Earlier today, I ate lunch at my host family’s house like usual before heading to Nantes Station. I watched as my host mom waved goodbye, and I boarded the TVG with my friend. In three hours, we’d be in Paris.
And now I’m sitting in the taxi on my way to Charles De Gaulle, reflecting on the memories that I’ve made while living abroad for the last four months. And just like that, four months went by as quickly as everyone said it would.
Meanwhile, I look out the window and catch a beautiful glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Even after spending the last semester in France, this was my first time seeing it. A few minutes later, we’re driving right around the Champs Elysees.
Finals week goes by quickly. Everyone is so wrapped up in studying, and suddenly, when you lift your head, you’re sitting in a taxi in Paris on your way to the airport or trying to navigate through Charles de Gaulle on a Sunday morning.
When one of my friends had come down to visit me in Nantes, France, she asked us how we were feeling about having to pack up and leave soon. I told her that I was not quite ready to leave; I felt that I still had more to do here. One of the things that she told me she struggled with when returning to her home country was the feeling that she had stopped growing as a person. In a foreign country, you’re always learning something new: a new language, new geography, new relationships. However, returning home is a challenge in itself; suddenly this process stops, and it feels as though your life is put on hold.
I got to the airport and made it through security with 20 minutes to spare. After finding a letter in my bag that I had not had time to mail out, I spent a good 15 minutes looking for a mailbox. No luck. As a last resort, I gave the letter to a stranger leaving the airport and asked him to mail it out.
With just five minutes remaining before they shut the gates, I rejoined the boarding line. As luck would have it, I was the only person selected to undergo a bag search. I moved to another station, unpacked my bag, and even had to remove my shoes. Hurrying back to the gate, I made it just in time and was the last passenger to board.
I was half hoping that I would miss the flight. I was not particularly excited to return home, and I yearned to stay in France. I felt like I had just begun building a life here and longed to stay to grow my new friendships and to continue with the language immersion. It must’ve been a funny sight: my friend and I, as we were sitting next to each other on the plane, he spoke of how he couldn’t wait to finally get home. I spoke about how I was dreading having to leave France.
Part of me wished I’d missed the flight. I didn’t feel thrilled about going back home. I wanted to stay in France; It felt like I’d only just started building a life there and I wanted to continue seeing my new friends and building my French language skills. It probably looked funny to see my friend and I sitting together on the plane: he eagerly anticipated getting home, while I expressed my reluctance to leave France.
When we arrived at Newark airport it felt oddly surreal; everything appeared exactly as it had four months earlier. My friend Jonas said, “It’s like we never left.” It was as though we had time-traveled into the future, returning to find no change in the physical world. However, while the surroundings remained static, our inner worlds had undergone a significant transformation. Experiencing and adapting to new adventures in such a short span of time had caused a tremendous amount of personal growth.
Arriving home is a strange feeling. It almost feels as if you’re waking up from a dream that felt so real. Yet, sense a profound change within yourself. You’re physically back where it all started, but internally, you’ve evolved tremendously over the past four months. You can feel the growth–a newfound confidence and readiness to confront any challenge, having adapted to a different lifestyle. Your new routine feels simpler compared to the whirlwind you just lived through. The challenge of living in a foreign country may be over, but a yearning remains. You miss the unpredictable, fast-paced days and the thrill of stepping outside each morning, never quite knowing what lay ahead.
Someday I hope to return to France. While I am unsure of what the future holds, I know that I will find my way home someday.
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I became inspired to travel abroad after reading the book "Banner in the Sky" by James Ullman. Since then, I've dreamed of visiting Switzerland and climbing the Matterhorn during the day and snowboarding down the Swiss mountains at night!