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The Adventure Begins

January 7, 2013

Well, United States, it’s been fun. We’ll say our goodbyes in Philadelphia — a charming place for Americanism, of course, and goodbyes, I’m sure. I’ll see you again in the middle of May. I do hope you stay relatively sane while I’m gone.

For those who don’t know, I’m spending the spring semester of my junior year in Paris, France, studying journalism at Sciences Po (or, if you’re feeling really fancy, L’Institut d’etudes politiques de Paris). I’ve known this day was coming for months, and I’ve hoped it would come for years; I’ve wanted to study abroad since I was a kid. I received a French-English dictionary for Christmas when I was 8, and I, a superbly naive child, was positive I would teach myself French and become fluent. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t). The dictionary sat more or less untouched after the newness wore off, until high school, when I finally enrolled in Beginner’s French. Now a pocket-sized monolingual French dictionary is tucked in a massive purple suitcase, just waiting to be used in Paris instead of the lovely town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where I take French classes when I can and journalism classes all the time.

This trip contrasts starkly with the last time (simultaneously the first time) I went to France. It was, not so differently, actually, the spring semester of my junior year in high school. Fifteen other students and I spent a week and a half in Oyonnax, France, with the families of students who had a month earlier stayed at our homes for two weeks. We then spent half a week exploring Paris. Soon, I’ll be living in Paris instead of visiting it. I have, thankfully, packed smarter this time around. I have a good friend there instead of a near-stranger. Last time, I was positive the plane was going to spring a gas leak, and it would go tumbling down to the earth, and if I didn’t die from the impact then surely I was going to die from the imminent explosion. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t.)

And now, instead of all-consuming fear, my mind is split into a perfect dichotomy of nerves and excitement. I really quite don’t like flying. This is my first trip flying by myself, and it’s across an ocean no less. I’m still not fluent in French, and Paris is a massive city to navigate, no matter how many of its people speak English. And I’ll be away from home for more than four months; the longest I’ve been away is five weeks, and even then I’ve been in an hour’s driving distance — not eight flying — at a university that is a second home after two years.

But, I am extremely excited to go. I feel I’m rather overdue for an adventure. I can’t really get over how fortunate I am to spend four months in a gorgeous city studying what I love, training for the professional world while exploring culture and language and life. I’m thrilled to reunite with friends and meet new people and mentors. I can’t wait to speak and read French on a daily basis, even if my classes are in English. I know there will be challenges, but I’m eager to learn how to overcome them. I’m eager to make a bit of Paris a third home.

France2 020

Yes, I’m excited for the adventure.

Of course, there are many, many people to whom I am indebted, either for helping me prepare for this journey or for keeping me sane during pre-departure. If you’d like, you can skip past the following bit of sap. But I must give enormous thanks to:

  • Sarita, who frequently keeps me grounded with her clear head and past experiences abroad;
  • Staci, for helping me through the past semester’s foreign territories despite the fact that neither of us had a map, and for the umbrella;
  • Marshall, for being an insanely good listener and comforter no matter the dilemma;
  • Sarah, who always shares my excitement;
  • Tyler, for all of his support this fall;
  • Saskia, for reminding me that fear is no excuse to turn down adventures and opportunities;
  • Lucie, for her friendship and her beyond-amazing help even before I enter her country, and without whom I probably wouldn’t be doing this;
  • Mme Hazard, parce que je crois que nous nous deviendrons les meilleures amies ce printemps;
  • everyone at UNC Chapel Hill — especially the Office Study Abroad and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication — for the opportunity. Special thanks to Professors McDonald and Furry for their endorsements in my application; to Anne Steinberg for the knowledge about Paris living; to Michael Penny for never turning down a question; and to Paul O’Connor for his confidence and advice and for welcoming my unannounced visits before his classes.

Thanks to my family, especially to

  • my uncle, who helped make this trip possible;
  • my grandparents, for their love and support whether they’re next-door or miles away;
  • my sister, for being one of my best friends;
  • and, most importantly, my parents, to whom I owe absolutely everything. Thank you for inspiring me since I was a child to explore international opportunities, for making this trip happen no matter the sacrifices, and for not only just being present but for also encouraging me every step of the way. And for the assistance with all of paperwork. My word, my mother is a paperwork champion. Words cannot express neither how much they’ve both done nor how much I appreciate it.

And, of course, thank you, lovely reader, for sharing a bit of the journey.

I leave home at 10:30 a.m., Raleigh at 1:30 p.m. (hopefully), and Philadelphia at 6:25 p.m. (hopefully). I arrive in Paris Tuesday, 8 a.m., or 2 a.m. EST (oh, the jet lag  will be fun).

If you want to contact me while I’m abroad, my Skype username is deborahjstrange, and my e-mail address is deborahjstrange [at] gmail [dot] com. My Twitter handle is @deborahjstrange. (Yes, I try to keep it easy for you.) If you would like to send me tangible forms of love (read: physical mail), e-mail me, and I’ll send you my mailing address (once I have one). I won’t tell you my phone number because chances are neither of us can afford the long-distance rates.

So, United States, I’ll see you in May. Take care of yourself while I’m gone. Friends, family — same orders to you. Please.

A bientot,

Deborah

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