Reflection can be Hard . . . Au Revoir Nantes!

Emily Macdonald
June 1, 2022

I’ve been struggling with the question, “How was study abroad?” How does one answer that question? How do I say that it was the best four months of my life, but that I still missed all my wonderful friends and family back home? If I go on and on about how life-changing it was, does that make the people back home feel unworthy or discredited? It isn’t that I was away from them, it is that I was away from myself; everything I knew. That’s why it was amazing and why I grew more as a human being than I ever thought possible in a short few months. 

It’s so hard to explain my study abroad experience because it was a completely different world. Everyone back home continued their normal lives that made sense to me. My parents continued to share new things that happened at work, funny things my cat did, or the new fridge we got. These updates made sense to me. My life in Nantes felt normal after the first two weeks. Yes, I did some traveling and tried new things. However, in general, I did the everyday scheduled activities that I did back home. I woke up, went to class, ate dinner, and went to bed. All this was just done in a foreign country. How do you explain the self-growth to someone when it was so gradual you couldn’t see it until your host mom pointed it out? 

All this to say, I’ve been having a hard time reflecting on my time abroad. I love sharing stories, pictures, and videos from my time. I’ve found that sharing hilarious stories that would make us cry from laughter in Nantes don’t translate well when I tell them to people in the states. I tell them anyway. It has only been a few weeks and I’m scared of forgetting. I’m scared of losing my French abilities, losing touch with my new friends, losing my newfound independence, losing the memories of good times and bad. When I lay in bed at night, I replay all the moments of embarrassment like answering “oui” to my university professor asking where I was from on our first day of class. Or, I replay the magical moments like when I could finally understand everything being said at the dinner table with my host family. I’m sure specific details will fade away, but how could I forget a once-in-a-lifetime experience? 

This next paragraph is dedicated to those who are deciding whether or not to go abroad, or are about to go abroad and are TERRIFIED! I’ve been in both of those positions. If you are deciding whether or not to go abroad, I say go for it. Obviously, not everyone has the ability to study abroad, so if you can, don’t miss this opportunity. Once you finally choose a program and get accepted, the questioning begins. Did I choose the right program? Can I do this? Am I making a mistake? Will I make friends? The answer is yes to all of these questions. You won’t know if you chose the right program until you try it, so there is no use in worrying about that. Even if there are aspects of the program that you don’t like, you are guaranteed to still learn and grow on your own time in whatever city you choose. You can do this. Up until I was on that plane to France, I considered turning around and running. It wasn’t until I arrived at my host family’s house that I realized whether I can or can’t do it, I have to now. There is no turning back. After a few days, I realized that I could do this. I would live in a foreign country and not only survive, but thrive. You are not making a mistake. The only mistake would be not trying. If you never step outside your comfort zone, you will never grow to find your full potential. You will make friends. Making friends while studying abroad is kind of like freshman year of college, but accelerated. The first few days, it will seem like everyone already has an established group of friends. That is not the case. Everyone just latches on to a group or individual to make sure they’re not alone. Everyone is in the exact same boat. The people you are closest with the first week of your program may not be your best friends by the end. My advice is to talk with everyone. Have lunch with different groups of people, walk to classes with the people who live by you, and keep an open mind. Everyone in the first few weeks is nervous about making new friends, so take a deep breath and go with the flow. Eventually, you will find your people and wonder why you were ever worried.

I know I only covered a few of the burning questions that circled my mind the days leading up to the start of my program. However, you have to remember that you are not alone. Everyone will be nervous. How can you not be? The only way to control this worry is to let it happen. Don’t ignore these feelings. I suggest journaling about them so you can look back after the program finishes and see how far you have come. I am so grateful to have documented the fear I felt before leaving because now I know I can do anything. 

All in all, I want to thank IES Abroad Nantes for making this the best few months of my life so far. I will definitely take the knowledge I have gained with me for the rest of my life. Nantes will always be another home and I hope to return one day. Thank you to anyone who watched my videos or read my blog posts. I know they weren’t masterpieces (life abroad is too crazy for that), but I hope you got an idea of what my study abroad experience looked like. Remember, believe in yourself. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. You are not alone. Document your feelings. And of course, STUDY ABROAD!

-Emily MacDonald

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Emily Macdonald

<p>Hi everyone!! My name is Emily MacDonald and I am studying abroad in Nantes, France with the French Language Immersion program. I am an Elementary Education major with a French minor. I love singing and acting, working with kids, eating desserts, watching live theatre, and spending time with the people I love. Spread kindness and positivity . . . YOU matter!</p>

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Butler University
Northbrook, IL
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