15 Months

Living in a foreign country seems so glamorous when you think about it. Say you dream about going to… France – Oh the baguettes, the cheese and wine. Oh la la, I’m going to learn French! But when you arrive it isn’t completely the dream you had. I might be something like a feather in the wind, just flying around with, what seems to be, no purpose in life other than travelling and unfortunately, many people don’t understand you and will never understand you or the decisions you made in life. Of course you will find English speakers all over France, but this won’t give you any more motivation to learn a new language, especially if you boyfriend is French and you are spending a lot of time with his friends and family. When you immerse yourself into a new world, it is never so simple and easy as you originally thought. In a short idea of my one year here, at times you feel like you are surrounded by so many people, but are quite alone.

The amount of evenings I have spent sitting around dinner tables not understanding anything and not being very involved after the first 5 minutes are just uncountable. You find yourself spending hours daydreaming of being somewhere else, far, far away. You almost start building a resentment for everyone around you. Of course, as you are in a new country, everyone will expect you to speak their language, especially if not many people at the table speak English. Many will think they are doing you a favour by speaking their language when you first arrive, as if your knowledge of just “Bonjour” and “Merci” will help you to join in the conversation. Many will like to offer their advice when you first arrive, that, “you need to speak French in order to learn.” Maybe it was my unfortunately circumstances here, because I never felt it so brutally as I have in France, where I felt like everyone thought they were helping me, but infact, speaking quickly with slang words of jibberish is not helping me at all. From somewhere deep inside me, despite not really feeling so motivated by anyone but myself, I continued to study, while also feeling like I was ‘losing myself.’

Generally any communication at all becomes a challenge in itself. When you have a rendez-vous at the bank or if you have just a simple question in a supermarket. Need to make a phone call or send an email ? “Wait, did she just hang up on me?” Every day is just another hurdle that you need to overcome. It isn’t just errands, finding a job or new friends that you need to accomplish but even just the emotions you have going on in your mind each day. Most days are good and other days are just terrible. You miss you friends and family, then you make new friends, great friends and shortly after they move away.

Every day you push on…. and then one day…. everything starts to click. You begin to really understand things when you watch tv or hearing people talking on the streets. You are able to help strangers, ask for something in a shop and your motivation has grown 10x the amount now for studying. Asking my boyfriend, “can you proof-read my email and tell me what is wrong in there?” It’s only a couple errors instead of him writing it for me. Hell yeah. Sitting at the dinner table, I am not only understanding things, but I am actually laughing again and trying to join in more. Did I just get my bike fixed and have a conversation with the repair guy? Did I just make that phone call? Did I just have a meeting for 30 minutes all in French and understand 80% of it ….. yes… yes I did. And man, nothing feels better than actually feeling like you are on your way up this mountain. It’s probably one of the most self-satisfying feelings in the world. This year has truly been a rollercoaster of emotions and I know that it’s not yet over, but living outside of your comfort zone, whether it’s with travel or any dream that you have, it’s the most rewarding experience I think anyone can do. And when you think you want to just give up, collapse on the floor and cry, which I have done on multiple, multiple occassions… just don’t give up on yourself.

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