So far

So far

Is it November 7th? Because I’m already HALFWAY finished with this incredible journey!
These past 2.5 months have taught me more about life and how to solve problems and have patience and be aware of others and pay attention and care about what I’m doing than I’ve learned in years of school. I can’t believe it’s already halfway through.
These months have been full of happiness and homesickness and feeling like I’m on top of the world and like all I need is to go home. I’ve felt a real taste of independence and a lot of tastes of really yummy food.
Some things that have happened since I last wrote:
Every 7 Weeks from Sep-June, there is a 2 week vacation. Those were a wonderful 2 weeks for me because I got a rest from school, got to spend time with my host sister more than normal, and we went on a couple of trips! The first was to a larger city-Clermont. Just the girls spent the whole day shopping and for lunch I had my first burger since I’ve been in America! It was a pretty good burger I’ll admit. It was really fun to have a day out. The second was to Jura, a region in the East of France. It was in the country and so I left my phone at the house and didn’t use any technology for the weekend which was so nice. We met up with their entire family and I had my first legitimate french food experience.
In between lunch and dinner, usually at 5pm on the dot, is time for a snack. But this wasn’t a piece of cake or some chips… This was a 6 course snack. Ham and salami and bread and those giant circles of cheese that take 2 years to become really good and apple crisp pie and coffee and 3 different wines (the first wine I’ve ever tried and actually enjoyed) homemade brioche, jam, homemade alcohol with a sugar cube dipped in and then you eat the sugar cube-not my favorite
And yeah that was just a really wonderful time because it was a 3 hour event and it just felt soo… French!
I also went out to lunch with the Australians who are also studying in Le Puy, which is always fun to catch up and tell our stories! And a giant fair came to town and is here for a whole month which is super cool. I also got to go to my first nightclub which was actually really fun… And

Sometimes I reread my journal from the beginning of this and I just can’t believe how time goes. It’s weird to me that I can’t remember what happened on Sep 8th because I’m sure that 2 months ago today I was wondering what it would be like in 2 months… And now here I am!

I figured Id give some advice to future study abroad students, which also for those of you who aren’t- I suppose its a list of what I’ve learned.
I still have 2.5 more months to learn a whole bunch, but for some of you who may be starting this month or in January, this is for you:
Don’t be shy. I’m not a naturally shy person, but I don’t talk when I don’t need to if I’m with people I don’t know very well. I feel like this has made my experience go a bit slow; this also goes into making effort. Break out of your shell and just talk talk talk. I wish I could take my own advice because truly I haven’t mastered this yet, but seriously. The only way to become comfortable talking is to try talking!
Listen. You’ll be amazed after 2 weeks when you can understand even a little bit of the language through the thick accent and speed of conversation. And after 2 months, you’ll be able to understand almost everything! It’s an amazing feeling, but you have to keep listening for repetitive words and phrases to understand and drill them into your brain.
Calm down! I know I was insanely overwhelmed the first few days in a new town with a new family, having no clue how anything was going to go. But be assured, your first few weeks will fly by (due to everything being so new and interesting) and one day you’ll be in your normal routine wondering what you were worrying about!
Talk to people at school, ask them questions. They’ll probably want to practice their English, but talk back in french! People will want to be friends with you and ask about your life and culture, but you have to put effort forward too! Don’t be scared of not making friends, people are very interested in trying to speak English (they study it in school their entire life!), and especially America.. People will definitely talk to you.
Take some alone time every once in a while and don’t feel guilty about it!
There will be some days where you just really need a break. It could be from the language, from people, from routine… But whatever it is, give yourself a break! Take a walk and journal, go walk in town and buy a treat and take some pictures. It’s so important to remember that this is YOUR experience! You wanted to come here and have the experience of a lifetime, yes, but all good days come with bad and hard days. It’s completely normal to feel homesick sometimes or need to get away…so don’t feel guilty by needing some time to yourself!
I usually go buy a crepe and just go sit and think in the park or write letters.
Don’t spend a lot of time on your phone or computer. I have a really hard time with this. I did okay in the beginning, but now that I’ve fallen into such a normal mindset and this feels like my life, it’s a lot easier to talk to my friends or scroll through Instagram a lot more than I should. Part of it is because I miss home, part of it is I just feel like it’s no big deal to be on my phone, I would do the same at home. But it’s important to remember that you left your “real” life at home when you stepped on that plane- it will be there when you get home! Focus on now.
If you’re bored, take a walk or try to read a book or watch a movie in the language or talk to your host family. I’m still working on this myself, but I can definitely see how this experience could have been bettered if I had stayed off my phone more. Not only does it cause you to think about home, it causes you to think in English, go to sleep thinking about that guy you like or your best friend. Sorry, but they’re 3k miles away and it doesn’t matter what’s going on in your high school back home. Stop thinking about it! It also causes you to feel like you should be home, living life with your friends and family like normal. But you know what? Your peers may look back and remember that “killer Halloween party where I…” But you’ll remember that time you lived in another country away from everything you’ve ever known and became proficient if not fluent in another language at 16/17 years old. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.
Oh yeah- the language. I know students reading this may be going to different places than France, and come from all different levels of language abilities, but don’t expect so much from yourself! Yes, try really hard and care about what you’re doing and listen and speak, but also remember that you’ve spent your entire life completely enclosed in English (most of us) and it’s totally normal if you have no idea what’s going on half the time. You will progress and be amazed at your accomplishments. But don’t get down on yourself if you can’t remember every word or get the accent down or your host parents have to repeat themselves 5 times… You’re here to LEARN not to magically know an entire new language. Strive for progress instead of perfection.
It’s easy to get negative. So write down positive things! For example, things I’ll miss about Le Puy:

The city. It’s bigger than my hometown and I love walking through it
The giant park in the middle of town. It’s like a mini Central Park and it makes me happy
Crepes. Pastries. Cheese and bread.
Being able to walk or take a short bus ride anywhere I need to go
Having a break from my life-it’s made me appreciate it so much more.
Learning french. Every single day hearing constant french and still being awestruck that I’m here. That’s just a really cool thing.
School lunches. Mmm.
New things. It’s challenging me to break free from everything I’ve known for 17 years, which I think is a skill that will help in my future in the transition into college/independent life
Having teenage siblings. It’s really different for me.
Learning lots about budgeting
Not having to be stressed out about doing great in school (because I’m here for french not physics, remember?)
I’m finished with school on Wednesdays at 12, which feels like a day off

I have that saved in my notes on my phone and I add things as it think of them. Things aren’t perfect, but pointing out things you adore about your life abroad help in remembering how awesome it is and how excited you once were for this.
It’s not easy, but you weren’t expecting it to be. I’ve found out a lot more than how to speak french and that I don’t like liver. What begins as an experience to “learn a language and have a unique senior (or junior) year” becomes a life changing time where you evaluate yourself and who you are and who you want to become. It sounds so cheesy and dumb – “finding yourself” … But the truth is, I’ve learned things I didn’t know about myself 2.5 months ago. Things like how much I appreciate my family, how I cant imagine going to college in my home town because of how good it feels to live somewhere new, how much I love my best friends, how much I want to travel the world, and that I’m lot stronger than I thought I was.
And what’s so important to remember is that this is a short portion of your life and one day it will just be a memory-so make it a good one!
A lot of this advice is actually recycled from pep talks my friends or parents have given me when I’ve been having a hard time, and they’re things I wish I had known to remind myself of. Good luck and get ready for a crazy yet amazing experience!
A bientôt 🙂

Now for some random pictures.

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