Ça vaut la peine


Sydney Berman, Staff Writer

Deciding to go away for the year wasn’t as big of a deal for me as everyone was saying it should be. The reason why is because it didn’t quite hit me.  I mean, obviously packing up only my favorite belongings, enough for two suitcases, was kind of difficult.  But sometimes it takes a while to come to terms with the whole process. I wasn’t going to see my bed, my house, my city for an entire year.  My family knew that, and I knew that, but it didn’t process.  A month and a half after arriving in France, my friend walked out of English class in tears asking to go home…to America.  She wasn’t necessarily homesick or regretting the decision to come here, not at all,  it’s just very hard to accept this immense change, which doesn’t strike you until you’re fully immersed in this new life.

That moment came to me when my host family bought a new house, and I tried to re-pack everything, about to call my mom and ask her to help me, until I remembered that my mother was in New York and I was in Rennes, France so that wasn’t very realistic.

Yes it’s un défi (a challenge).  I’m taking five graded classes in another language, living with a new family who isn’t supposed to speak English with me (it’s actually against the rules!), and staying in a town where half of the people speak English to us (to which we all shyly reply, “Excusez-moi, mais je sais parler le français,” which translates to “Excuse me, but I can speak French”.), and the other half don’t understand us with our dreadful American accents.

Now, imagine walking on a cobblestone path, walking arm-and-arm with your new best friends, all wearing scarves, purchased solely to look slightly more European. Picture a man selling flowers on your left and a handful of bakeries on your right, the sound of someone playing the accordion floating through your ears (I swear that this really happened to me!).  In moments like those I remember that I came here all alone, and I made it.  Those extraordinary moments, the ones that sound too good to be true, they make everything worth it.

One of the best feelings is when someone asks you for directions, and then you come into school bouncing with excitement the next day because “Yesterday someone actually thought I was French!”  One of the worst feelings is waiting on line for lunch and having the French teenagers curse at you because you get to cut ahead to the front, shoving past you with their designer school bags.  But it’s okay, because when they find out that we’re actually relatively fluent, and we’re going to be living here long enough to potentially become friends with them, they actually think we’re really cool, especially if you’re from New York.

This year in France is a gift that I’ve been given by my parents, my school, and myself: the ability to break boundaries, and step out of my comfort zone, as the ninth and tenth graders were told to do last year during an assembly.  I have learned that if you want to do something different, it’ll change you and your life.  If you can do it alone, that’s even better.  Those few times that I decided to step out of the little circle of Americans and continue talking to those French kids who asked me where I’m from, resulted in me making new friends.  The decisions I made to go walking down those little side streets, instead of going to the same mall in the center of town every day, gave me a new perspective on the city I’m living in.  I wouldn’t be taking chances like these if I hadn’t listened to that little voice in my head telling me that maybe changing things up would be a good idea.   And for all of you who are afraid of taking chances, the first step is the hardest to take, but after that you’ll go far.