trip to Tours. Everything is melding together.
I could fill a novel with the 12 weeks that I’ve been living abroad. Each day is filled with something new or another small moment where I’ll have to consciously stop my brain and just breathe to take it all in. You get into your routine and start making it your home all the while forgetting how special every second is. You have to ground yourself in the everyday. The tall magnolia trees that line the streets alongside the tram lines and greet you good morning on the walk to class, the chateau that casually sits adjacent to the most amazing garden that you go walking in each week alone so that you can drink in all the fresh air before winter comes along, writing your host sister little messages in french and slipping them under the crack of her bedroom door to wish her good luck with school. I had one of those déjà vu moments where I felt an eerieness with the familiarity of the emotions I suddenly experienced sitting on the tram line 3 to go home after being out with my friends. It was this surreal feeling where my body felt completely at ease as a big rush of gratitude radiated through me. It might be cliché and cheesy but I just was overwhelmed by the realization of everything I had done in such a small amount of time—the people I’ve made such deep connections with and the new home I’ve created for myself abroad. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Everything clicked. Here I am three months in, full of love for the people here and the memories I’ve been able to create. I’m not sure what the future holds and I can’t believe that the time is almost done. However, I can’t think about that right now. All I can focus on is how incredibly lucky I am to have lived such a full life in such a short amount of time.
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<p>Hello Everyone! My name is Anna and I'm a senior at Luther College. I'm studying English and French as a double major. This fall semester, I'm joining the Nantes - French Language Immersion & Area Studies program for three months. I look forward to being able to take you along with me as I set off for this next adventure. I'm hoping to make some good connections, eat lots of food, and learn more about the Nantais while abroad. Some things I like to do in my free time are spending time with family and friends, cooking/baking, finding new places to visit locally or travel to, running and hiking, and having good conversations with new people. I'm a big extrovert so I love doing almost anything as long as it involves other people.</p>