August 22nd : Left Canada
June 22nd : Leave France
January 22nd : Freak out a little (maybe more than a little) because of how fast the time feels like it passed and because from this moment onwards it's the downward count to home time and I'm not sure how I feel about that.
But since thinking about the end of my exchange is much too premature and is always accompanied by a kerfuffle of mixed feelings I will avoid that topic and instead talk about all the radical and incredible things that I have done and experienced in the past 5 months.
Starting with a photo that sums up my general state of mind and level of awesome-feeling I'm at these days:
I thought about putting a bunch of effort into creating some kind of collage of my favourite moments captured by camera thus far on exchange, but there's way too many to fit into one single collage, and it would take too many hours I don't have. Also why not keep things simple and take the above beauty that was taken way back in October in Sicily (...can't believe that's already 3 months ago...) because I get the urge to give that exact over-enthusiastic thumbs up every time I get asked how my exchange is going. Once again a HUGE shout-out and thank you to Rotary, at home and in France, for making this year possible, can't believe how lucky I am.
Now for a quick recap of my five months of AWESOME. I have travelled to Belgium, England, Paris and Sicily. I have skiied in the French alps. I got myself locked in the French toilets (yeah we all remember that story...). I ran to Belgium. I joined a soccer team (I can pass now, go me). I made countless new best friends from literally all over the world. I've eaten at least twice my weight in delicious French bread and goodies. I bought a skate and occasionally ride it without looking foolish. I got rid of what I call the "foreigner fear" where you're timid around locals and too scared to speak the language (at this point I just giv'r, even when there's a good 80% chance I will butcher what I'm gonna say). I am queen of the metro (not really, but it's kind of a win that I can navigate public transport without getting lost). I watch French movies and understand. I even got to the point where my real mom had to stop me mid-sentence during Skype to tell me it was obvious I was thinking in French because I was forming English sentences the way French sentences are formed and it wasn't grammatically correct... "Hi my name's Siobhan I speak fluent Frenglish."
I'll be perfectly honest and say that it started off rough. Culture shock is still culture shock even if you think you know the country's customs, you've visited before, and it doesn't feel like a huge jump in differences from one country to another. No matter where I am in the world there will be things that are unique only to Canada, and chez moi. That being said, my outlook and feelings about exchange have grown and evolved to the point where I wake up every morning excited about my day and with something to look forward to, even if it's just getting to see my friends at school. I've made such incredible friends and met the coolest people, French and otherwise, that I already feel kinda choked thinking about ever leaving them. They are half the reason my exchange is what it is. Also I've probably said it too many times already on the blog, but it is SO COOL to start feeling like French fluency is within reach. It's really fun to just feel super happy and pumped on life all the time.
I met the newbies today who arrived this past weekend. They're all awesome! It was cool to look around and see them next to my other oldies who've been on exchange with me since August. It was like comparing the past "us" with the future "them." I know we've all grown and changed lots, but it's never been as apparent as it was next to the bright and shiny newbies today. Pat on the back to all you exchange students reading right now.
HERE'S TO ANOTHER FABULOUS 5 MONTHS!