29 July 2014

It's Hitting Me

So I’m not feeling the need to write a ton, but I’m in a place right now where a lot has come up the past few days around study abroad—well it still comes up for me all the time. It’s been a rough week regarding some of it though. I feel myself continuing to get back into the routine of home. I’ve had a lot of fun in the last few weeks hanging out with everyone, feeling very loved and welcomed home.

And this blog isn’t meant to be a downer even if the last few posts seem that way. However, I also feel it’s necessary to keep up on the whole experience.

Anyways. So just to check in. For the most part I’m doing fine. But I’m having more moments. The excitement of getting home is quickly winding down now.

I cried over kebabs last week. It sounds like the stupidest thing and I wouldn’t discount other potential factors for why this happened. But my mom offered to get kebabs for dinner, to which I asked, “Kebabs like, Europe's kebabs?” and she responded yes which led to me literally feeling like I got hit by a wall of emotion that made me cry. And actually because of the place I’m in right now, typing this is making me cry thinking about it. Obviously, it’s not so much the kebabs I miss. But it just hit me. How much I miss it. How far away it is. How even us going out to dinner and getting something similar was just not at all the same.

Friday I woke up early for an opening shift at work. I got up and threw myself together. Then I teared up and eventually cried a bit in the car on the way to work trying not to think about how much I wish for one morning I could wake up again in Cannes. In room 317 of the International College with my roommates Sky and Grace in our yellow room with twin sized beds and yellow comforters. Our tiny closets. Their desks directly centered and facing each other between our two windows which were always left open to our top notch view of the courtyard filled with palm trees and the sea on the horizon. How I’d roll out of bed and go to breakfast with everyone. Then go to class (oh man, here it comes) with Giselle. With Hans and Alex and Elsa and Patrick and Jeannie. And we’d talk in French for hours and enjoy each other’s company and learn from each other. 

And there I was months later in my car on the freeway headed to Marie Callender’s for work.

And then today. Today I didn’t wake up feeling it necessarily. But I got in my car and “I Will Wait” was playing on the radio. It made me want to just listen to more Mumford and Sons who I listen to all the time, but who I also listened to a ton on my trip and who’s songs in so many ways take me right back to exactly how I felt abroad. Those songs in a lot of ways are like anthems to me of my trip. But soon after I put on more of their songs, I felt myself choke up while singing along, and started crying. For the third time in about a week’s period. And although I was headed to work once again and didn’t want to show up a wreck, I tried to suck it up and it still slipped out. 

This is me being really just honest and open I guess—because I usually hate admitting any kind of weakness, I tend to not want people to see me that way. But I just miss it. I miss the people. And mostly, I miss how I felt there. Because there I felt so alive and at home these days I just don’t really. I’m here. I’m working and I’m spending time with people and I’m enjoying little things here and there but it’s just not the same.

And then tonight what motivated me to write this was just that I’d written just a few letters to some of my study abroad friends. Haven’t finished em all yet but did a few. So I decided to write the addresses I’d gotten on the envelopes and seal em up so when I buy stamps tomorrow I can finally send them about 2 months later than intended. I re-read them and sealed them all up. And right after doing so it literally felt like I’d just sealed up little pieces of my heart to send off. Maybe it’s just that it feels so final—like a final stamp to put on these experiences in these friendships. It is and it isn’t. But it just makes me miss them more and makes me want to go back for a night and even just give them all a hug, hear them talk and laugh for a few minutes.

So. I’m being super emotional for anyone who can’t tell. And it’s not all the time I feel like I’m struggling but it is cropping up more and more often and at really random and/or unexpected times.

And there it is. These days are mostly just working and making plans and keeping busy as much as I can. It's getting back into my church. Getting excited for school to start in a little over a month. Starting to plan some trips hopefully in the next year or so, nowhere too crazy though since I'm broke at the moment. 

And it's weird because I was totally prepared for this to happen. I don't know how many times study abroad advisors warned us about reverse culture shock. They warned us that it's easy to be depressed and what not, so I'm sure that's just exactly what it is. But it's definitely there and it's hitting me. However, as much as I knew within 1-2 weeks of being there how hard coming home would be (take a look at the "Culture Shock" post for proof that), I also knew that soon in that any sort of depression or reverse culture shock would be worth the experience ten times over.

