Week One: Everything is great! You’re in a new country! You’re making new friends! You’re doing so much with your life! Everything is brand new and exciting and wonderful!
Week Two: It’s raining. You woke up at 8 am to the school bell of the middle school next to your apartment. You actually have to go to class now and do homework. You’re experiencing serious brain-drain from attempting to speak in a foreign language all the time. You’re tired, frustrated and just want someone in a café to know how to make a caramel macchiato.
Everyone during their study abroad experience will go through this. It might not happen the second week. It might not even happen in the first month. But somewhere along the way, the excitement of a new city wears off, reality sets in, and you feel emotionally drained. It’s hard being in a new city. But don’t worry. The feeling doesn’t last forever. I, like everyone else, experienced the “second week slump”. But I learned how to combat it. I’m by no means an expert, but hopefully sharing my experience will help you with yours.
Know that it’s okay to feel disoriented. It’s completely normal. And it’s guaranteed that you’re not the only one. Our CEA program coordinator Vivienne (Mama Viv) calls it a “bad French day”. So what if you’re the only one in the restaurant not eating your burger with a knife and a fork. So what if you ask for a “Coke” instead of “Coca-Cola” (in French, ordering “Coke” is a no-no. You can guess why; you’re not asking for a drink…). You make the mistake, you learn, you laugh about it, and you move on. It’s part of the process.
Turn your faux-pas and less-than-exciting experiences into stories! Of course I wasn’t happy getting pooped on by a pigeon on my first night in Aix-en-Provence. But it makes for a hilarious story afterwards. Besides, I found out later that it’s actually good luck! (I’m taking that as a sign.)
Don’t stay in your apartment watching Netflix. Yes, an afternoon of binge-watching is good for the soul, but not all the time. You can do that back in the States, yes? Get out and take a walk around your city! Order a coffee at a café, go out to dinner with some friends, or go to a local free museum. It’ll be hard to get out of bed at first, trust me, but you’ll be glad you did.
| "la fontaine des quatres dauphins"
(fountain of the four dolphins).
Just one of the amazing sights around Aix.
Go out and explore!
With that in mind, take advantage of all the excursions CEA offers! Nothing cures a second week slump like a day trip to Monaco! I’ve been somewhere different every weekend since getting here. Not only do you get your money’s worth of the semester, but you get to get some of that excitement and spark back. Excursions are a great way to explore the areas around your host city that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to get to on your own.
| CEA Excursion to Monaco! It was so warm
and sunny, even in early February.
Last but not least, remember that this is all just a normal part of your study abroad experience. Everything is new and different--that’s why you chose to study in the city you chose! Before you know it, things that were once foreign, stressful or downright strange to you will become second nature. It may take a while, but it’s all just part of the journey. So don’t worry, face your fears and get out there! You’ll never know what you might find.
Elizabeth Manovill is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a junior at The University of Dayton.
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