The stark inconsistency of my ipad vs. DSLR photos couldn't better illustrate the wildly contrasting emotions I experience weekly.
During my travels, I am soaring, invigorated by the breathtaking landscapes and fairytale scenes. I am content to just be--to lie in the grassy hills overlooking a medieval village, to admire the intricate architecture of historic landmarks, to browse the countless trinkets at bustling markets, to smile at the gentle sun and open blue skies.
During the week, I am feverish--sometimes both physically and mentally. I am inundated with schoolwork, my stomach protests the weekend's overly-indulgent menu, I am antsy from the long hours in class, my sleep-deprived body clunks about during my workouts, I meticuously plan for and edit my daily instagram posts as if they're class assignments.
Sometimes, I come down with a virus and find myself shivering in bed, wishing I were home. Other times, I'm locked out of the house on accident, the bus is broken, someone attempts to follow me home, my shower graciously bestows upon me only cold water, the transaction refuses my American credit card, I say something stupid in front of someone important due to a language nuance, my cooking is unappetizing but I feel compelled to eat it anyways, I wonder why I ever decided to make life so complicated for myself.
This week is the halfway point of the semester, and in another couple weeks, I'll have reached the halfway point of my stay in France.
Today, a fellow exchange program student lit up upon hearing that two months remained. She was exhausted from juggling all the complicated logistics--from phone plans to sports injuries to meals, everything is a whole lot more difficult abroad.
You can't just have a 4-month phone contract--you have to top-up your sim card each month, and sometimes you can't do it online because the site doesn't like your credit card, so you have to go to a convenience store that only accepts cash that you forgot to take out. You can't just go drop in to see the sports med team at your university gym--you have to make an appointment weeks out. And if you make an appointment with a non-university doctor, you can't just show your insurance card--you have to deal with reimbursement forms. You can't just rush into your dining hall for a quick bite for dinner because the university cafeteria only serves lunch and you're a half-hour commute from campus anyways--so you have to grocery shop, plan your meals, attempt to cook them, make faces while you eat what you cooked, then wash your own dishes. And so on.
So while we may be waltzing about idyllic landscapes, study abroad is far from a fairytale. I'm incredibly grateful to have this opportunity, and even incredibly grateful for the challenges, but boy, it's a lot sometimes.
Before I left the U.S., I spoke with a friend's mother whose husband had passed away the year before. She told me that her husband had often wistfully remarked that he didn't have any stories to tell--that he had followed all the rules, and had done exactly what he should have done. I realized then that that was exactly what I feared.
I was tired of doing what was safe and practical. I didn't want to look back and wish I had been more adventurous. I wanted stories to tell. And frankly, struggle is an essential element of a satisfying story--and there is no shortage of struggle here. La galère!
We will overcome. Cheers to the remaining two months and the stories waiting to unfold.