15 July 2014

Transitioning

Despite that I know not as many people are reading at this point, now that my adventures abroad are over, I figured I should post occasionally when stuff comes up—about adjusting to life at home and what not.

So here I am. The last time I wrote I had only been home for five days. And now I can say it’s been a few weeks. I feel pretty used to being home at this point. I’ve been keeping myself busy hanging out with friends and family. I probably think of study abroad every day. And it was very hard at first not to constantly be thinking about it and the fact that I wasn’t still in France or traveling somewhere. It was basically all I wanted to talk about. More than that, it’s really all I had to talk about. But after a few weeks and starting to get back into a routine (sort of at least) I can talk to people about work or plans or whatever and it’s not always about my trip.

I really just… don’t know how to put into words how I’m feeling these days. It’s a bit all over the place. It’s exactly what I imagined in that it’s a bit confusing to try to fit this new girl I feel like back into old environments and habits and routines. It’s like taking a piece out of a puzzle, turning it sideways, and then trying to fit it back in or something. Things constantly remind me of stories or memories. But what makes me a bit sad sometimes is that those stories feel so distant. Literally I guess. But it just really doesn’t seem like it was real at times. Which is just… weird. There’s really no other way I can say it.

I’ve occasionally chatted with some of my AIFS friends. But not seeing them or really knowing much of what’s going on in their day to day lives makes them kind of fade away—these people that were a huge part of my daily life for what was a pretty solid amount of time.

It’s like I can so clearly picture some of the images of the people I was with and the places I went. But they just seem like images in my head. I rarely feel a strong sentimental attachment to them like I guess I thought I would. Which is what’s hard to process.

I’ve had my moments though. A friend, Jake, who I was pretty close to in Cannes but with whom I wasn’t sure how much I’d stay in contact, messaged me on Facebook just to chat and see how I was doing and ask how my last few weeks of traveling had been. It made my day. And then he was saying how much he just wished we were all back in Cannes that night—it was a weekend night so we would’ve all been borrowing each others’ clothes to walk into town for the night. It just feels sometimes like we should all be getting ready to head to Morrison’s and see Michel and who knows what other friends would be there. And those people are still there and we’re not. And it just made me sad. It was comforting to know I’m not the only one thinking things like that.

And then even just the other night I went to a friend’s house to Jacuzzi after work and we were talking and asking questions when she asked, “If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?” And that was a moment I felt my heart almost burst (in a happy and sad way) thinking, honestly, I’d be back in Cannes. Everyone would be there. My roommates, my friends. We’d all be getting ready to go out. We’d walk into town and dance our butts off at our favorite bar, which was nothing really like a club, but we’d dance anyways. And we’ll never get to do that again.

So there’s all that.

But on a better note. I am adjusting. I’ve started back at my old job—literally nothing has changed there besides two new drinks added onto the menu. Waitressing has come back really fast. I’ve volunteered at church the last few weeks; last week I worked the cameras and the tech team said I haven’t lost my touch at all. After a few weeks of zero structure in my schedule I was ready to start adding some back into my life. And I’ve realized just how much I need to surround myself with stuff that’s just… new. That’s what I need. It’s little things like new music for when I’m driving in my same old car, or a new background from my Barcelona trip as my screensaver on my phone that make me feel good. Make me feel like I am at least a slightly different person these days. And also make me feel like I’m given the opportunity to get a bit of a fresh start here at home but with a support system that’s been in place much longer.

So life is moving on. And I’m in a place now, and having spurts of these moments where I do realize and get excited for the future. For new things that are going to be taking place in my life in the next few months, years, etc. (well hopefully at least).

For now I’ve got a few more things to try to incorporate into my schedule like starting to work out and attempting to eat healthier though it’s much harder at home. That’s one thing—on a bit of a side note—I just feel kind of lazy. I had a busy day at work today where I felt the gears turning in my brain for what feels like the first time in a long time. And I think it’s simply from being really stimulated by something; whereas waking up these days in my old bed and going through old motions after 5 months of life on hyper speed tends to be kind of the opposite. And I have realized that already so I know that continuing to do new things and surround myself with new activities will get me to where I want to be.

