First off, let me just say what a wild ride. Just to get it out of the way early, those of you wondering if you should study abroad in Europe, the answer is yes. “Yeah, but what if I can’t adjust to—“, go. “Yeah but what if I get there and don’t like—“, go. If you’re on the fence, don’t ‘what if’ the decision to death. Yes, it is a big life decision, but don’t let the size of the situation or reservations keep you from the best semester of your life.
I said in my post before I went, that this trip was mostly about expanding my horizons. Well, I definitely did that. I visited all of the countries I wanted to and saw sights I never even knew I wanted to. I learned how to survive in a decent size city (at least relative to my experience) with no host family help. I learned the French way of doing things, and adapted to a culture far different from anything I had experienced before. I found out how different school outside the U.S. can be, for better or for worse. I broadened my horizons, tried new things, saw new places, and even started eating more vegetables.
As far as life in France, there is some “take it or leave it” to the way things are done. First off, be ready for a slower pace of life. Somehow, people in Nice would manage to be in a huge rush and yet in no hurry at all, all at the same time. You’ll find that a lot of times in France, it depends. Whatever “it” may be at the time, depends on the weather, depends on who showed up to work, depends on the time of day, depends on the season, depends on nothing but complete luck or chance. Just prepare yourself for that ahead of time, and you’ll find it a lot easier to go with the flow of things.
One thing I will always miss about Nice is the food. Not just the actual food itself either, but the whole culture around food in general. At restaurants in the U.S., most waiters and waitresses make money off of tips. In order to keep making money, you have to keep people coming in and out of the door. A lot of times this leads to a more rushed service, albeit still nice. It’s not something I even noticed or really gave a second thought, until France. Food there is more of an experience that needs to be shared and enjoyed, rather than something you do to stop feeling hungry. A simple lunch can turn into an hour and a half long affair, simply because that’s the way things are. I loved it, not being rushed through a meal and just being able to relax and take it all in for a bit. If you’re someone who likes to sit and enjoy a meal, Nice (or France in general) is the spot for you.
As always I have to be honest, especially if you’ve stuck with me this far (thanks Mom). With everything I liked about France, there were a few things I didn’t like. The way time is dealt with, at least in Nice, was enough to drive me mad. The entire time I was there, I kid you not, I saw two clocks. TWO. One of them was broken, and stayed that way for months. This is a perfect representation of the time culture in France. Almost everything has a roundabout guesstimate as to when it’ll actually happen. The bus might be five minutes early, or ten minutes late, you never really know for sure. It’s kind of like playing a guessing game, but one that’s even less fun than usual guessing games. And I know, “but Connor you said you loved long lunches and not worrying about time”. But that’s the thing, for lunch or dinner or a morning coffee it’s fine to forget time, but eventually you have to get back on track and refocus. Not everyone’s brain works that way though, so your mileage may vary. Just beware, and always have an extra game on your phone to kill time.
In all seriousness though, going abroad was the best decision I ever made. I mentioned already how I expanded my horizons, but the most valuable thing the whole experience gave me was a sense of perspective. I’ve mentioned in a lot of my posts the idea of relativity, and that different things are different for everyone; it all depends on your individual experience. This semester, more than anything, helped me put a lot into perspective. No, I don’t like the loose schedule system in France, but it works for people there. They don’t know the same time culture that we do, so it makes no difference. The same with food; if a French person were to visit the U.S. they might find the service pushy and feel rushed. It’s all a matter of individual perspective.
Even more important than individual perspective, I was made aware of perspective on the individual. In particular, me as an individual. For my management class, we took a self-assessment at the beginning and end of the semester (shoutout Dr. Azarian). The assessment analyzes you intercultural effectiveness; basically your ability to live and work across cultures. Of all the metrics it took into account, my ‘self-awareness rating’ went up the most, by far. Of everything I learned about this semester, the thing I learned most about was myself. I got to know myself better than any place I visited, or any subject of the classes I took.
I will always love Nice, for better or for worse. It’s a second home for me now; of all the weekends I traveled, I always had Nice to come home to. I will always be in debt to the experience as a whole, for not only showing what life could be like outside the U.S., but also showing be who I could be outside of my own limitations.
So, I guess that’s that. Thanks to anyone and everyone who followed along throughout the experience. Hopefully somewhere along the way I answered a question you had or helped you in your decision, some way or another.
Until next time, for the last time,
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<p>I am 21 years old, a rising senior at Wofford College, and I am pursuing a B.A. in Finance. My interests include cars, motorcycles (pretty much anything with wheels), and sports. I pass my free time by hanging out with family and friends, going to the movies, working out, and watching Netflix. A weird fact about me is that I enjoy philosophical discussions.</p>