It’s been one week since I watched France grow smaller beneath me out the airplane window and touch down in good ol’ Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’ve launched myself into these two weeks of freedom before going back to school, doing every summery thing I’ve missed while being away, so in all honesty, I haven’t really been reflecting all that much. I think part of the reason is a bit of culture shock. Trying to re-intigrate myself into some sort of normality after having been in Europe for three months, with six of those weeks not speaking English seemed a bit daunting as I sat on that nine hour flight. What would be different? Am I different? So I think I plunged into my old life whole-heartedly to make sure it still worked. So now, after realizing that I can be OK again in my before-life making jam with my mom, listening to records with my dad, reading on my porch swing, I shall force myself to realize that this adventure was not a dream, but a beautiful and blessed reality.
There are so many different things that I could say in this final post. I could talk about my favorite memory, or I could talk about how I’m re-adjusting to the sad excuse for bread here in the U.S. I could give advice for future participants of the program and say how you should begin each day with an open mind, don’t be too harsh with yourself, and to never be discouraged by the woman in the boulangerie scrunching up her face in absolute confusion, as she strains to understand you when you try to order a chocolate eclair in your tentative French. And of course I could talk about how I learned oh so much about the inner most depths of myself and all that jazz. And don’t get me wrong, all of those things are worthy to write about. But what I will talk about, I think, is simply, people.
Now, there are roughly, give or take, seven billion people on this earth. Un-reliable statistics that I quickly googled just now say that we will meet in our lifetime, around 100,000 people (“meet” constituting as a face to face, verbal interaction). And out of those one hundred-ish thousand people, a handful of them will stick long enough to teach us something about this life and all we ponder. I am a firm believer that every person you meet has something to show you, whether you or they or the universe cares to notice or not.
But, OK, connecting this to Arles and my experience now. To put it quite simply, I met some pretty damn cool people this summer and they absolutely taught me things. The man I met on a bench outside of the théâtre antique one evening taught me to hold fast to my passions, because he doesn’t think he has one. Do the things that you love. My friend Hayley from the program taught me absolute kindness. She loves people completely in spite of everything. My host mother taught me that it is OK to embrace what I’m feeling, because I often tried to suppress negative emotions. My professors taught me confidence and patience, each in their own way.
I could go on of a long time, but I think what I’m really trying to say is that I think you have a choice in this life. You can remain contented with floating through life, checking the boxes, being fine. Or, you can decide to take a leap of courage or faith or whatever you’d like to call it, and see what this world and it’s people have to teach you. And though my opinion is quite small and seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I believe that anyone who takes that leap will find a Something. So, Ok I guess my “sending advice” is this. Go. Just Go and try to make the number of people you meet in this life more than that un-reliable Google statistic. They’ll surprise you, I promise you that.
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<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hello! My name is Hannah Jacobsma. I am a French and English double major at Hope College. I am studying abroad in Arles this summer for six weeks, and couldn't be more stoked! To explore and be immersed in this culture, meeting people of all kinds along the way, is what I look forward to the most. I'd love to share my journey with you all, and tell you stories along the way. ~Peace and Blessings</span></div>