And I’ve also had some nice opportunities already to bring some of the French activities I learned to love here! Like an almost 2 hour dinner with fresh bread and cheese I had with my family which has been one of the highlights of my few weeks home!

I know I’m just rambling at this point. But another thing that’s different is it was so easy while I was abroad to wake up and just feel so grateful all the time. So that’s another struggle is that I know there’s a ton of beauty all around me and I shouldn’t be complaining. But it’s just so much easier to see it when it’s new and foreign. So in that sense I just feel kind of… stuck. But I also fully trust in God to guide me to use my experience while I’m home somehow. And at the very least, as a really cool guy from my church recently told me, even if I can’t share the experiences I had with other people, I’ll always have them for myself. So that’s comforting.


Apologies for the scattered-ness of this post. But that’s pretty much exactly where I’m at! Transitioning. Finally coming to terms with the end. Starting to try to get excited for what is in front of me: a new beginning.

My current cover photo on Facebook--a photo I took in Ireland with some lyrics to a song I listened to
pretty frequently while traveling. "Reminder" by Mumford and Sons.
A song that brings me back when I listen to it.

27 June 2014

Catching Up

Ok. So, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. The last few weeks have been a bit crazy. The last time I blogged it was my second to last day in Europe. Now, it’s been five days that I’ve been home and I now find myself sitting in my very messy, overstuffed room in Los Alamitos.

I don’t even really know where to go with this post specifically—other than just catch everyone up on the last few weeks. I plan on writing at least a few more posts as I adjust to life back at home since that’s a big part of the study abroad experience as well.

So here goes. I got to spend my last night in Europe in Paris. It was very nice and a bit emotional. I got there in the late afternoon because the trains were striking. So, I walked around a bit. I got a nutella crêpe and an espresso in a café. Then, I headed over to Pont des Arts to put my lock on the lock bridge as I’d blogged about doing months ago! (I’ll probably do a separate post for this soon.) Then I treated myself to a nice last dinner before going back to my hostel and preparing for a 25 hour long day of travel to meet my mom and my sister in Costa Rica.

And yes. 25 hours straight. That included getting up and getting on a shuttle to Charles de Gaulle; chilling at the airport there; getting on a nine hour flight from Paris to Miami; stressing out having to go through luggage claims, customs, and security again in less than an hour so I could hug my mom and sister; having a 6 hour layover in Miami where it was the afternoon and it was around 1 AM in the time zone my body had been in (however, I sat on the floor of the terminal watching the world cup for a while so that was nice); then getting on a second two and a half hour flight to San José, Costa Rica; going through customs; getting a taxi; and arriving at the hotel where my mom and sister were. Yeah, it was a long day. I wasn’t too tired all things considered thanks to following probably some of the best travel advice I’ve gotten—being that rather than making yourself stay awake since it’ll be nighttime when you land or whatever, just sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry. You’ll have to adjust to the time change no matter what so just take care of yourself in the process.

Our week in Costa Rica was incredible! We stayed in a resort which was very nice. Multiple pools, really good food, access to the beach, zip lining, massages (which my shoulders really needed—that backpack I’d been carrying around shocked my family with how heavy it was), and lots of quality time with my mom and my sister! It was also incredibly hot and humid—something I’m definitely not used to. We all did pretty well with sunscreen and bug spray until about the last day where my mom and I got decently burnt.

Then, after a week of relaxing and getting to be with people I loved, it was time to start the journey home to the U.S. I was feeling really excited about getting to get home and see my dad at the airport and start seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a while. The flights seemed to take way longer that day. But it was nice having company for the first time in a while to travel with.

Being purely honest, however, and not trying to be a downer, pretty much from the moment the pilot announced our descent into L.A. until pulling up to my house—I fought tears and/or cried. Which I felt bad about doing with all of my family being so excited to see me and have me back. But the closer we got to actually landing the more real it was that my semester abroad was and is over. It was a bit overwhelming. I saw huge skyscraper buildings, the color brown everywhere, thousands of cars driving on multiple lane highways and freeways, advertisements all in English for American brands, traffic, smog… and I’m not trying to rip on LA but talk about a culture shock. If you’ve seen my pictures of Cannes where I’ve gotten used to flying into Nice over the Mediterranean Sea with pink and yellow houses that come into view in the little hills around the city—you can imagine, I’m sure, the stark difference. So that just really hit me all at once with it all coming into view.

