This year, I got the opportunity to spend seven months in Europe and visit nineteen countries. I studied abroad in the French Riviera and solo-traveled after my classes ended. I got to meet so many people and challenge myself on a daily basis.
I had to interact with different languages, take public transportation (which often didn’t have a list of stops), stay in crowded hostels, and navigate new cities. I loved this independence and knowing that every day held a sweet surprise. There was minimal hand-holding or affirmation when I was lost or too tired to keep going.
|This picture is from a trip that four of us CEA peeps took to Greece.|
While living in France and traveling, I found myself in this small community of Americans trying to understand and embrace French culture. Thanks to our CEA excursions, we became an especially close group. One of the hardest parts of leaving France was knowing that this group would never be all back together again. We would never live within fifteen minutes of each other in our adorable French apartments again. We can no longer meet up at the beach on the weekends or in the bakeries after class.
The day that I left Europe was an emotional roller coaster. On one hand, I was excited to see my friends from home again. I missed out on some fun while I was gone, and I didn’t want to miss out on anything else. On the other hand, going home meant that I had to leave my new friends behind. I also had to leave my sense of freedom and independence. I was thrilled to be going home in one piece with so many stories to tell, but equally, I was dreading leaving my new life behind. I had done more "living" abroad than ever before.
|Because doesn't everyone get to meet Ryan Gosling? This was taken during my internship at the Cannes Film Festival.|
Once I arrived back in the States, I didn’t know how to talk about my travels without seeming as if I was bragging. My mind was stuck in France, and I didn’t want to bore my friends with my one-track mind. After coming home from seeing my friends, I would find myself scrolling through my pictures from abroad. Part of me will always remain in my town of Antibes in my wonderful apartment on the water.
I’ve found a few ways to cope with this reverse culture shock and yearning to be back in France. First, staying in touch with my friends from France and even visiting when possible helps because we are all going through the same transition. Second, planning future trips helps ease my travel bug and reminds me that France will not be my last trip. Lastly, keeping busy reminds me of what I love about being home.
|If only I could casually ride a donkey up a hill back home...|
For those of you preparing to go abroad, be prepared for the journey of a lifetime. The transition home may not be smooth or easy, but remember that you get to go home with new friends, crazy stories, and a renewed sense of adventure that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Laura B. is a CEA alumnae. She studied abroad in the French Riviera in the Spring of 2016 and is currently a junior at Towson University.
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