Precisely 53 days ago, I returned to the United States after four months of studying abroad in France. As I sit in my SU dorm room, nothing is the same. Lady Gaga blasts from the room next door, instead of Madame’s opera music. Concrete bricks line my walls, instead of long pink curtains. Textbooks cover the floor, instead of tour guides to European cities.
Being back in the States means no more fresh French baguettes, no more lovely bike rides to school through the quaint streets of Strasbourg, no more eccentric professors from across the globe and–don’t forget–no more French language. Adjusting to life without things has been much harder than I had expected. How do I go from living the cultured French life surrounded by a beautiful foreign language and fine cheese to good ‘ol Siberacuse?
Throughout winter break, I would constantly wake up thinking I was sleeping in my pink bedroom in Madame’s apartment on Rue Oberlin. But in fact, I was back in Manhattan, complete with sliced bread, deep New York accents and my French poodle Marcel, the closest connection to France I had left.
I am still amazed at the idea that I stepped into a French family’s life for 4 months: I slept in their home, shared dinners with them, conducted all conversation in French and, the whole time, felt extremely welcome. How could I not miss the local patisseries, the Strasbourg Christmas markets, and the surprise of what would be served that evening for dinner? Sometimes I even miss that mysterious, pale, bitter vegetable, (which I still have not identified), that Madame served. But only sometimes.
My regular activities have definitely changed since being back at ‘Cuse. Popping into Madrid or Brussels is no longer the normal weekend fun. Exploring Budapest and Vienna is too far from here, and sightseeing through London is in the past.
Although I’m continuing to study the French language, Syracuse is not France. Instead, my time is filled with recruitment practice, meetings for campus organizations, and an especially exciting activity was taking a trip to the new Ernie Davis dining hall.
I get mad at myself for comparing something like living in Europe for four months to living in Syracuse. How can they compare? It is not fair to try to match up my experiences of taking an ancient pilgrimage route through Burgundy or trying to find a Czech doctor in Prague after mistakenly stepping on a nail, to attending Syracuse basketball games and just hanging out with friends in upstate New York. They are just so different. But despite the great experiences in Europe, it is definitely good to be back home in Syracuse, because I did miss it a lot.
Looking back, I can’t believe I was extremely hesitant about whether I should take the opportunity to study abroad. I almost missed out on exposing myself to new cultures I would have never even considered visiting, becoming proficient in a language, and meeting amazing people from all over the country. I would have missed some hilariously awkward conversations with my host siblings during dinner, lost the chance to swim in the Mediterranean Sea and I would not have been able to hear the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra. A semester is a long time, but the number of opportunities I was able to experience while abroad was completely worth it.
And now my time is spent completing the loads of homework I have. My dorm room, lots of snow, dining hall food, the English language and late work nights are now what make up my daily routine. Living the sweet life in a small city in France can only last so long I suppose. I’m happy to be back here in the tundra I call home, although, I do wonder what Madame made for dinner tonight…