And now I’m sitting here. It’s been a few days that I’ve had to be home. I’ve gotten to see some friends. I’ve eaten more cheeseburgers already than I think I did all semester abroad. I already had doctor and dentist appointments: fun fact, my teeth got healthier while I was gone. I did get to go line dancing at one of my favorite places on Wednesday night which was a blast. Yesterday night I got to see the new house my mom bought while I was gone and that she’s moving into next month.

I think the scary thing is that… things really do feel almost exactly the same. I kind of feel like I never left. Which I’m sure to family and friends seems outrageous. But truly, I’ve already shared lots of stories and told people about my trip and these things are so vivid in my head but they feel so far removed. It really does make me wonder at times if it all really did happen or if it was all some weird dream. And luckily I’ve got social media and friends from Cannes liking my photos. And I’ve got this blog. And I’ve got photos and videos. I know it happened. I think my biggest worry is just that I’ll go back to being exactly who I was before I left and that the person I got to be while I was gone will somehow just go away. And I know that’s not true. But it does leave me, and a lot of my AIFS friends as well, in this weird space of trying to incorporate a ton of new things about yourself into what really feels like an old way of life.


It may sound a bit dramatic. But I know the people that have traveled or have done something like study abroad can relate. And I know the people who’ve been consistently reading this blog, even if they can’t fully understand, can see what I mean when I say these sorts of things. So here we go, snapping back to reality a bit. Catching up.

13 June 2014

Lessons I've Learned Here



It’s my second to last day here in Europe which is pretty hard to believe! I’ve been in Rouen for the last few days staying with my friend Léa’s family which has been awesome! During the days I got to explore Rouen a bit on my own and do some shopping and then come home to a home and have dinner with them. Last night was probably my favorite because it just felt like such a French dinner. I got back from town around 7:30 PM. We had an aperitif and talked while dinner was being cooked, then ate dinner which was delicious, then had cheese, then had dessert which was a homemade tarte, and then continued to sit and talk until about 11:30. All in French. So, that was pretty incredible.

Today I took my time getting up and starting to get stuff ready to go to Paris tomorrow 
afternoon/night, have my last day here, and then get on a flight Sunday morning! I went into town to buy my train ticket. The trains are on strike tomorrow so the hours are more limited which is a bit of a bummer—I won’t have as much time in Paris as I was originally thinking but I also don’t want to make myself get up super early.

Anyways I ended up sitting at a café for a bit to journal. I’ve started making all of  these little lists, most of which I’ll most likely end up posting after I’m actually home and can reflect on everything a bit more. I actually jotted down 4-5 pages of all of the memories that popped into my head—there’s a LOT that’s happened here. But rather than harp on all that, I thought for now it would be fun to post this little list, so here goes, in no particular order other than how they popped into my head. 

Some of the Lessons I Learned in My Time Abroad:

1.       Goofy things always happen on crowded busses (people falling, luggage sliding places, etc.)
2.       You really don’t need too many things
3.       Hoodies and b-ball shorts are SUPER American, as are peanut butter and re-usable water bottles
4.       You’d be surprised at how many things you can fit into a backpack
5.       Europe’s wifi is incredible; so easy to find
6.       So is it’s public transportation system (besides maybe SNCF)
7.       NOT planning where you or things in your life will end up is one of the best things you can do
8.       However, when it comes to booking a hostel or a hotel, look for location first
9.       How much the country/region we live in impact our identity—more so than I thought before leaving my own
10.   Being humble and being afraid are two different things
11.   There are some peoples’ personalities that just don’t connect with yours, and that’s ok. There are also people you will meet that just immediately understand you, and you them, and that’s pretty magical.
12.   The French “bisous” is just about the cutest thing
13.   Always double check plane and/or train departure times
14.   Don’t pack stationary for studying abroad
15.   Buy a plethora of stamps for postcards so you don’t have to constantly go buy them one by one from the post office
16.   Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to ask a question again until it’s clear—this can save you a lot of time and grief
17.   Have a well thought out backup plan if you don’t have a cell phone
18.   Don’t constantly convert how much money you’re spending on a trip like this…
19.   …But at the same time… BUDGET
20.   Don’t be scared to be weird. I probably met some of the weirdest but simultaneously coolest, best people here (and let’s face it, most people are pretty weird)
21.   Sometimes it’s fun to wander and fun to go somewhere you know nothing about
22.   Tours can feel lame and touristy but not knowing what things are = also lame.
23.   Be alone sometimes
24.   Take care of yourself
25.   Take time to do nothing
26.   Sunscreen
27.   Try new foods
28.   Talking to a stranger can be way more fun than sitting and listening to your ipod
29.   Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is almost always scary but almost always worth it
30.   Try your hardest not to judge other people
31.   Try your hardest to truly love yourself
32.   Enjoy the little things

