How to Thrive While Still Being a Complete Hot Mess

Claire OMalley
March 4, 2020

My friends and family back home tend to consider me pretty responsible. I use multiple color-coded calendars that stretch years into the future, can easily remember tiny details about people I’ve just met, and know some of my friends’ academic requirements better than they do; my love of learning coupled with my oldest-daughter sensibility makes me very self-reliant. Of course, my siblings also think I'm super ditzy, but in general, I pride myself on being “put together.”

These past two months in France have been nothing if not a colossal contradiction to this indispensable part of my personality.

As someone who loves to have a plan for everything, studying abroad is already a challenge. It’s a crazy-in-a-good-way semester full of last-minute trips, confusing foreign universities, and the urgency to make new best friends ASAP. But I think that my clumsiness has pushed this phenomenon to its limits. If I had to make a list of all the times (that come immediately to mind) that I’ve been a hot mess in the last 8 weeks, it would include:

  • Taking a half-hour to find my host family’s house even though they live across the street from my bus station
  • Realizing that I need to get my wisdom teeth removed ASAP even if it means I have to miss a week of classes
  • Constantly not having any data or battery for my phone
  • Getting charged a bunch of overage fees because I can't access my credit card account online from France (I promise you, Bank of America, I am not trying to hack my own savings account)
  • Losing two pairs of Apple earbuds
  • Forgetting to let my host family know when I’m going to miss dinner or be home late
  • Losing my bus card provided to me by IES Abroad
  • Leaving the house at 7am for a class at the university and only realizing once I got there that my class was canceled that day
  • Losing my host family’s house keys and having to replace them
  • Receiving a thousand urgent emails that I had to pay my balance with IES Abroad or else I’d get sent home, because my home university/bank took months to send me my student loan
  • Accidentally breaking my host sister’s mirror and having to replace it, although I’m pretty sure my 7 years of bad luck started a long time ago
  • Losing my 4-month old American passport during a trip to Dublin (get ready for an entire blog post about that)
  • Generally living on the edge from second to second, completely unlike my normal self

I’m only scraping the surface of my bêtises in France. You can see why I’m having an entire existential crisis, because my whole personality as the put-together “mom friend” feels like it’s disintegrating. I’ve even contemplated starting to keep all of my messes bottled up inside, so I won’t keep “embarrassing” myself by asking for help. When I really get down to the root of the problem, I’m not sure what’s worse: the fear that my friends, professors, and host family in Nantes will see me as irresponsible, or the actual terror that I’m not as mature as I thought I was.

While discussing this with my mom over the phone, she reminded me that everyone’s a little bit of a hot mess while studying abroad, and that if my host family or friends here think that I’m a moron as a result of my klutziness, I should just continue to try to prove them wrong every day. (Honestly, I wouldn’t blame them whatsoever for thinking I’m kinda an idiot, but ya know, I’m trying to stay positive.) It’s true that if someone can’t handle you at your worst – and I really do feel like my mental and physical organization is at their worst right now – then they don’t deserve you at your best.

Despite my misadventures, I’m having a great time in France. I love learning from my beautiful blunders. But I will say this: we aren’t properly prepared for the reality that while studying abroad, we’re gonna get homesick, and we’ll be a hot mess pretty much all the time, but we’re gonna get through it. When I finally got home yesterday from the massive fiasco of losing my passport and my keys, I felt terrible about myself and just wanted to disappear. But today is a new day in my gorgeous city, so I put on some lipstick and decided to remember who I am. If I’m gonna be a hot mess, at least I’ll be a hot mess in France.

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Claire OMalley

<p>Hi there! I'm Claire, Milwaukee born and raised. At Loyola University Chicago, I study Advertising/PR, French Literature, and Marketing. I love to create, whether it's playing my sax, designing advertisements, writing short stories, cooking tasty vegetarian food, or making really obscure rants about my niche hobbies, like astrology and 70s music. Follow me on Instagram at @claireomal for top-notch content and pictures of me trying to look above 5 feet tall.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
Loyola University Chicago
Milwaukee, WI
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