Exchange to France
Semester 2, 2017
Well I’m almost home from all my adventures abroad, I’m currently sitting in the Brunei airport reflecting on my travels while corny elevator music plays overhead. I wanted to write a final update before I left France but turns out I got so busy that I ran out of time! Travels seem to run a lot like that actually, time seems to go so quickly and before you know it you’ve got to hop on a plane and you end up missing a handful of things you had planned just because its impossible to fit everything in. Having said that, I have truly had the time of my life in Europe and France and have fit so many adventures in, I don’t feel at all like I’ve missed out. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had this opportunity, I’d been to Europe before but it’s nothing compared to actually living there and building your own life away from home there.
As someone who has lived in her childhood home most of her life and never moved from the same city, its been such a huge thrill to have experienced life in another city, especially one so different and unlike anything I’ve known before. Some of my friends have recently been posting photos of their return to Lille from their holidays and its got me thinking about how much of an interesting experience it is, particularly compared to a city like Melbourne that has four times the population. When you study and live in a smaller city, you often bump into people on the street you know and study with, you are free to make plans with your friends whenever you desire because you have no obligations to your family or other friends from back home. Its kind of like living in a large town, something I didn’t think was for me but turns out is really pleasant and lovely when you get along so well with your friends. Thats not to say that living abroad hasn’t presented its own challenges, when I arrived in my room I thought it looked like a prison and had no clue how to work the kitchen facilities (there were knobs missing and dial numbers were rubbed away) or the washer and drier (the settings were all in french!) in my dorm or even how to purchase fruit or veg at the supermarket (in France, you collect your fruit and veg and then weigh it and price it yourself before taking it to the checkout). However, reflecting on it all, there wasn’t a single moment where I thought ‘this is too hard’ or ‘I want to go home’, every single experience I’ve laughed through or worked through or built around, I think that’s the most important lesson of living abroad, you learn that any challenge that comes at you, you can handle. The room that I originally thought looked like a prison, I nested in and my made own, so much so that by the time I had to pack for my departure I ended up taking silly things like my mugs and other little mementos because I’d grown so attached to the place.
In my final few weeks in Europe, my Mum (who popped over to visit before Christmas) and I have been hopping from city to city having the best time, we finished our tour by seeing Hamilton on the West End and rediscovering London, a city I’ve come to know quite well since its so close to Lille and a place she visited for three days 20 years ago. I realised in that time how incredibly lucky and thankful I am to have had all these incredible experiences, to have such supportive people both in my life in Lille and my life at home and to have had such an incredible time abroad. It’s going to be so hard coming home, I think I’m already in the stages of reverse culture shock and I haven’t even touched down in Melbourne yet, but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat and I’m so glad I’ve been able to have this experience.