That’s all for now! I’m sure I’ll more to the list in the days and weeks and months and years… ok well, forever pretty much, to come. For now tonight we’re going out to dinner and seeing lights on the cathedral! Then, tomorrow, last day, ending in Paris. Then Sunday morning, it’s Au Revoir Europe and hello Costa Rica with my mom and sister who I cannot wait to see!

07 June 2014

Where in the World is Amanda Marcus?

Alright! So it’s been about a week since Cannes came to a close. It’s gone by very fast already, however. I figured I should sit down and spend some time filling everyone in on what I’ve been up to these days. There’s a lot!

I was writing the last post from Corsica, which was incredible! We were staying in this little town called Algajora, which none of us could figure out how to pronounce. I actually kind of fell in love with it though! There wasn’t much to do besides enjoy the beach. We went to this one café to use their wifi at least like 3 times. So basically got to vacation for 4-5 days with two awesome girl friends, Cassie and Elsa. 

Algajora!
Not too bad, eh?


Got a pretty good tan going so that’s always nice. 

We did take a day and go see Ile Rousse. There we walked around and grocery shopped. Probably one of my favorite nights was us cooking a meal at home! We bought pasta and Elsa whipped up this really fancy great little meal with pasta, pesto, peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Plus, of course (of Corse! Ha! That’s the French word for Corsica.. sorry), we bought a fresh baguette which we had with cheese and snacked on while Elsa cooked. That night we went and sat on this rock overlooking the sea and talked and looked up at the stars.
Elsa's masterpiece.
View from the rock we ended up sitting on that last night.
The next day was my last day. We did our usual beach thing. Wanted to paddle board but it was way too windy. Then, I got on a train, said bye to my friends, and headed out on my own! Went and had dinner in Calvi which is where the port is. I took an overnight ferry and decided to invest in a cabin which was the best decision. I basically got on the boat, slept in a bed, and woke up at 7 AM in Nice!

Me being exhausted after making it to
the ferry in my very denim-y outfit.
That morning was very stressful because I just spent the first like 4 hours doing nothing but lugging around my 4 months’ worth of luggage—a pretty heavy suitcase, my backpack, and a big purse. It’s not too horrible but it does suck on travel days to be carrying approximately 80 pounds of stuff. Anyways I found a bus to go to the Nice Airport where I used the wifi, paid for lockers for my stuff, and so on. It all just took forever. I went and got a Starbucks at Cap3000, a mall right by the airport, before taking a bus into Nice to spend my last day on the Côte d’Azur!

I treated myself to the best lunch: moules frites (muscles and fries) with bread and coffee. I had brought my swimsuit and despite the fact that I had a flight later I had to go for a last swim in the sea. The water was just too blue and beautiful and I’m going to miss it a lot so I put stuff in a locker, laid on the rocky beach of Nice sans towel (which I forgot of course), swam a bit, then dried off. I got sunburnt though which wasn’t too fun. Also got some gelato. Then headed back to the Nice Airport to repack my stuff for the flight.  I was only allowed 20 kg of stuff in my checked bag and I had 30… I also met some American girls on the bus who I became friends with and who were on my flight and staying in my hostel! Made it through without having to pay more for all my luggage thanks to their help, too. Then, it was au revoir to the south of France, my home <3 I cried a bit when the plane took off, not gonna lie.

Nice!
But then.. I was back to one of my favorite countries: Ireland! I spent that night in Dublin. Then woke up too early the next day for a Game of Thrones Tour which was … pretty awesome. We drove up north and got to see some of the filming locations for Winterfell and other scenes in the show.

The bus.
This guy... He's the keeper of the place.
Everyone walking in their costumes.
Winterfell archery!!! Season 1 episode 1!


