My name is Rosemary Newsome and I am studying abroad in Nice, France in Spring 2017.
How do I encapsulate what I am most excited for in a single blog post? I mean, of course I am excited for all of the things one would expect for someone getting ready to go to France. I’m excited for the food: Hello macaroons, fresh seafood, bread, assortments of delectable pastries . . . okay now I’m getting hungry. I’m excited for the views of Nice: the colorful architecture, the beach, historic monuments (pretty much all things I cannot find in my home states of Kansas and Texas). I’m excited to be able to travel to cool places on the weekends: within France, I’m hoping to check out Annecy, Strasbourg, and Bordeaux. Otherwise, Italy and Austria are at the top of my list.
However, I am most excited for the things that I am struggling to precisely articulate. How do I describe the relationships I anticipate developing? The lifelong friendship I sincerely hope to develop with my host lady over a shared appreciation for French baguettes and a mutual understanding of sharing a cramped space? What about the connection felt with my peers over a comparison of different lifestyles and experiences?
And how can I properly convey my excitement to see my mother two months from now when she relieves me from a spell of homesickness with a lovely break spent road-tripping through the south of France?
How can I explain the excitement I feel from experiential learning? When I’m able to draw connections between the history I will witness in museums with what I have learned in school about artists like Cézanne? When I get to envision historical events such as WWll by being able to see where they took place and learn about them from monuments?
I suppose that what I’m looking forward to the most is the intangible feelings I will get from such experiences, not necessarily the experiences themselves. I have found that while food is digested and sights become unseen, the lessons you learn and the people you meet along the way are the most important and valuable aspects of study abroad because they stay with you forever.
First, I have to get myself to Nice though. Let me just say, it’s hard to prepare to leave for FIVE MONTHS. Especially when you have to say goodbye to two places (TCU and Kansas). I know, I know. I’m probably being a baby. People do this all the time. And for even longer amounts of time! But still. This is crazy. There’s not one right way to do it, but here’s how I went about leaving home:
Step 1: Say goodbye to TCU friends. A typical goodbye conversation with a peer: Person X—“Bye, Ro! See you in January!” Me—“Bye, ____! See you then! Happy holidays!” Me in my head—“Well more like see you next August (or never if you’re a senior) but haha it’s fine.”
So clearly this step didn’t go so great for me; I’m not very good at the whole sentimental thing. I mean for Pete’s sake I’m not dying or anything! However, I made sure that before I left, I saw or wrote a letter to the people I care about the most.
Step 2: Gather travel supplies and random essentials. It honestly amazes me how much you have to take with you abroad in order to be prepared for all of the “what if” situations you could find yourself in—and it doesn’t help when you have a mom with an overactive imagination. Thus, I’m heading to France with plenty of over-the-counter medicine (who knows what I’ll be eating), a satin pillowcase (I think this is for sanitary purposes?), a cute, Texas-y dishtowel (seemed like a practical housewarming gift for my host lady), and a kindle (because five months without reading material is absurd to me), among other random things.
Step 3: Contact my host family. Studying abroad seemed (and still does seem) surreal to me, especially before I knew the details about schooling and housing. However, once I received my housing assignment (let’s be honest, I immediately Google Earthed my address to see where I would be calling home) and contacted my host family, the whole experience became a lot more real, and started feeling less like some nebulous event in the indefinite future. I learned that my host family does not really speak English at all. Bad news: I’m not great at French. Good news: I’m going to be great at French by the time this is over! I cannot wait to meet them.
Step 4: Lay out outfits. Quite a monumental task. Basically, I went for pieces in neutral colors that would layer nicely. Although I may be wearing some variation of a “groutfit” (entirely grey outfit) everyday, I’m hoping that at least I’ll look decently European. I’m also bringing a lot of dresses because instead of planning pants and a shirt, you can just wear a dress—double the coverage for the price of one. Plus, dresses are much comfier.
Step 5: Say goodbye to my family (and try not to cry about leaving my dog). This is probably the hardest step in the process. However, saying goodbye is much easier when the people you’re leaving are so excited for you. I can’t begin to explain what a blessing it is to have parents who have supported this crazy endeavor throughout the entire process. What a difference it makes to hear “I’ll miss you so much” vs. “I’m so jealous of what you get to do!” I know that I’m stoked for this adventure, and I’m so appreciative to have friends and family who are equally stoked for me.