What It's Really Like to Study Abroad in France

You know that one junk cabinet/drawer/closet you have sneakily stuffed with everything that wouldn't fit elsewhere?

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset That's an accurate depiction of what my thoughts & life have looked like for the past few weeks.

There's been a lot of song and dance around these parts. A few colorful character deets and plenty of wanderlust. But as I mentioned in this post, there's been far more left unsaid. Which would be completely  in 'whatevs' territory, except that I've been going multiple degrees of crazy with how much I want to say. That's rare for a keen observer who typically leaves details to the outside lands.


Let's get on this wild ride. Grab the rando fake mustache that's been sitting in said junk cabinet, the strongest cup of coffee you can find, and a tub of butter for good luck. We're going to France!

I arrived in France, wide-eyed and wonderful. It was my second time in the country, but I had been a veritable youngin' during my first trip. Living somewhere, I learned, is also a fast departure from a weeklong vacation.


Studying abroad in Nantes, France has been like nothing I expected, yet more than I ever could have dreamed. It's bizarre being an outsider, while pretending to be an insider for a few months. It's an unapologetic kick in the butt that makes you realize the shallowness of your own world -- like the feeling you get when throwing on a pair of 3D glasses in the movie theater.

It's a total holy-crap-this-is-real moment that could fo sho be on Oprah.


As a hopeless wanderer, I tend to adapt to new environments relatively quickly. Even after spending 2.5 years away from home (at Georgetown, in DC/Philly/NYC, Google, etc), I've never been truly homesick. (Mom & Dad, this isn't to say I don't love you bunches). Change doesn't scare me that way.

Studying abroad in France, however, is a different beast. I changed, adapted, and familiarized as I normally would. But there was one snag in this game plan: mindset.

And that's the part of the roller coaster ride with the unexpected HUGHHHHH JASSSS drop. The one that makes your stomach feel like it just peaced out on a whim.


Without really trying, I found myself thinking about France via subtraction rather than addition. The things lost rather than gained.

I was missing friends who were all sorts of essential, a fall semester on the Hilltop, iced coffee, long showers, summer shenanigans, a common timezone, variety in EVERYTHING, and most importantly, English -- my golden ability to communicate and my homefield advantage. I wasn't stuck on it perse, but I couldn't help seeing those pin-sized holes around me. Normal life minus normal things = just life.

Even loving the experience, that mindset was a wall or sorts. It was the basic realization of meeting a world that was, well...foreign. That seems like Obvious 101, but it wasn't.


In the recent few weeks though, my mindset has changed a bit. Confronted with a few small comforts, it's become easier to see things through the lens of addition.

You see, I forgot a critical part of the equation: the value-added.  I forgot the +France part of this shindig. Granted, that +France comes with -Normalcy, but isn't that the point? I didn't come here to do things normally, to have the same things I normally would, to be comfortable.

Because really, what kind of smashbang is that?


I came here to learn. About culture, language, people. We have a whole dealio going on over here. I came to see what it's like to do life...a little differently. And to try living a little different myself. I came to find the best dang croissant & cuppa joe. (And to endure plenty of trial and error in the meantime.)


I'm loving that my walk home gets better with age and looks like a million bucks on Fridays.

I'm amused by the dear guy who has taken to sitting next to me in class and making me laugh something wonderful.

I'm content that I know ma belle ville (my beautiful city) now and that getting lost is a rather intentional way of finding myself.

I'm hella happy that my host mom is totally into pumpkin pie; that my host dad thinks French Lit sucks too; that my host sister and I are BUDS; and that my host brother's sarcasm rivals my own.


Finally, I'm starting to understand. We're talking addition, not subtraction. Just like anywhere else, there's ups, downs, but also high fives all around.

So life may kinda look like that one hot-mess-of-a-junk cabinet that you inevitably have. But even amidst the chaos of it all, those surprise gems hiding in the back always seem to add a little something special to life.

And that equation is easy as pie.