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Journals from AUCP, Aix-en-Provence

2013-10-07 If I had known then what I know now...

There’s a “saying” out there that goes something like this: “If I had known then what I know now...” For some reason this “saying” has kept resurfacing over the last couple days, and, for some reason (at this particular point in my life), this “saying” has had a lot of meaning. Now, I am not exactly sure where it comes from, or if I have interpreted it the wrong way, but I would like to use it to describe my time in France. Here, let me elaborate:

About two weeks ago I discovered something amazing. It is called Nutella. Now, I know most people in America are aware of this sticky, chocolate spread that can be placed on bread, but I don’t think they understand just how amazing it is here in France. I am not exactly sure why the recipes/tastes are different, but Nutella (in France) is a bundle of delicious, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate that elevates the mood and brightens the day. That being said, I am pretty sure my host mom thinks I am crazy. Breakfast, with my coffee, goes something like this:

1. Oh, this bread is so incredibly light and fluffy. Let me cover it in Nutella.
2. These cookies are so delicious; let me smother them in Nutella.
3. Chocolate covered things?? LET ME DUNK THEM IN NUTELLA.

How does this relate to the saying, “If I had known then what I know now”? Well it is quite simple: my life is now complete with this new discovery of French Nutella.

I was also talking with my father about the difficulties of studying abroad the other day. I was feeling a bit down because I have been here almost a month now, and I feel like I have kind of hit a wall with my language skills. Has my French improved? Probably. But for some reason I sort of expected to be further along in the process of learning a new language. Also, my English vocabulary has been reduced dramatically. It is like I am in a perpetual state of third grade; I only ever use phrases like “I can do this…,” “I want this…,” “I must do this…,” “I will try to do this…,”  et cetera. My father reminded me of something very important, though: Culture Shock. He said it is probably very normal for me to have these feelings. The high of all the newness and excitement is wearing off, the classes are getting harder, and I have to constantly try to understand French. My brain never gets a break (and no, there is no Netflix in France). So, that being said, I told myself I would not give up! He also told me that I am growing up in a way that would probably be very different than the way I would have grown up had I not studied abroad. He didn’t say one was better than the other, because they are both equal in quality, but I am having a completely different experience over here than I would have if I had remained in the United States. And, even though it is remarkably hard (and I can’t even speak English anymore), it is good! So, I guess I am maturing. I am integrating into a new culture, learning new values, new customs, new ideas, and I am shaping the person who I am going to be when I come back from being abroad. If I had known then what I know now I probably wouldn’t have ever questioned studying abroad. It has been an experience that I will never forget and an experience that will remain with me my entire life.

Until next time,

Abigail Meckem

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