Fallen for France

Funnily enough, my very first exposure to anything French was probably the Madeline movies and books. She was the small little French girl that lived in Paris with the nun Miss Clavel and all her orphan friends. She was mischieveious, funny, and went on countless adventures with her dog Genevieve and her friend Pepito. I loved the stories and still love the cute little phrase that began every show:

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines,

Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines,

They left the house at half past nine,

In two straight lines in rain or shine-

The smallest one was Madeline.”

My first experience in France was the summer before starting high school when I visited for the first time. It was my very first trip abroad and it was the most exciting time in my life yet. Absolutely everything caught my attention and fascinated me. A whole new, foreign world had been opened up to me and I couldn’t fathom that it was all real. I experienced what life was like in the small town of Annecy and in the big city of Paris during my 2 week stay with my close friends. Our parents had set the trip up and they had planned many fun activities for us. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the memories still mean so much to me. Little did I know, next time I’d be back would be for much longer!

Annecy 2009
Annecy 2017

If my high school self had known I’d be living in France for 8 months years later, I wouldn’t have believed it! Freshman year of high school was when I took my very first French class and learned all the basics of the language, about French culture, and did a presentation on the French speaking country Monaco. I built a solid skillset and thought maybe I’d study abroad in college. 

Once I started college, I knew without a doubt I would study abroad. When looking for programs through my school, I quickly came across a place called Grenoble in France where there was a business school I could get credit at. After doing some research on it, I realized that was the program for me. It felt right from the very beginning, with the gorgeous mountains and scenic location. I felt ready to jump on a plane at any moment! I waited so long to finally go and each day I became more and more excited for the journey ahead. 

From there, it’s all history. Grenoble became my home and I ended up staying a whole academic year because I’d fallen for France. I fell in love with the French way of life, their culture, and my host city. I was captivated by the French Alps and wondered how I’d ended up so lucky. Grenoble provided me everything I’d ever wanted in life and I have book shelves full of memories now. I’m so glad I got to experience being a local in a different country and for the opportunity to stay as long as I did. 

My life truly became a reflection of what I’d seen in the Madeline movies. I even ended up living in a house covered in vines! It may not have been in Paris but it was in the best city I’d ever known. Grenoble is charming, just the right size, and perfect for students. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

The people are what make a place so special and I made friends for life. We had so much fun together, making the city ours, and living to the fullest every day. This past year has become the best in my life and I can’t wait to return someday. I’d love for my family and friends to see the place that is so dear to me. I wonder how much will have changed in the future. Living in Europe became normal for me, but I’m sure the next time I go it will be like the very first time. When you first arrive in a new country, you’re in a honeymoon state where every little thing makes you feel grateful and thrilled. Soon you adjust, but I still made sure to appreciate what was before me every day. I realized it’s so important to live in the present and stay humble. 

As much as it saddened me to leave my beloved France, I knew the time had to come eventually. I got everything I wanted to out of Grenoble because I stayed longer and I feel content in that. All in all, I got the experience of living with a host family, to attend a top business school, the unforgettable chance to ski in the French Alps, the opportunity to tutor a young French boy English, and to travel all throughout Europe. I made it to 13 countries (my lucky number!) and 26 cities! All good things must come to an end, and that just opens a door to a new beginning. Only the best things in life give us a reason to be sad when we must say goodbye. I’m happy I have the memories, the lifelong friendships, and the pictures to relive every cherished moment. 

None of this could have happened without many benefactors… A BIG thank you to everyone who contributed in making my study abroad journey possible and to the people who joined me in the adventures every step of the way. For those who live far from me, you won’t be forgotten and I’ll keep in touch. You all make my heart full and I’m grateful to have crossed paths with every one of you. I’m indebted to my amazing study abroad program CEA who made living in France so easy and of course my parents who prayed for my safety and lived vicariously through me. And to the G-Crew (my best of friends) who are crazy and nutty like me. Our wild shenanigans will go down in history. I thank God for everything, from protecting me from harms way and for all I’ve become because of this special journey. I now feel more worldly, more confident, and more competent, giving me the strength I need for the next chapter of my life: the exhilarating decade of my 20’s. 

French was a hard language to learn, and I wasn’t as exposed to it as much as you’d think with my English school and friends, but I did learn a lot and improved. Through daily life and reading, I built a vocabulary and learned how to listen and understand, but speaking never came easy. As in English, I feel like I best express mysely in writing than speaking so it makes sense to me. With that, I’ll leave you with a little poem I recreated that described my past semester in France…

“In an old convent in Grenoble, that was covered in vines,

lived two students, who drank French wine,

they left the house at half-past nine,

together they went in rain or shine,

I’m lucky that this life is mine.”


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