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The Study Abroad Buildup

February 11, 2016
by CEA MOJO

33 days. When I wrote this, that's how many days I had until I left to study abroad in the land of the Eiffel Tower, the City of Lights, the birthplace of baguettes and crepes in Paris, France. There’s only one small drawback--all of this is located about 5,525 miles away from my beloved hometown in California. The adventurer in me is ecstatic. The homebody in me is tentative and a little anxious.

After listening to personal accounts and stories from friends who have returned from studying abroad, I’ve realized that there is a lot I can do to prepare for my journey. These are things I’ve already started working on as I tackle my giant Paris "To Do” list before leaving the country in January. French visa? Check. Housing application in? Check. Registered for classes? Check. With each item complete, I become even more excited for this adventure that’s quickly approaching.

 One of my good friends bought me a Paris
journal to document my time abroad.
I'm itching to start writing in it.

With the excitement is also the worry of creating a new life for myself in an unfamiliar country. I am realizing that there’s only so much of preparation I can do here in California. Bringing pictures of my friends and family from home won’t stop the homesickness and the discomfort I’m prone to feel in an unknown situation. I know myself well; I am not a fan of change and am slow to warm up to foreign settings – both literally and figuratively. However, all of these are obstacles I must conquer while I’m there. I can’t help but feel a little helpless when I think about the anguish to come. I think these past 20 years have built up my strength and perseverance to overcome these fears as they arise.

I am not trying to dwell on these aspects of the trip. For now, I’m doing the best I can to focus on the things I can control: I’ve been practicing my French, making travel plans, becoming acquainted with the city on Google maps, and going shopping for warm clothes – I’m a Californian; my closet consists of mostly t-shirts and the occasional warm sweater. And with each item completed, my uneasiness is calmed, bit by bit.

 Studying French is just a little bit easier
with the Eiffel Tower in my sights.

Alongside my Paris "to do" list is my home "to do" list. I’ve compiled all of the familiar and cherished places, activities, food and people I want to experience before I leave. As for now, I’m trying to soak in every last bit of home. Waking up in my own bed, spending time with my family, seeing high school friends are all moments I’m trying to savor – I know that in a short while they will be unattainable.

It’s a tedious balancing act. I’m treading carefully on a tightrope;  starting from a place of worry and anxiety. My eye is set on the finish line – a place of excitement for the near future. Worry too much, and I can loose my balance. Luckily, I think I’m agile enough to complete it unscathed.

Frances Mylod-Vargas is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in Paris, France. She is currently a Junior at Cal Poly SLO.


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