Yesterday, August 6th, I arrived back in the United States after having spent my last days in France after the program visiting family.
I feel like so much happened in a month and a half. I saw so many new places, met many great people, tried a lot of new foods…I honestly feel like my trip to France was a dream, and that I just woke up in my apartment in Washington D.C.
It is interesting how one can become so accustomed to the norms and culture that one was in for a while that coming back to their home country can be a bit strange. I knew I would have a slight culture shock being back in the United States. I am not used to hearing English everywhere I go. I have gotten so used to addressing everyone I come across in French. My first full night back, I went to the grocery store with a friend so that we could make dinner together. My main task was to find bread and cheese that we could have after because I knew I would miss those little aspects of French culture.
These last few days, I have been reflecting on my time and France, what it has meant to me, and what it can mean in a bigger picture. Last Friday, the day before I left France, I was with my cousin in Paris. We visited Montmartre and climbed up to the top floor of the Basilique du Sacré Coeur. From the dome of the basilica, you can walk around and get a panoramic view of the entire city of Paris. We stayed up there for about 20 minutes and took in the views of the city. I believe it was at that moment that something clicked in me: I realized that for so long, since my early teenage years, I have always wanted to visit Paris and study in France in general. And I did both of those things during my seven weeks abroad.
Now this will sound cliché, and I am sure whoever is reading this has heard this before. But dreams can actually come true. This is what I learned when I was in France. Dreams are possible.
I always dreamed and hoped that one day, I would be able to study abroad in France. I always hoped that I would be able to experience Paris and the south of France and discover new places and foods and traditions. I was worried during the dark days of the pandemic. I remember wondering, “Will I ever be able to follow my dream of going abroad?” Eventually, it was possible, and I seized the opportunity.
As I talked about in prior blogs, studying abroad is by no means perfect. It can be easy to be discouraged when you do not understand something, when you are homesick, or when things go wrong. But this is when courage and faith in the future have to take force. Like any difficult, testing moment in life, it does not last forever. Though you may still remember it, how you handled the problem in the moment is what you will stick with you. And most importantly, patience in yourself is essential.
So to anyone who is debating whether or not to embark on this journey, wherever it is, or whatever it is, I say this: if you have the means, if you want to see another part of the world, and if you think you are willing to accept the challenges, then go abroad. It is an opportunity that some people do not get. The point of going abroad is being exposed to new sights, smells, sounds, and people. This, in turn, allows you to grow out of your comfort zone and make you feel ready to explore new horizons and other areas of life. All that is needed is a little courage and the will to discover.
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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>