Time Abroad: September 2005 - June 2006
The first few months were very difficult. America is unique in its openness and warmth towards people, and I felt as if the French world around me was cold and unfriendly. However, once I got to know French people, I learned that they are actually quite warm, they just come across that way because that's the way it is over there! What a relief! The language barrier was difficult at first, but my vocabulary and accent improved almost exponentially after a certain point. I couldn't be happier that I stayed for an entire school year: it was after the semester point that I started to really feel confident with my language, and thus truly started to find my niche in the culture. But at first it felt like I would never quite fit in.
Unrest over a law passed in the spring of my stay caused French university students to launch a strike that would end up lasting for nearly three months. All the buildings at my university were blocked by chains and mountains of desks and chairs, forbidding entry. Protests raged in the streets almost daily. I slowly learned to accept and even appreciate that this is simply the French way: they are very proud of their strike. It turned out to be a fascinating cultural lesson in their political system!
One thing that I'm proud to say I took from the study abroad experience is a newfound self-confidence. I was able to get myself around and survive for a year in a completely foreign culture, and manage to have a great time! Knowing that I can do that, I feel quite confident that I can do pretty much anything!