My dream of being a fluent French-speaker and certified Parisian began when I was seven years old. My parents were attending a conference and brought me along for the trip. After being able to ask a drugstore employee for “cotton” in a French-enough accent that she understood me, I suppose I was destined to be a French major.
Now, the wild truth is that I leave for Paris again in just a few days. This time I’ll be going on my own and staying there for seven weeks. I’m looking forward to so many things:
-Eating croissants at Parisian cafes
-Walking into shops while saying a cheerful bonjour!
-Browsing French novels at bookstores
-Learning from French professors
But on the other hand, there are also plenty of things I’m nervous about:
-Fitting in with my host family
-Struggling to communicate in French
-Navigating a busy city and metro system
I’m notorious for being directionally challenged, often getting lost in my own hometown and on my own campus. Navigating Charles de Gaulle airport and the complex Parisian metro system will be a challenge, but that’s part of what will make this trip so transformative. Not only am I getting the chance to live in an incredibly historic, diverse, and beautiful city, but I will come back a stronger, more independent traveler from figuring out my own way around it.
It’s reassuring to have heard from my host family who are excited for me to arrive and already asking about my favorite meal! As an only child who’s admittedly a bit shy, I’m a little nervous about joining a family of five. Will they like me? Will I “fit in” with them? Will I understand them and be understood myself? Preparing for this trip, I keep telling myself to have a completely open mind to a new way of living and communicating.
Ultimately, this trip is designed to be a cultural and linguistic immersion, meaning I’ll be in French mode for a full seven weeks this summer. The thought of living with a French host family and taking courses taught exclusively in French makes me feel like a bit of an imposter—how could I possibly be prepared to be completely immersed in another language? Even one I’ve studied for years.
But I’m finally understanding that I’ll never be fully prepared. For any of it. You can practice a language for years in your home country, but you won’t master it until you’ve lived where people speak it every day. You try your best, and you learn from the people around you. You won’t ever be prepared for every situation that arises living in someone else’s home halfway across the world. You figure it out as you go along. And you won’t always know which metro train to get on or exactly which way to turn once you get off. You embrace getting lost as part of the adventure.
For all these reasons, I am thrilled and intimidated and anxious and excited, but mostly, I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore a city I’ve already fallen in love with and to practice the most beautiful language in the world. I’m ready with my packed suitcase and an open mind.
À bientôt, 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>