Am I Doing The Wrong Thing?

The words “study abroad” did not mean much to me. They meant a student studying outside of their region. But over the summer, those words grew an anxious attachment. Study abroad now means expenses. It means extensive packing. It means learning an entire language in two months, because I can’t even remember how to ask where the bathroom is. It means leaving my family. It means being alone.

But there is a reason I chose to study in France. I’m the kind of person who would rather binge the latest Love Island season in my bed alone instead of going out to parties. I’d spend my weekends at home, occasionally spending time with my friends at Waffle House or at the lake. I’m not a risk taker. But I love French culture. I love the cuisine. I love Voltaire and Victor Hugo and Monet and even Louis XIV. To spend time with the art in their home country, to eat foods I could never try in the states, to learn the language to the fullest extent is the only reason I went through with the application. I am not a risk taker, but this program will make me one.

My biggest worry is driving three hours to the airport Sunday, and something goes wrong. My passport is wrong or my medications don’t make it through security. Maybe I lose my luggage or maybe my visa isn’t valid. And then maybe I do (by some miracle) end up in Paris, but I can’t speak a word in French and I fail all of my classes. These anxieties have kept me up late these past two weeks. Two days ago, however, a classmate created a group chat for all of the participants in the program. They shared similar concerns about the language and being away from home. Some of them have never even traveled abroad before. And we’re all getting dinner together right before classes start. Somehow, being stressed and nervous with all these brilliant people right beside me makes it less scary. Almost exciting.

So, I’m going. Even if something does go wrong. Academically, I want to learn everything there is to know about French culture. The literature, artworks, landscape, language, architecture, or even the train system. Someday, I’d like to use my French degree, possibly in teaching, so to absorb as much information as possible would be ideal. And I’d also want to visit as many author’s homes and writing spaces as possible. I feel as though a new change of scenery, a new change in life will explode the possibilities in my writings, and garner some new ideas. As for my personal goals, I just want to grow. Venture outside the comfort zone of my laptop and blankets and find bits and pieces of myself in new situations. Meet new people. Learn how to live on my own. Learn how to become the person I want to be.

I’m going to make mistakes. I might mess up my academic standing. I might miss a train or two on the way to school. I might start a kitchen fire trying to cook food for the first time. I’m definitely going to get lost in the supermarket aisles. But those mistakes don’t even compare to missing out on a trip to Paris because I was terrified of change. So, I’m taking a risk for once. And I’m so excited to see who I become.