I’m actually writing this post from on the road. Right after my exams finished and I swallowed my last bit of exceptional French food at our goodbye lunch, I was rubbing my eyes on a bus to Amsterdam, and having been moving around with a friend from home (including a foray back to Paris) since. We’re in Florence, Italy, now, with plans to see David tomorrow. And even though I won’t walk through Notre Dame or the Louvre again, it still feels as though I’ve suspended my final goodbye, thrust it away to those last few hours in Paris before I board the plane home, just enough time for me to remember all that I’m about to lose, at least for a time.
I said my goodbyes to my friends, which was definitely one of the hardest parts. This is actually my second time studying abroad, but the last time everyone went to my school so I knew I’d see them again. My friends this semester came from all over the country, from schools and places I’m unlikely to happen across, and it’s strange to have spent so long together and then to realize I may never see them again. And of course, the worry that your friendship will still hold up without the backdrop of the city and the adventure, that it transcends the experience. In the same way, however, these people are my connection to the experience that I don’t ever want to forget. For my French friends, the goodbye feels much more permanent, as although I’d love to find myself on a plane across the Atlantic again, it won’t be for several years.
I said goodbye to my host mother and the little piece of Paris I carved out to be my home. I walked by the Eiffel Tower, which I used to run around, I bought a last almond croissant from my usual baker, and I slowly extricated myself from my room. Now that I’m in a state of movement, I miss the stability of it, and even the metro rides and often dirty streets.
You get the strangest urges from the most unassuming of events when you’re abroad. I flicked on the light switch in a bathroom today and was overcome with sadness and the fear that I would never get to live abroad again, along with the determination to find a way to do it. Even though I’ve started my goodbyes, I’m not ready to go quite yet.
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<p><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);">Helena Archer is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina studying public health, international studies, and creative writing. She loves all three, and is thrilled to be able to develop her interests abroad. During her semester in Paris, she hopes to engage and immerse herself in French and Parisian culture, and also to examine immigrant and francophone presence and relations. Helena loves hearing and telling stories, and can't wait to discover more of them in Paris.</span></p>