To the people, places and experiences that have changed my entire existence in the past four months: thank you.
When I boarded my flight in February, I was excited. I was apprehensive. Quite frankly, I was terrified.
The first week or so was exhausting. I wanted to see everything and meet everyone, yet I came out of it worried that I would never make friends in Paris. Little did I know, I would meet so many amazing, with whom I would travel across Europe, eat countless pastries and drink too much coffee.
I worried that I wouldn't learn the language. Because the other students in my program were at varying levels of French, virtually all of the first week was in English, and I started to panic.
But, suddenly, I found that I was surrounded by these individuals who were going through the exact same things as me. These people came to be like my Parisian family.
The thing about making friends abroad is that you are forced to spend a lot of time together. You get on each others nerves and then you have to find a way to get past it because you have no other choice. You travel with these people, you live with these people and you study with these people. They are your circle.
We found our niches and we began to adapt to our new home.
French started to come more naturally. Once one of my friends started reading Harry Potter in French, a chain reaction was caused because using the language no longer seemed to be a power move. By the next week, most of my friends had found a copy of their favorite books in French and spent their time in the metro quickly flipping through pages that contained familiar stories, pushing themselves to better their French.
We dove into new places and cultures, trying to make a small splash, yet totally immersing ourselves.
We often failed.
We laughed with strangers, we drank the water in Morocco, we were mocked in countless tongues, we found our way on public transportation, and we drank too many pints in Galway. All along the way, we were growing.
Sitting in the Charles de Gaulle Airport, my mind is reeling with memories, and I'm utterly amazed at how quickly my time abroad has expired.
For anyone who is considering a study abroad program, do it. Ignore credit hours, save some money and book a ticket, because it will surely be one of the most challenging times of your young life, but it will also be one of the most amazing.
To the people who encouraged me to go abroad and to continue to take French classes: a special thanks to you, especially Madame Cramer for igniting my interest in the language and culture from a young age.