As my plane and the first day of my program grow nearer and nearer, I’m on edge and my mind zips around, trying to fathom my life in Paris. With the holidays gone and without work and classes, there’s nothing to do but focus on the trip, the packing, the thousand little items I have to run out and get and zip into plastic baggies or shove into multicolored little sacks. After making one for a friend, I decided to pick up a miniature photo album for myself to bring along to remind me of home, but nonetheless, it’s the day before and my nails are bitten down.
Although I’ve been lucky enough to travel before and even to study abroad in Southeast Asia, the trip will still be very different than anything I’ve ever known and certainly a challenge. Like my sisters, I go to college in my hometown and my house is only a fifteen-minute bus trip from my dorm, ten if I’ve managed to borrow the car. I love UNC-Chapel Hill and I have no doubt that it’s the right school for me; however, I do recognize the luxury of not having done my laundry at school once this semester and of running home because I forgot sunglasses. Living in Paris will not only be by far the longest amount of time I’ve spent away from my parents, it will be my first time living in a city for more than a month. It will also be my first time living in an apartment as an adult, and although I’ll have a host mother, the autonomy I’ll experience will be something completely new as I’ve only lived in residence halls before. I’m on the edge of new responsibilities, new consequences, and I hope, new rewards, as I’ll be moving into an apartment in the fall at college as well.
I won’t pretend I’m not nervous, but I know that in the next few weeks and months, it will all be worth it. I can’t wait to look over the edge of the Eiffel Tower, to stand on the edge of the Loire Valley, even to stare at the edges of the cobblestone streets I’ll get to walk down, simply because I’ll be living out what I’ve always wanted. Growing up and going to school in Chapel Hill didn’t hinder my sisters from exploring; they’ve been to at least 25-30 countries between them. I won’t let it hinder me either, and I believe I’m doing that as I take a deep breath and leap off the edge into something I know will shape me in an infinite number of ways.
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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>