How to: Fit a Lifetime Into Six Days

Clare Hogan
August 26, 2021

Six days. I leave the country for the first time in my life in six days. It’s such an odd amount of time—it feels like it’s a lifetime away while at the same time it feels like it’s nowhere near enough time to prepare. I’m fairly certain I’ve remembered something new that I might need every single day for the past week: will I need this pair of shoes, this shirt, these pants?

Truly, this time of preparing to live in France for three and a half months has been unlike any other period of my life. Should I begin to pack? No, I still need to use some things that I want to take to France. But I want to get started on the packing process to ease my stress. Should I go see friends before I leave? No, I have too much to do. But also, yes, make the sacrifice, because I won’t see them for three and a half months. Should I be sad to leave the only place I’ve ever known? No, I’m about to experience something so incredible and important! But…yes, every single person I love is here. Should I be nervous? No way, the IES Abroad Nantes staff are going to take great care of me. But maybe, because I am going to be in a foreign place during an incredibly unpredictable time in the world. Am I making a mistake studying abroad for half of my last year of college? No, my friends will always be there, but this opportunity won’t. But wait, I won’t always be living with my friends, and I’m going to miss out on so many memories with them.

These questions and their respective back and forth responses seem to circle through my mind at least three times every ten seconds (maybe I am exaggerating). I genuinely cannot wrap my mind around the fact that I am about to board a plane and fly across the world. I mean, I’m not old enough or responsible enough for this, am I? Aren’t I the girl that just last night got her shoe stuck on her foot for almost an hour and had to get her parents to physically pry it off (check the photo—I seriously wish I was exaggerating here)? I mean, what will I do if that happens in France? Will there be any shoe-priers at my beck and call? 

Shoe problems

Truthfully, no matter how much I try to put my mind at ease by repeating to myself the “correct” answers, such as “no, I shouldn’t be nervous”, “no, I shouldn’t be sad”, “yes, it is going to be worth missing part of my senior year”, and “no, you won’t need any shoe-priers in France”, I’m consistently unable to shake the uncertainty of those answers (I’m not even slightly convinced about that last one).

In all honesty, I think there is a lot to be nervous and unsure about. My French could be incredibly rusty, I could get lost, I could become overwhelmingly stressed or devastatingly homesick. I could miss a train or say the wrong thing while ordering at a café. I could get a cold and have to miss class, or I could miss my friends and have major FOMO for all the “lasts” I’m missing back home.

Truly, all of these things are 100% possible, and I don’t think anyone could convince me otherwise, but I’m starting to realize that maybe having these worries and emotions isn’t all that bad after all. At the very least, these feelings drive me to be more prepared before I leave. But at the very best, they build my confidence and my character. I mean, if I look at all of these worries practically, not one of them is something that I cannot learn from and come back stronger. So I miss a train? I’ll manage my time better. So I accidently offend someone with my less than stellar French? I’ll study harder, get better, and try again. So I get lost? I’ll learn the area better and navigate more efficiently. So I miss out on a few memories the first semester of senior year? I’ll let that push me to make even more of my last semester when I get back.

It’s not all ideal, that much is true, but the fact of the matter is that it never will be. There will always be something to worry about, stress over, or regret. But through this awkward time of waiting that seems so boring yet so jam-packed with stress, I’m learning a lot about what it means to be confident in myself and in my decisions, no matter their outcomes. Things aren’t always going to go smoothly, but just because it’s not smooth doesn’t mean it’s not good. Rough patches, bumps, and bruises may come, but I can’t forget that one thing is inevitable: no matter what comes my way, and no matter what uncertainties I have, I am going to grow because of it. The good will encourage me, the uncertain will stretch me, and the bad will test me, but that’s exactly what I signed up for.

So, I’m going to keep my uncertainties with me this week as I rest at home. They’ll follow me as I pack my bags and board the plane to France. They’ll be close to me as I arrive and they'll be by my side as I’m meeting all of my new classmates. But I am not going to let them hold me back. Instead, I’m going to let them strengthen my faith and my confidence. They will be evidence of the growth I endure and the change I will fight so hard to achieve. I’m going to remember, for these six more days, that my uncertainties are not my enemy, not so long as I let them push me to be better.

Clare Hogan

<p>Hey! My name is Clare Hogan and I'm a senior at Wofford College. I'm majoring in Psychology and French, with a minor in English. I hope to become a counseling psychologist one day, which is why I majored in Psychology. At school, I'm in a sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and I love to participate in various events with that, such as dances, philanthropy events, and more! I adore reading and writing (hence the minor), hiking, playing tennis, and all things relating to dogs. Also, a fun fact about me is that I sneeze every time I eat chocolate (which is quite often)!</p>

Home University:
Wofford College
Greenville, SC
French Language
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