So in the blink of an eye, it's over! These past four weeks have flown by in a blur of classes, confusion and even more French than any of us could have ever expected. This has been the most amazing and rewarding experience ever and I don't think I would change a second of it.
I have learnt so much in such a short space of time. I've not only improved my French beyond what I imagined, I’ve also learnt so much about myself. Being thrown headfirst into navigating the French metro system alone, trying to lug a suitcase up multiple staircases that weighs almost three quarters of my own body weight, and living with a family I had never met before and was struggling to communicate with due to nerves, taught me so much about resilience and how strong you can be in the moments you need it the most. I never imagined I could feel so much older after just one month. With plans to travel at the end of this month I anticipated that all the learning and growing I would be doing would be during that time but it seems I was completely wrong.
Throughout this trip, I met so many cool, new people and had so many unique experiences that I would never be able to recreate in a different situation. It was so easy to just hop on a train for a few hours and suddenly you were in another major city. This idea isn't even fathomable in Australia! A few hours on the train in Australia and you're just a few hours away from where you left… probably in the middle of nowhere. This trip gave me the opportunity to meet so many people from different countries and cultures and as a result, not only did I extend my knowledge of France but I also extended my knowledge of so many other countries and cultures I naïvely hadn't even expected to come across until my travels.
There were of course feelings of regret and moments of wavering confidence but these feelings were only moments and as soon as they surfaced, I was proven wrong and reminded why going on this trip was such a good idea. Getting used to a new culture and way of life will always be hard but it's important to remember that these negative feelings are a normal part of the culture shock you're experiencing. It would probably be abnormal if you didn't have moments of discomfort and uneasiness, it's all part of the learning experience. You can't grow by sticking with what's comfortable, sometimes you have to chase the light.
So my final thoughts go to anyone who is considering going on this crazy adventure. All I have to say is, DO IT! Take the chance and push yourself to new limits. If you're sitting there writing a mental (or physical) list of “what-ifs”, trust me when I say there is a solution to every single one of them. I know this because I wrote the exact same list. You are never alone on this trip, there is always someone there to help you if you need. If you think you've been graded into the wrong class, there's someone to talk to. Lost? There’s an information desk always manned with lovely people who are more than willing to point you in the right direction (and in English if need be). If you're worried about making friends or talking to new people just remember everyone is in the exact same situation right now. Spot another Aussie that you’ve briefly spoken to before, even just in passing, and try striking up a conversation, maybe about how their class is or what they're doing for lunch. Everyone is just as nervous as each other.
I don't think there is any collection of words I could ever use to express just how amazing this experience was. It may have easily been the scariest thing I've ever done but it was also definitely the greatest thing I've ever done. There's no way I could convey just how important this trip has been or just how much I've benefited from it. There is so much you can gain from this trip, well beyond an extended level of French.I think the only way to truly understand what this trip has to offer is to do it for yourself. And so, for the final time I say to you…A tout à l’heure!