Then last night I was expecting to just go get some food and have a night in to watch the most recent GoT episode, and blog, and post photos… which if you’re my friend on Facebook you can guess didn’t happen yesterday and is taking place now instead. I went to this restaurant and pub called Celt’s where I sat at the bar (being alone and all). I met this guy named Ahmad, however, who’s half American and half Saudi Arabian and who was also staying at Isaac’s Hostel! So I ate and we got into a really good conversation. Before I knew it, the was the most adorable little Irish man playing guitar and singing! So I ended up staying there pretty late meeting Irish people, dancing, singing along to the songs I (like No, Nay, Never—one of my favs—and Alive-oh!). It was a pretty perfect night and I had a blast.

Then today I had a train to Cork. I didn’t double check the time though and missed it. Then managed to lose my ticket on the way to the office to change it. So… that was just a comedy of errors and I was quite tired. But, managed to make it onto a train and now I’m in Cork! I got here and was starving. My hostel is really nice though. They get discounts at - pizza place that was right around the corner, so I put my stuff in my room, went and ate a whole pizza, and came back to shower and have my relaxing night in tonight. Then I’ll have lots of energy for a full day here tomorrow! I really like Cork so far though. I haven’t gone to the city center yet but it’s supposedly pretty small. It was only about a 10 minute walk from the train station to my hostel which was nice.

As far as the rest of my plans, I fly from Cork to Paris on Monday. Then I’m taking a train to Rouen to stay with my friend Léa which I’m actually SUPER excited about! I get to stay at her house and she said we can eat together and stuff at night, which seems like such a little thing but is going to be very fun for me to be in a really authentically French household. I’m expecting to speak a lot of French. I think it’s going to be the perfect way to round out the trip before leaving Europe! (Aw man typing that made me a bit sad.) I’ll probably take some trips during the day to explore Normandy, which I’ve just been really drawn to for a while. So, I definitely plan to go see Mont St. Michel and the beaches. Might go to Versailles just ‘cause I’ve never been. But might also just spend my days wandering and sitting in cafés and reading newspapers or journaling or whatever. We’ll see!

I do have to say, traveling alone so far is pretty great. I mean that’s the thing, I can have a plan or not have a plan and it doesn’t really matter. I can go get a pizza for myself at like 4:30 just because I’M hungry and it sounds good to me. Not that I don’t like traveling with others for that reason, but there’s just such a freedom in just getting to self-indulge a bit. To treat yourself. To decide how much you want to dish out for a nice meal or not. To rest when you want to rest. Do literally whatever you want without having to consult anyone else.

And I’ve managed to meet a lot of really awesome people! Which I considered would possibly happen, but I’ve been a little overwhelmed at just how easy it is to make friends. I think there’s also something to say for: 1. It being Ireland and everyone is so nice and I just love it here  for that reason. But 2. The people that are backpacking around Europe at my age tend to be pretty outgoing no matter what country they’re from. And there’s just an instant bond that’s created when you can talk about travel. When you meet someone else just as thirsty for the world as you. Someone who understands the huge life changing impact traveling can have, but also relates to the little struggles and the goofy things that happen when you’re doing so.

Other than that I’ve just had a lot of time to myself to listen to music or to think. I’m very thankful for that. And very thankful that I didn’t go straight home, because this travel has given me a good buffer between the culture shock of going home quite yet. I’ve gotten to drag out the goodbyes a bit and process things a bit more. I go back and forth between absolutely loving what I’m doing and then when things get difficult, starting to really want to be home. Maybe not even home home. But as incredible as this is, it’ll be nice to be in one place for a while I think. To not have to be living out of a suitcase. And dragging it around everywhere or worrying about where you’re leaving it.


Anyways. I’m very happy with how I’ve spent this time so far and looking forward to one more week, going back to France, and then meeting my mom and sister in Costa Rica on the 15th! Crazy! And, yes, trust me, I’m aware of how crazy that sentence is to be able to say.

