I always forget that culture shock exists and is going to impact me when I travel. I think it’s the name – I don’t go around thinking how bizarre other cultures are, so how can I be shocked by what I don’t find shocking? But name aside, culture shock is real, and it’s been somewhat different with each study abroad.
Classical culture shock starts with a honeymoon period. My general enthusiasm combined with an 18-hour overnight busride made this part less of a honeymoon, and more just my normal gladness at being in a new place, with beautiful places to explore – and a bed that was neither an airplane seat nor a bus seat.
Soon enough, the shock part set in. France didn’t seem strange – it just didn’t seem real. I could not believe that this place I was in actually existed. This led me to be somewhat less adventurous than I usually am, to prevent confrontation with what didn’t seem real. Thankfully it still didn’t stop me from doing all the things in the previous blog posts.
Just as things were starting to feel real again, I started questioning what I was doing here. Why was I subjecting myself to culture shock? Is it just a luxury without an actual work to be done? This was my decision, right? Well, maybe not.
In the process of looking to answers for these questions, I realized that one of the things that makes this trip different than my others is the lack of intensity, at least with regards to the courses. Since my identity is very much in being a good student and a diligent worker, having this significant part being less well defined and being in some ways simply not able to measure up to my French classmates is definitely an adjustment. But it’s an excellent exercise in remembering that my worth and identity is not in my work or studies.
And my adventuresome spirit came back! I have an excellent trip planned for winter break, which will appear in a later post. Also, I found an very nice library where I can read Terry Pratchett in French! I’m not allowed to check anything out, but it’s nice to just sit and read. I also joined an Arabic calligraphy group! In addition to getting to learn Diwani, a style I’ve never tried before, it’s a really fun bilingual environment. The theme is International Women’s Day.
Then, just recently, I accidently ate some peanut butter and had to go to the hospital. Don’t worry, I am completely out of danger and starting to feel better. Thankfully I was at church, and the pastor and his wife were extremely kind and made sure I got to the hospital, that my friend was with me, and that I got by a pharmacy afterwards. While it’s certainly not an enjoyable reminder of how fragile my life is, it’s true. Every day is a gift, just like adventures and languages.
So why am I here in France? I’m here because over ten years ago, God gave a little girl the desire to learn French, and he has led me all the way here. He’s the one who keeps put the adventure in my spirit and guides my steps. I can’t know how each experience will help my future, but he does, and that’s where my true identity lies. Culture shock is a process, but it’s worth it to be here.