Tonight, I am writing this blog in my room at 12:24 a.m. in Washington D.C. I am writing it this late because I was afraid that I would forget to write this tomorrow and before I leave. I have not started packing at all and I do not know how I will go about it. All I know is that I am going to France. I leave the 13th of June and I will arrive the morning of the 14th at Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris. From there, I will stay at my uncle’s in Paris until the 16th when I will take the train down to Arles.
I still cannot believe that I am doing this. To be honest, since the pandemic, I have always had an annoying fear that my plans would never come to fruition. The challenges of the pandemic have taught me that sometimes, things change and do not always go as planned. As a result, I have always had this strange feeling that this trip would not happen for some reason. But rest assured, I am going. There is no turning back now. I have my ticket, my classes, my host family… I am finally going back to France! Not to visit my family and the Loire valley, but to experience an entirely different region: the South of France. I am going towards new experiences. All I had to do was wait and then act when the opportunity to go came to me.
I know France well (well-enough, I suppose). But like I said before, I have never been, even for a split second, to Provence. All I know is that down there, the people have a different accent than the central countryside (my mother is from the Touraine region) and Parisian accents that I am used to hearing. The Southern French people are very welcoming and cheery, based on what I have heard. With all this in mind, I know that my stay in Arles with be culturally enriching, despite already having general familiarity with France and great proficiency in the French language.
One thing that I keep hearing from IES Abroad and other people who have studied abroad is that studying abroad is “life-changing”. Even now, while writing this blog, this statement still strikes me as an exaggeration. How life changing can it really be? Is it because of the certain level of independence one has there? The new cultural experiences? The memories one makes there?
I guess these questions are coming from someone who has traveled to France many times. However, sometimes I think about why people have called studying abroad “life-changing”. What I realize is that not only does one become more cultivated and absorb tons of culture and memories. But going abroad might have helped those individuals come out of their shell more and try new things; explore new horizons. And afterwards, they feel more refreshed, and the memories of being abroad stick with them, the good times and the bad times alike.
Maybe that is what will happen to me. Maybe this experience will make me less shy. Maybe I will meet tons of great people and have the time of my life. At the same time, maybe I will run into obstacles, whether they be travel-related or homesickness or culture shock.
All I know is that whatever may happen, I do not want to have any rigid expectations. This trip will not be entirely good, nor will it be all bad. It will just be. I just have to take it day-by-day, and enjoy it the best I can, moment by moment.
I am excited to begin this experience. I have been waiting for days like June 13th for so long. Just like before I left for my freshman year of college, I know that new and amazing experiences await me, even if challenges may accompany them. I am curious to see how I have changed by next August.
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<p>My name is James Dolley. I am soon to be a senior at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC. I am studying history and French, and also pursuing a Master's degree in Secondary Education. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, reading, working out, and exploring the city, especially new restaurants, cafés, and bookstores.</p>