Leaving for France and Looking for the "Right" Emotion

Claire OMalley
January 3, 2020

You guys. It’s happening. In two days, I’m getting on a plane and heading to Nantes, France. Only two days. Not “maybe some day,” not “hopefully in college,”  but literally two days away. Is this real? Why am I sweating so much? I'm fine, you're fine, we're all fine!

I’ve wanted to go to France since I knew what it was, even if that first glimpse might have come from the Madeline children’s books in my pediatrician’s office. Without knowing when I would go, how I would afford it, or whether I’d ever learn French beforehand, it was a given that at some point, I would find myself in France. A croissant would appear in one hand with my suitcase in the other, and after some cheerful, not-at-all-scary goodbyes and a flight on which there’s somehow no turbulence and I have the whole row to myself, I’d walk right into my new life. My friends from home would be only a quick call away, and native slang would come super easily to me. Also, bread would have no calories.

French culture has always seemed so alluring to me. My mom studied abroad in France when she was in college, and my older brother took French when I was little. And my name, Claire, is French! It felt right. Everyone always claimed that Spanish would be way more useful, that I should learn Portuguese instead to talk to my Brazilian family; yet there I was, seated in the front row of every French class since age 11. Bright-eyed, curly-haired, my feet never reaching the floor, I waited patiently for the day I could put all those vocab words and verb tenses to the test. Which is a matter of hours from now. Mon Dieu!

I know that this is where I'm supposed to talk about how psyched I am! How ready I am! I toss friends and family a proud smile and let them know that I'm nervous but oh-so excited. I am none of these things. To tell you the truth, I've gotten pretty good at lying about how I am. 

One of my best friends studied abroad in Rome last semester, and she was counting down the days as soon as she submitted her application. She packed her suitcase three separate times to make sure it was perfect. Katy was so pumped for Rome, and she can't believe why I'm not just as excited right now for France. Of course, I am so happy and grateful to be going! I've done a bunch of research on local fashion, taken out a loan in my name, found my soon-to-be classmates on Snapchat, and emailed my host family. It's just that I could definitely feel it more.

I leave in two days, and none of this has dawned on me, and not in a cute, modest way. Not in a nervous, jittery way either. None of this feels real, and I don't know why. 

Maybe this is whiplash. After all, I've looked forward to this for so long, and now that it's suddenly here, I'm being pulled in a million different directions at lightning speed. But after steadily preparing the logistics for so long, it can't be that. No, it has to be something deeper. Is it subconscious repression? (Pardon me, I took AP Psychology in high school and have to bring it up in every conversation.) But really! Maybe I'm not letting myself process the change. Maybe maybe maybe. Maybe none of this matters in the end.

Does it matter whether you feel excited to travel, or anxious with the second language, or confused about how it'll all turn out? None of those things will make it to the photo albums, and these feelings right now will fade away to make room for everything that is to come. There's no right way to feel before studying abroad, any step of the way. On Wednesday morning, I'll walk off my plane and into a new country to study French with people I've never seen before in my life. Ready or not, France, here I come.

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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>

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Loyola University Chicago
Milwaukee, WI
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