A Passing Breeze

Hy Khong
September 15, 2014

While in Maine this summer, my friends and I would often go swimming by the docks nearby. We’d sunbathe for a bit, to warm ourselves mostly, before plunging into the sea. The water was never quite as warm as we expected, and we’d emerge, salt and sand coating our skin and lips chattering, wanting to soak up the sweltering sun once more.

I can’t help but compare my first few days in France to these excursions; even the mere act of reminiscing bears the mark of homesickness – a longing for the familiar. Homesickness struck quickly and quietly; from my (mostly unsuccessful) attempts at asking the Parisian ticket vendors where the station was to not understanding a word anyone was saying to me on the train (I was sitting in the wrong seat), my arrival in France was jarring, and I won’t say my mind didn’t wander back to Brunswick whenever I had downtime.

It was like jumping off the docks back home: I was warm under the sun, the cold Atlantic waters temporarily stunning me – the abrupt change from my content, comfortable living at Bowdoin to the mentally-taxing process of adapting to French culture and language left me, of course, a little shaken.

I’m not going to lie – I didn’t love it here immediately. Speaking French is hard, especially when I’ve only taken four semesters in college. I conjugate incorrectly mid-sentence, I don’t know a quarter of the vocabulary I need in order to regularly contribute to conversations, and I have a crippling fear of sounding like an idiot – all to the dismay of my peers who’ve taken French since grade school. Whatever, haters make me famous.

But just like swimming in frigid waters, we acclimate to drastic changes if we spend enough time immersing ourselves. When I went night swimming, the water would start to feel warmer than it actually was if I swam around for a while instead of immediately getting out. Acclimation comes at its own pace – we can’t rush it.

I’m growing fonder of Nantes each day; I’m beginning to reel my homesick thoughts back in and instead, allowing them to wander through the cobblestone streets of this beautiful city. My anxieties and doubts are alleviated every time my incredible host family (#blessed) re-assures me that I’m improving every day – and I am! Becoming comfortable here is made easier with the friendliness of the IES assistants, the little (mis)adventures fellow students and I have, and the fact that speaking French is becoming easier. But I ain’t that good, not yet, at least. Watch out haters!!!

My hope is that the homesick blues is only temporary, a passing breeze through my porte-fenêtre. I’m positive this is the case – as a friend said while exploring L’Ile Aux Moines for Orientation: “we’re on a island in France, let’s just live it up.”

(photos uploaded in the next post, WordPress is being dumb and I’m too lazy to figure it out)


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Hy Khong

<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);">I&#39;m a third-year student at Bowdoin College studying Visual Arts and dabbling in anything else that seems interesting. Always carrying around a camera, I&#39;m one to believe that even the smallest moments are ones we should preserve. I&#39;ve been to France before, but I was unfortunately too naïve and young to appreciate it. I&#39;m hoping this time I&#39;ll be able to thoroughly experience the Nantais way of life, and have the musings and photos to share with you all along the way.</span></p>

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