Having been home from Paris over a week now, I finally feel that my American life has returned to normal. I’ve re-habituated myself to air conditioning, large meal portions, and driving everywhere. I’ve had to stop speaking French to everyone (my real parents do not appreciate it as much as my host parents did). And I’ve gotten used to looking out at modern, recently constructed buildings, rather than the Renaissance palaces and gothic cathedrals of Paris.
I love my hometown—it’s cozy and friendly, having been home to me since I was born. I missed its Midwestern charm and ease while I was away. But there is something wonderful about leaving to go explore an ancient city with a whole new language, culture, and way of life. I’ve come back noticing all those little, idiosyncratic aspects of American culture—the stereotypes that make us who we are in the eyes of people from other countries, like our massive sports stadiums, long workdays, and ubiquitous public restrooms.
I’ve also, however, returned to the States with a sense of reverse homesickness—the feeling that while I’m happy to be back in my home culture, I miss the place that taught me both what I love about my home and showed me a new world that I have also loved. Paris is undoubtedly different from Ohio suburbia, and I had begun to lose myself in those differences, accepting and appreciating Paris for the beautiful, ancient charm that it was. I sat outside at cafés as the sun set, walked along the banks of the Seine, and wandered reverently into cathedrals from the early centuries. I also squished myself into packed, airless metro cars, endured some intolerably sweaty afternoons without air conditioning during the heatwave, and sometimes mangled my French pronunciation and expressions.
Having been home, though, all these experiences have stretched themselves to be under the halo of “Paris,” and I miss them, am homesick for a place that isn’t home but was for a little while. When I feel it the most, I look through old pictures and smile at the places I went and the friends I made. I tell (whoever will listen) the stories that come to mind—like when after witnessing a French argument, the cashier was shocked that I had understood because I had been speaking English before; or when we got so sunburned on the beach that we could hardly move for two days. I read through the journal I kept there, documenting every day and its little triumphs, foibles, and pains au chocolat. I talk to other people who have been to Paris and who understand why it’s my favorite city in the world. It all eases the reverse homesickness and lets me relive some of the best days I’ve had.
Knowing I will keep in touch with my loving host family, will only improve my French as time goes on, and plan to return to Paris one day have kept my spirits buoyed post-arrival in the U.S. The French goodbye expression (au revoir) itself can be roughly translated as “Until I see you again.” I will continue to feel reverse homesickness for the country that welcomed me for the summer, but I can find comfort in the fact that there is no definite French goodbye, only a temporary parting. Au revoir, Paris.
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<p>Hi there! I'm a psychology and French student setting out on a dream to explore Paris. Some of my favorite things include working with kids, writing stories, and giving tours of my campus back home.</p>