02 June 2014

Au Revoir, Cannes

Well, I’ve officially left Cannes. Our semester abroad is over. I’m lucky enough to get to stay abroad for a few more weeks unlike many of my peers. So, I’m now sitting in a little apartment in Corsica, far removed from the goodbyes that took place two days ago. In all honesty, Cassie, Elsa, and I have all agreed that it does not feel like it’s over. We feel like we’re on another weekend trip. It just seems like soon we’ll be heading back home to Cannes again to see all of our friends and tell them all of our adventures… but we’re not.

I’m never good with goodbyes. And I know that. I know that the actual goodbyes are the hardest. But as those last few days came up I think we all pretended a bit that it wasn’t actually happening. And maybe it sounds a bit overdramatic, but the thing is, this study abroad experience has been something we’ve dreamt about and prepared for for months if not years. And it was all coming to an end. We did it. And there’s pride and joy in that. And speaking for myself, there’s nothing more I felt I needed to do. Nothing I regret. Nothing I think I missed out on. I just genuinely was so happy here. (There, I guess now.) I think for a lot of us, that was the most free we’ve ever been. Free to be whoever we wanted. To do what we wanted. It was, in a weird way, a time to play and enjoy life, which most of us, as college students, haven’t done in such a long time. So, it’s hard to let that go.

And more than that. It’s very hard to let go of the people you did it with. In four months, I made friends that I know will last a lifetime. Who know more about me than maybe even most of my friends back at home in California. Who’ve seen me at my best and worst moments here. Who’ve heard all of my stories. I’ve met people here that have changed my life. Young women that I admire and respect so much and who’ve taught me so much. People that have loved and accepted me in a way that you don’t get in normal day-to-day life. It’s not to say I’m not loved or accepted at home, because I am. Overwhelmingly so. But it’s different here.

And then there’s the place. Cannes. With the stunning blue sea that gives it it’s place on the Côte d’Azur. The little streets. The old port with one of my favorite little pubs where we sang karaoke every Wednesday night. The Suquet—probably one of my favorite streets in the world. Rue Meynadier where all the cheap shops were. And Rue d’Antibes and La Croisette and the Hôtel de Ville. The clubs. The Palais where just a few weeks ago the most fabulous people walked the red carpet. The Carlton. The islands just off the coast. All these things I sat and stared out at from the Musée de la Castre on my last night. Just me, alone. And I cried. Just looking out at this incredible little town. Seeing every which way I had walked or stumbled in my heels after long nights of walking. Seeing all the nooks and crannies of the town we’d discovered in the four months. All the places that we as a group, lived and laughed and loved. Cliché, sure. But it’s true.

That night we had almost everyone out on the beach. Just sitting and talking and laughing. Reminiscing. Pushing off the goodbyes until the morning. Enjoying each other’s company, some of us, maybe for the last time in our lives. I never wanted to leave. But eventually, needed to get some sleep said some goodbyes to AIFS friends as well as local friends (shout-out to Louie who I know read my last blog and who came that night to say goodbye!).

Then. The morning came. No matter how much we didn’t want it to. I woke up and watched the sun-rise with London, David, and Rachel. Some of my closest friends here who I wrote about in the Barcelona trip—our first weekend trip. We had bonded so much and traveled so many places together. And again, I expected us to wake up early and sit on the beach and cry. I didn’t feel the need to.

But then, I came back to my room. My roommate Sky had already left at 5 AM. I will see her at Chapman in a few months so that wasn’t too hard. I began to pack the rest of my things and broke down. I know London was doing the same in the room next to me. We ended up talking and crying together as the time we would have together began to really wind down. From there, the waterworks pretty much didn’t end. I saw a big group of people off, including London and Margaret. And we just bawled and kept hugging until the cars actually drove away. Me and Rachel especially. It’s one thing to leave your family and friends at home and cry and say “see you in 4 and a half months…” but entirely different when people who you see every day and are so close to are leaving, and you really don’t know when you’ll see them, even if you plan to.

I was the next group to leave. So I shared lots of sad hugs. Cried more. Got my deposit back for my key. Then, we walked under the archway of the college waving a last goodbye and left. Simple as that. But it felt very surreal. And it still hasn’t fully hit me that I’m not going back.
And now, multiple bus rides, a confusing ferry ride, a crazy taxi-ish ride to an apartment with no wifi, and 2 days in Corsica later, here I am.

