reflecting: culture shock

swans

Several months ago, as I completed the orientation for my study abroad adventure, I was given a warning: you will experience culture shock. The honeymoon phase will end, they said. You will miss peanut butter, your family, your dog.

There was even a sort-of emotional line graph, intimidating with its steep drops (feelings of depression! anxiety! fatigue! resentment!) and begrudging crawls back up.

And so forewarned, I went to France, and I waited for it to sneak up and attack: culture shock, the promised monster under the bed.

In Paris, I looked over my shoulder between bites of warm mascarpone-filled crêpes and sips of cool rosé. I waited for it on evening boat rides as warm sunsets mingled with cool breezes and I shivered slightly in a sweater.

In Lyon, I watched for it still as I linked arms with new friends and grinned for photo after photo, a creeping dread reminding me that I might not be able to smile for much longer so I’d better capture the happy.

La vie en rose couldn’t last forever, I knew that. France’s gilded façade would soon crumble, and maybe I’d fall out of love and back into the star-spangled arms of my own country.

Culture shock was going to pounce, kill my joy, and steal my sense of adventure.

But then it didn’t.

I had problems and struggles, of course. Believe it or not, the trip wasn’t all laughs and lavender fields. There were plenty of times I sat sweaty on a metro going the wrong direction and had to say to myself in a voice more confident that I felt, well you wanted an adventure. Plenty of miscommunication with my host family. Plenty of staying up ’til two in the morning as I struggled to write French papers, the correct conjugated verb evading my grasp. Plenty of wishing I had a little more of that effortless Frenchwoman elegance and grace. Plenty of headaches, embarrassment, and schedule confusion; reading the sign just a little bit wrong. The development of some sort of sinus infection that led to a miserable week and a trip to a French doctor’s office. And plenty of feeling like the only one who didn’t know the rules, une étrangère.  

Despite that, over the course of the trip I felt no depression, no resentment, no loneliness, no sorrow. What I did feel was challenged.

I think it had a lot to do with all the answered prayers, and if you’re one of the lovely people who prayed for me before or during my trip, thank you! I really appreciate it, and I learned so much.

I’m also thankful for all the support. Thanks for asking me questions, reading my blog, and letting me share dreams and discoveries as I stumbled around starry-eyed with a notebook and a camera.

And hey, I didn’t miss peanut butter, not one little bit.

bisous,

jessica

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