Changes and Culture Shock
Today marks exactly one week that I've been in Angers, France. Words can truly not express how incredible this experience is for me. Although I find myself deeply challenged each day with the language barrier, completely immersing myself in the French language and culture has absolutely proved to be one of the most beautiful experiences of my entire life. I have been challenged to the limit each day with French, and even more so with living in another country. As an American, I sadly feel apologetic for my country's negative impact on the world, and especially how it affects minorities at this time. I also feel like a child with this new language, constantly stubbing my toes on words that I'm unfamiliar with, unable to ever fully express how I feel.
But, each day brings new light to my eyes. I am learning more and more about humanity, and not just the French. My classes are filled with Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Italian, Syrian, and Spanish foreign exchange students. This facilitates not only a deeper understanding of different cultures around the world and how others view life but also a deeper understanding of myself and how I relate to the entire world around me. Tous les jours (everyday) I am learning more about myself, what I can handle, and what I need to take care of myself and others in this world.
Living with a host family has proved essential to this experience, although it can be incredibly challenging at times. My host mom is so sweet to me and understanding, but it is difficult to have dinner every night and only speak in French, especially when I am far from fluent. Sometimes it leaves me feeling isolated, and unfortunately, not able to express my inner feelings as I do with my family at home. Knowing this, though, I would not do anything besides live with a host family while abroad. This aspect of full immersion is so important, and although every day is a challenge, it is a beautiful challenge that I love to face.
I believe a common misconception about studying abroad, that I definitely had before arriving, is that it will be easy and perfect. This is far from easy, and life is never perfect, but I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. I am so beyond grateful to make friends from all around the world, and get a taste of what it's like to come from a completely different place, physically, emotionally, and cognitively.
A hugely important aspect of this experience has been making beautiful friends that support me through my time here. Below is a picture of my "squad" here in Angers. From left to right is Madi, me, Katie, Tucker, and Kennedy. We go through it all together here in France and having these lovely human beings to talk to and listen to has probably been the thing that has helped me the most with any culture shock that I'm experiencing. I am so beyond grateful to have met these wonderful people!
An important aspect of taking care of myself in another country is continuing the practices that make me feel whole, safe, and myself. Yoga is vital in these times, and I am grateful for my practice. Unfortunately, for the month of August, the French go on vacation out of town and stop their businesses, so I have not been able to find a single studio that is open in Angers during my month abroad. This has made it challenging to continue my practice, but I am still doing it on my own, and have found a friend here, who loves to practice himself, to do yoga with. I will continue to do yoga, whether it's in a class setting or not, for the remainder of my time here.
Thus, my blog format will begin to change a tad. I will now begin to focus more on my excursions and studies here in France, and discuss my perceptions and emotions in this life-changing time. I know that this month will absolutely have an impact on my perspective and life forever, and I am happy to share it. Thank you for bearing with me through this fascinating time, and I can't wait to tell you more about my experiences.
Au revoir for now,