Author: Natalie Wilhelm
Location: Cergy-Pontoise, France
Well, Valpo, in just a few short days I’ll be on a plane that’ll take me back across the ocean. My time in France has almost come to an end, and honestly, I’m okay with it. Sometimes, things need to end. They run their course. You’ve learned just about all you can learn, and you’ve exhausted both your motivation and your patience. That, my friends, is how I feel now.
This semester has had a lot of ups and downs – and I’ll be honest, I haven’t enjoyed a lot of it. There have been way too many times when I’ve just wanted to go home. I almost did, in April. My carefully curated blog posts and photos on Instagram don’t reveal that this has been the hardest semester I’ve ever had, period.
This is not to say that I’ve been miserable this whole time. I’ve had amazing opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I had stayed in Valpo this semester. I have friends in France, Belgium, and Spain. I’ve toured half a dozen museums, mastered the metro system, and tried new coffee shops in Paris. I’ve improved my French. I rounded out the semester by visiting some friends in Aix-en-Provence, which is gorgeous, and in Saumur, where I did my first study abroad.
However, it’s still too early for me to look at this semester with emotional distance. I cannot yet see objectively because I’m still in the thick of it all. There are still things I have to do before I leave: train rides back to Cergy and people to say goodbye to and suitcases to pack. So I don’t want to say too much at this point. It’s way too easy to spill your guts when you’re angry or tired, and then look back a few days later when you’ve had some rest and wish you hadn’t said what you did.
I know that there will be troubles when I am home, as well. It’ll be weird to be living at home again, after spending the last five months living alone, doing whatever I want when I wanted to do it. It’ll be hard to go back to work when I’ve had very little coursework this semester. People will want and require my attention and time. I’ll have to get back into the rhythm of my life, changed though it may be.
Even though these will be the hard things about going home, they’re also the things to which I am looking forward. I can’t wait to see my parents (and my niece who was born on May 19th!). I can’t wait to get back to work and have a fixed schedule. I’m impatient to see my friends and celebrate missed birthdays. People will want to talk to me, and thank God for that. I’ve been alone too long, and I’m pretty tired of it.
So I’ll leave you with this, dear readers: I learned. I changed. I cried. I rejoiced. I thanked God and the universe and my parents every day for the wondrous opportunities I have been given. I’m sure that with a month or two of distance between me and this semester, I’ll be able to reflect more productively on my time here. Until then, I’m counting the days ‘til home.