Here in France, the days are finally getting warmer, and the school year is coming to an end. I have only two exams that stand between now and the freedom of summer break (and Italy!!). While this is exciting, I am also sadly watching each day slip by, knowing I must leave this country soon and head home.
I admit, it feels strange to call the U.S. "home" when, for the past few months, Caen has been that place for me. I feel like a real-life mermaid, not completely belonging to either country, and yet, my heart resides in both. (Here, I could honestly break into the "Part of Your World" song and find it perfectly fitting.) I've already practice-packed and decided what to keep and what to donate. There are many things I'd like to take back with me, and while I may pack some souvenirs and take with me all the memories and the growth I have undergone, some things just can't fit into my rolling suitcase.
The glorious baguettes and exceptional coffee would be impossible to pack. For one, by the time I touched down from my nine-hour flight, it is quite possible that the lovely morsel of fresh-baked goodness will have become stone-hard and considered a weapon by the U.S. customs. Concerning the coffee, realistically, I would have downed it as soon as I bought it.
The friends I have made here absolutely make this list. If they could even fit in my luggage, I would've considered taking them with me (even facing an extreme weight-limit surplus charge when boarding). I am so thankful that social media exists, so that I don't have to truly leave them here!
There are also certain French values I'd love for the U.S. to adopt: the appreciation of art, education, food, and traveling, the intolerance of fake friends, and the importance placed on living happily.
This last quality was one that I found to be quite difficult. I came from a calendar-oriented life to a life of cute cafes, numerous dogs, and many places to sit down and just breathe. I am not saying that every aspect of adjusting to France was easy. Even now, I feel restless at times, but the culture has shown me the value of being happy in each moment. Why else would so many cafes, public pianos, macaroons, park benches, and pretty fountains exist here?
It could be easy, in this state of living, to imagine a whole long life ahead of me, a future of infinite possibilities and uncountable adventures. That could even be true, but recent events have shown me the reality of life-life and death. My Maryville College community lost a truly amazing soul only a week ago. I lost a fellow Bonner-scholar, a bright shining light on the campus, and an example of someone who seemed to love life with his every breath. Xavier Sales impacted many of our lives and our hearts. His smile was the most genuine and his laugh, the most contagious. He spread love and respect, and all the way from France, my heart mourns for him, his family, his friends, my college community.
I will return from France a changed person, that mermaid. I am torn between two worlds, but I am more appreciative, more understanding, and more excited than I have ever been to live life as happily as I can. I admire Xavier's way of giving love and respect, and I hope more of that shows in me as well. This post has made my heart heavy, but my heart is also full and for that, I am the most thankful.
A bientot. -Albrianna