I’m sure I’ll have more final thoughts after reflecting a bit more. But all I can say for now, is despite how hard it was to say goodbye, I think it just goes to show what an incredible experience I had. I’m sad to say goodbye. But I think part of all of the tears was an overwhelming happiness that it happened. The experience was worth whatever sadness or culture shock is to come a thousand times over. I think my roommate Grace said it best that most of us, I think, found what we were looking for here. I know I did.


And now I get to adventure for a few more weeks!! So I’m loving Corsica and excited for what will come out of the next few weeks. The chapter is closed on Cannes for now in some ways, but now I get to be in another different but equally exciting time of my life.

29 May 2014

Bonne Anniversaire à Moi!



Yesterday was what I would consider to be the best day of my life thus far. And it sounds so cliché perhaps, but I really can’t think of anything else to top it. It was my 20th birthday, and to be honest, I didn’t really have high expectations. I knew it would be a good day. I told people it was coming up (also in an attempt to psych myself up for it a bit). I mean, 20 is a weird one. It’s cool ‘cause you’re officially not a teenager. And you’ve been around for 2 decades. And I know my life is going to change so much in these years ahead. Which is cool and scary and overwhelming and exciting. I mean. In this next decade I’ll graduate college, hopefully start my career, hopefully travel, definitely meet some incredible people, maybe find a husband (eek that’s a weird one)… we’ll stop there because I’m sure you get the idea.

Anyways.

It was just the perfect day. I got to go through my day feeling SO incredibly loved and blessed. There was my AIFS family who instantly greeted me at breakfast with hugs and happy birthdays and pictures posted to my Facebook wall. There was Giselle who gave me the biggest hug when I came into the classroom and said so many sweet things and brought us some fresh goodies. The sun was shining. I consistently got Facebook notifications from friends and family back at home which were almost overwhelmingly sweet—maybe just out of the fact that I’ve been gone for so long. And I guess that’s what birthdays are about? Getting to feel loved and special for a day? Well, needless to say I just felt so content and happy all day.

Plus, everything worked out perfectly in the sense that we actually had our AIFS goodbye dinner (which was sort of bittersweet), but was nice because I basically got to go to dinner with EVERYONE! Oh, and everyone sang happy birthday thanks to Cody starting it which was pretty goofy but sweet. And then, not going to lie, we partied! Not only because of my birthday but also because we had a holiday today, so no class. Plus, no one is really going out tomorrow I don’t think even though it’s our last night here just because we all have flights the next day and some people are leaving at 5 AM. Plus, I think most of us want to spend the night together and hang out on the beach and have it be a bit more low-key. So, it was kind of everyone’s last big hoorah together and my birthday just happened to land on the best day it possibly could have.

The entire day was incredible and I felt very fortunate to get to celebrate it here with these amazing people.

And on that note… tomorrow is our last day. I had a mini-meltdown on Tuesday where I cried a bit. But at this point it still hasn’t really hit me. I made a little slideshow to show everyone tomorrow with pictures of all of us. I’m sure people will cry which wasn’t why I wanted to make it obviously but I hope people will find it cute. It’s also just a kind of selfish way for me to do something I like to do that gives me an outlet to thank everyone for what these four months have been for me. For us.
I will miss these people. I will miss this place. I will miss this time.

Though I know that I’ve made friends for life. That we’ll visit. That maybe we’ll come back to Cannes one day even, who knows? That it won’t be the same. It won’t be THIS. Us, 19,20, 21 years old and young and free with the world at our feet, in the circumstances we’re in, the places of our lives we got brought together in. It will never be us trying to figure out Cannes together.
One thing that’s comforted me a bit though, is just thinking that… even if it won’t ever get to be THIS exact experience again… that doesn’t mean it will be bad or worse in some way. If anything, I know those times are going to be incredible, too. Just… different. Which is kind of scary and maybe sad, but it’s just kind of how it is. 

So I’m sure tomorrow will be sad. I say now I don’t feel like I need to cry and I guarantee tomorrow I will be. Bags are starting to get packed. We’ve taken off the photos and postcards that decorated the walls of our dorm rooms. We’re throwing things away to make space or make our luggage lighter. Some are shoving dirty cloths into their suitcases to wash when they get home, while some of us are planning strategically for continued travel. So maybe the busyness has also just taken up most of my brain so I’m not thinking about the fact that we have one more day living here in paradise.