Here We Go Again: Finding My Way Back to France

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Madeline ClugstonWhile I’ve always hoped to get back to France after leaving her in 2013 when my exchange year was up, it never truly felt like it would happen. I squeezed hands and kissed cheeks as I left, promising je reviendrai bientôt, I’ll be back soon, but had no idea when, or even if, that moment would come.

Since that year in Toulouse, I’ve hung my memories from my time abroad safely, but heavily, in my heart, wrapped in the promise of my return. I’ve completed high school and two years of college at Temple University. I’ve declared one of my majors as French, but my fluency has decreased drastically. I’ve taken on a wonderful student job that not-so-wonderfully prevents me from studying abroad during the school year and during a few weeks in the summer.

While I’m happy and proud of where I’ve gotten since leaving France, as of last year, I had pretty much accepted that this would not be the point in my life when I got to return.

BUT – this is not a sad story, as you may have guessed from the title of this post. My luck changed when I was recruited for a scholarship last spring that made studying abroad as an undergrad financially possible. With the help of some amazing professors in the French department, the flexibility of my boss, and (as always) the encouragement of my mom (thanks you guys!), I have finagled my schedule to make living abroad for six weeks in Paris this summer a beautiful, wonderful, heart-swelling reality. I forgot how amazing it feels to stand at the edge of such a big adventure.

I also forgot how much it can suck having to prepare for one. Passport applications are never fun; packing is a kinda-exciting, mostly-exhausting endeavor; and getting ready to say goodbye to my family, boyfriend, and friends is always hard.

Luckily, this time around, I don’t have to apply for a student visa or take any extra precautions that I had to back when I was a minor. I don’t have to practice packing a year into only two suitcases over and over again. I don’t have to mentally prepare myself for longer, scarier goodbyes.

Most importantly, this time around, I know for a fact that any amount of effort it takes to study abroad is completely worth it. The feeling of stepping off an airplane erases the annoyance of filling out form after form. Getting to unpack your suitcases in a new country makes up for the struggle you went through to jam everything into them. The new friends and family you make abroad don’t make you forget your loved ones back home, but they can teach you to make a new home wherever you are.

Whenever I want to groan at the hours of paperwork I have ahead of me, I try to remember how lucky I am to have the opportunity to fill these papers out and how quickly I’ll forget about the hours I spent doing them once I set foot in Paris.

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