Three weeks ago, I arrived at LAX Airport and the weirdly small portrait of President Obama after a semester abroad in Nantes. Since then I’ve gotten over the jetlag (which was awful) but now that going back to normal university is on the horizon, I’m confronted with reality—I’m here now, and Nantes is across the world.
It’s weird to think I’m not going back to my room with the blue wallpaper in France. Having classes in English makes me worried that all the progress I’ve made with my French will start to slip away. When I go to class every day, it won’t involve a walk along the river, a tram ride, and the Théâtre Graslin and Place Royale…just a quick walk across campus.
I adjusted back to life easily—too easily. For the first few weeks it’s felt unreal, like my semester in Nantes was something I imagined. My last day in Nantes, I had time to wander through the city one last time before going to the airport. It was foggy and cold, and I took pictures of everything—absolutely everything—along the way, terrified of forgetting even the tiniest detail of my everyday commute. I bought a raspberry tart and a little gâteau nantais from my favorite bakery. I ate the tart in the Cours Cambronne, where I’d eaten so many lunches before. The gâteau nantais I saved for the plane and for when I got back to the US—I ate it in tiny spoonfuls, a few a day, and was so sad about the idea of it being gone that I never finished it. The last little piece is still in my fridge, stale and wrapped in foil.
My host mom drove me to the airport, taking me past the Loire River, the LU Tower, and the chateau. I said I'd let her know when I came back to visit (the only way I left without exploding into a melodramatic puddle of tears was by telling myself that nothing I was doing was for the last time, that I would without a doubt come back and visit Nantes someday) and did the French cheek-kissing thing, and then I walked inside the airport. On my plane from Paris to LA, I thought about how my host family and I watched The Mentalist almost every Saturday night. Well, it was Saturday night. I flipped through the TV show offerings on the plane…and there was a random episode of The Mentalist. It made me feel a little better. At least one part of my French life wouldn’t change right away.
Now that I’m going back to school, I feel like the adjustment process will be more rough. All I want to do is talk my friends’ and family’s ears off with stories about my time abroad, and show them the pictures I took of my adventures. I’ll also have to think about how I don’t get to go to IES Abroad every day, where my favorite bakery is right around the corner. Hey, at least we have more boba tea here.
I don’t feel any different on the outside, but on the inside I miss Nantes. I’m constantly thinking about it, but in an odd, distant way—like I said, it’s unreal, dreamlike. At some point I’ll hit a wall of sadness, but right now it’s just a faraway unreality. I meant it when I told people I’d come back to Nantes. One day, after winning the Lottery or experiencing some twist of fate that means I become fabulously wealthy, I will go back. Whether to live or visit, I don’t know. But I’ll find out, and that’s what keeps me going.