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When Dynamics Change

January 14, 2013

Things always change. It’s one of those clauses written at the very bottom of the contract of life in fine-print. It’s a terribly important clause that allows us to live healthy and productive lives, to emotionally and intellectually grow, to travel and see foreign bits of the world.

And I was doing just fine with the changes — being away from home, moving time zones, speaking to family and friends only over the Internet instead of face-to-face, not being able to have a set eating or sleeping schedule while everything gets situated.

I was doing just fine, that is, until the homesickness hit me like a ton of bricks.

Now, lovely reader, before you start the:

“You’ll be fine!”

“It’ll pass, don’t worry!”

“You’re in Paris!!!”

I know.

Paris is still beautiful. I’m still immensely grateful for the opportunity to live and study here for four months.

And I’m honestly rather surprised and impressed that it’s taken a week for me to come down with a bout of homesickness.

But there’s no escaping the Paris cold and the Paris gray. The city is constantly crowded, sometimes unbearably so. It’s difficult for me to communicate clearly with people, something that makes me wilt a bit as someone who studies how to transmit information clearly and concisely. I don’t know if I and other orientation attendees often don our prettiest masks of neutrality reserved for meeting dozens of new people, as that’s what we’re doing. There are different stressors each day.

And there doesn’t seem to be a place I would be more fond of at the moment than in my warm and safe bed in the Eastern Standard Time zone in close proximity to the ones I love and those who, so fortunately for me, return the sentiments.


Paris is very lovely and very gray.

The worst part about this, I think, is simultaneously wishing to speak to everybody at home and wishing to keep the mind in Paris, away from North Carolina. This was going to be a different post; it was going to be about when communication dynamics change (hence the title), when going abroad finds you developing communication patterns that feel unnatural because they’re new but needed because they’re important. Example: I’ve had to update my parents (Hi, parents!) on something related to apartments or banking or cell phones or my safety every day since I’ve arrived (which, crazily enough, was a week ago tomorrow), whereas we had our usual weekend chats back home.

I'm not complaining, though, since my parents are awesome.

I’m not complaining, though, since my parents are awesome.

Some new patterns have been really nice, as I’ve gotten to catch up a lot more with this girl, with whom I’m chatting while writing this.

Hint: We share the above parents.

Hint: We share the above parents.

Some, however, are just weird, and I find that these patterns and homesickness feed off of one another a bit.

When dynamics between people, dynamics of relationships and connections and conversations change, leaving the country doesn’t exactly help stabilize them. I knew I would have to adjust to living in Paris. I didn’t realize how much I would have to adjust to not living at home. It’s more than missing the semester at Chapel Hill; it’s turning what used to be normal life into a facet of the current normal life. If that makes any sense at all, then good, and if not, apologies. There are people to whom I haven’t spoken in ages (actually, just a week) but need to and people with whom I run out of small talk and people with whom I can’t be quite as open anymore and people with whom I’m now an open book.

And it’s more to juggle than I was expecting across the Atlantic.

Plus, while the Internet is one of my new best friends for allowing me to talk with friends and family, it’s a poor replacement for face-to-face interactions (and hugs. Dear French: Your fake kisses on the cheek are spectacularly lame compared to hugs. Sorry. No offense.).

And these new patterns are weird and mildly uncomfortable, a bit like hand-me-downs that one will grow into but are too big for now.

My communication habits, they had fit just fine. But you change sizes while abroad (I can’t decide if mine will grow because of all the bread or shrink because of all the walking), and it’s hard to tell when you’ll fit back into your habits with others or if you’ll need to shrink them in the dryer or try to stretch them out.*

People rarely want to read about the downsides of studying abroad, of adventures, of life. People are excited to hear about Parisian adventures — the newness of life abroad and the foreign lessons untaught at home and the thrills of navigating  with new acquaintances or new independence. I’m sorry that I couldn’t write one for you today.

Paris is very lovely and very gray.

There’s been discoveries, encouragement, and moments of certainty.

There’s been fatigue, confusion, moments of doubt.

It is, however, snowing in Paris tonight. Just a little bit, just a dusting — just like when it snows back home. It’s quiet and peaceful and soft and lovely and gray.

And it’s a very nice thing to see tonight.

*This is probably the weirdest metaphor I’ve ever written, second only maybe to comparing siblings and fish in my high school’s yearbook.

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