Arriving home after study abroad was a somewhat shocking experience. I thought that during my trip I had prepared myself for the way that it would feel to come home. I knew that it would be somewhat of a letdown, since I had spent the past month and a half doing such extraordinary things. Though, by the end of my trip I felt ready to head home. In some ways, I had prepared myself, but I did not expect to feel as nostalgic for France as I did.
Something that we were told during orientation is that it will feel like no one at home understands what we have experienced abroad. In some ways, this felt true. I had so many stories and memories, and no one that was around me could share them. I missed being in Montpellier and experiencing new things so often. I also missed all the new friends that I had made.
There were some big culture differences between France and the U.S. that I had realized during my time abroad, and that only became more solidified when I returned to America. I landed at the JFK airport in New York City and immediately realized that none of the signs were in any language other than English. This is much different from the parts of Europe that I traveled to. There, almost everywhere, signs are written in at least two languages – one of which is usually English. It was so interesting to me to realize how present the English language is in European countries, where their native language is something completely different. Almost all the Europeans I met could speak more than one language, this was a major wake-up-call for me. In American culture, children are not always encouraged to learn a second language. I have studied some languages throughout my academic career, but do not know any language fluently other than English. This is something that I felt inspired to change upon my return to the United States.
Another cultural difference that I noticed is that in France, generally, people tend to take their time more often. Up the street from the dorms in Montpellier, there was an amazing Creperie. The people that worked there could not speak any English, but they were always so willing to work with us. Plus, their crepes were delicious. On the last week of the program some of us went to get our last crepes from them, only to realize that they would be closed for the next month because they had gone on vacation. The end of summer is a huge vacationing time for people in France. Nothing like this exists in America. For some people in the states, taking a break is not a part of their cultural ideals at all. In France, it is normal for stores to close mid-day so that the employees can get lunch. It would be quite shocking if this happening in America. This cultural observation is one that I am going to try to adapt to my life at home.