The Final Chapter

Jonathan Skewes
May 4, 2017

Rushing to Orly Airport did not render much time for sadness to creep in.  While saying goodbye to my host family, it felt like I was leaving for a long weekend.  However, while I was riding across a bridge, looking at the Eiffel Tower dominating a gorgeous day, I realized my daily life in Paris was coming to an abrupt end.

During our final week of school, my friends and I were studying for finals.  We kept mentioning the fact that it was our last week in Paris and we should try to enjoy it.  However, the daunting task of taking multiple tests left little time to explore.  Additionally, the weather did not allow us to spend much time outside.  I did not expect to see a downpour of hail outside my window in late April, but now I can add that to the list of many firsts that happened while in Paris.

One of the biggest changes I see in myself now as a result of my experience is an improvement in self-confidence.  I have been fortunate enough to travel the world with my family, but nothing can prepare you for some of the situations you must navigate while abroad.  For example, I know I want to move to a big city after college, but I had never lived in a city as large as Paris and had as much independence as I did over the past four months.  I felt like a regular commuter when I got on the metro at 8 a.m. to head to school.  Not only did the daily commute in France help me better understand life in a big city, but traveling to other foreign countries where I did not speak a word of the local dialect was a positive challenge, too.  Trying to figure out the Berlin metro system late at night on the outskirts of town when you do not know a single word of German seemed daunting, but my friends and I figured it out together.  Finally, studying abroad in Paris immensely improved my French proficiency, and the opportunity to speak in French over a family meal with my host family was a great way to work on my oral communication skills.  Towards the end of the semester, I found myself using a French word while talking to my parents back home because there was no other way to express myself.  I moved away from the textbook French and started using daily words and expressions that you are never taught in class.  While my French vastly improved, I feel a bit of sadness knowing my French proficiency peaked about two weeks ago.

The decision to go abroad was one of the best choices I have ever made, and my time in Paris was certainly the best four months of my life.  While abroad, I learned to make adjustments and adapt to my surroundings; figuring out how to live without peanut butter was quite the challenge.  Traveling within Europe with a bunch of friends forced all of us to learn how to work and solve problems within a group, and we all came out of tough situations closer than ever.  I will never forget my time in Paris, and I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to study and live abroad.  Not only will you come away with amazing stories, but you will also leave the experience as an improved person.

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Jonathan Skewes

<p>My name is Jonathan Skewes, and I am an advertising major at Pennsylvania State University. I have studied French for six years, and it is one of my true passions. I also enjoy playing soccer and discovering different cultures and countries.</p>

2017 Spring
Home University:
Penn State University
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