25 September 2012

Au revoir, England...

I was going to write about "my first day at French university" (by Carey, aged, 21) but I thought I'd leave that until I've been to one each of the modules I've chosen. I'll also list these when I've decided on a final timetable.

Instead, I thought I'd write about a very important part of the going abroad process; saying goodbye. It was important to me because I've never lived abroad and I've never been outside of Newcastle for longer than two weeks and if I was, I was always with people that are close to me. I'm not as exotic as some of the people I've met here whose parents have moved around a lot and have taken them travelling and who already have seven languages under their belts because of this; I'm a boring, old plain Jane when it comes to having been places and seen things (and that, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the very few disadvantages of coming from the North-East of England). So, evidently because of this, I've never had to really say a goodbye of this calibre to anybody.

The majority of this post will come from my personal, written journal so please appreciate that it's a tad harder for me to publish this type of post, for obvious reasons.

So, where do I begin? Coming to France is pretty much having to pick your English life up and drop it right in the middle of Provence, without all the home comforts; just the essentials. You have so much to think about from the time you start applying for universities to the time you have to make that miles-long checklist to make sure you'll have everything you need in your new home (and that's without mentioning the various hiccoughs along the way - e.g. British Council deciding last minute to change the format of forms, Student Finance not being able to get their heads around the fact that you will be abroad and will actually need more money to survive, there are dozens). Your head is swimming with phone numbers, forms, addresses, questions such as what do I do now? What do I need to do next? Your to-do list just never ends, and this endures for six or seven stressful, very nearly sleepless months.

Then, in the final two weeks before you leave, it hits you; you actually have to say goodbye to people. You never even gave this a second thought before now because, frankly, you didn't have time! You have a new list to work your way through; the Goodbye List. You only have two weeks to fit in everybody you love, all your friends, your family and your boyfriend of (almost) four years. How is this in any way possible?!

You book meals, have some drinks with friends, have leaving parties thrown by your families. Laughs are had and tears are cried. The List gets smaller and smaller each time you go to one of these events, yet each time you say goodbye it doesn't get any easier. This is because each person you know and love is different, and they each have different qualities that you'll miss. You'll miss the funny one, the sarcastic one, the caring one, and you wonder whether the people where you're going will even have the same qualities as those you're leaving behind.

And through saying goodbye to all of these people, a realisation hits you. You've forged who you are over years of spending time with these people, how can you just say goodbye to that? I once read somewhere that you're an average of the five people you spend the most time with. So what if those people aren't going where you're going? What will you be, then? Who will you be? The answer is: you just don't know. You have to take the leap and find out. You have to peel back all the layers of of family, friends and every place you've ever been with them, everything you've ever done with them and find out who you are without them. It's a scary thought, isn't it? But an exciting one, if you're somebody like me who has never had an opportunity like this.

I've been here just under a month now and I'm still not entirely sure who I am without all of these people surrounding me. Maybe I have to wait a little bit longer to see if I change. Maybe I have to wait until I'm back home in England for good with all of my friends and family to compare myself to to see if I have changed. Maybe I won't change at all. It's a question I'll have to answer at the end, when all's said and done. For now, I'll carry on eating tonnes of macaroons and drinking gallons of cheap wine and sitting in 28 degree sunshine and hopefully that will help me figure out my new self.

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