I can still hear my precocious 8-year-old host sister repeatedly asking me why I have to leave. I see my host father waving goodbye from the platform as my train pulls out of the station. I regret not being able to find the appropriate vocabulary to tell them how much they meant to me and how much I’ll miss them, but I hope they know. The images of Nantes outside the window blur as the train picks up speed and my tears begin to cloud my vision. I hear the conductor announce the train’s final stop as Aéroport Charles de Gaulle and I know that everything is about to change… again.
It has now been about three weeks since the episode described above and during that time I’ve reached the monumental age of 21 and braved the polar vortex in the Midwest to move into my first apartment. This should be an exciting time in my life but somehow everything seems relatively underwhelming after living in a foreign country for six months.
I enjoyed being home for Christmas with with my parents who supported me during each step of my time abroad and served as a personal source of inspiration. My relationship with them has changed in the best way possible as we’re now speaking a confusing mix of two different languages and they understand the emotions I’m experiencing as I transition back into this life.
The transition for me is not an easy one because leaving an amazing study abroad experience can feel like a loss. It feels as though someone ripped something away from me that I’ll never get back. But I have to remember that I haven’t lost these things and study abroad was my reality for six months even if it only feels like a dream now.
Perhaps, returning to my old life has been a challenge because I’m not the old me. I feel like a puzzle piece that someone is trying to cram into a place where it doesn’t belong. However, I’m sure I’m not the only who’s struggling with the transition and I hope that I’ll feel better once I get back into the swing of being on campus again.
As a Texas native living in the Midwest, I know what it means to be homesick. I have a new homesickness that can’t be cured by more Vitamin D or filling up on the best tacos in town. I’m homesick for France and I’m not sure how to handle it.
My experience has changed me in ways that I can’t articulate to anyone, especially myself, and I find myself at a loss for words anytime someone asks me how I enjoyed my semester abroad. However, I’m realizing that I don’t need to find a way to explain my experience to anyone because it’s just that – my experience. It was ugly and beautiful all at the same time and if I’m certain of anything it’s that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
France, je t’aime.
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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);">Katie Nodjimbadem is a junior at Northwestern University majoring in journalism and planning to minor in French. She enjoys writing about diversity and culture for North by Northwestern magazine and loves interacting with prospective students as a campus tour guide. Katie bleeds purple and loves to cheer on her fellow wildcats at varsity sporting events. As the daughter of two Francophone parents, she desires to improve her French to better understand her heritage and strengthen her ties with her extended family.</span></p>