It’s finally here.
No, it’s not a particular holiday. No, there’s nothing HUGE happening (except I am going to Annecy this weekend!) And no, I still haven’t received any of those packages that I asked for.
It’s better than that. It’s the feeling of overcoming culture shock.
I know you’re all thinking “what!” and “wow, how is she just now feeling normal?” I’ve been in Paris for a little over four weeks, which is more than halfway through my program! But as someone who generally has an easy time adjusting to new settings, let me tell you this: Culture shock is very real. I’ve spent the past four weeks going to classes (which are great), enjoying lots of wonderful French food, and walked ALMOST every foot of the city. But every day, there was always just one little thing that didn’t feel right.
Sometimes, it was something as little as waking up in the middle of the night and wanting to be able to go to the bathroom without waking up my apartment neighbors, but not going because you’re afraid to make noise. Other days, it was getting frustrated at the fact that I don’t eat nearly as many fruits and vegetables here as I do home. Most of the time, it was the feeling of being crushed by the hustle and bustle nature of Paris. I was sick all last week, and let me tell you—no matter how nice your host mom is, she still isn’t the comfort you want. That, and France doesn’t have NyQuil; how are you supposed to sleep!?
But yesterday, something hit me. The day before, I had given my 10 minute speech over Hemingway’s Paris est une fete (A Moveable Feast), I had braved the rainy day, and I had eaten one too many macaroons. It was a day of discomfort, to say the least. But yesterday was different. When I woke up, I didn’t roll around and wonder why I had decided to take a class that started at 9:30 a.m. When I talked to my host mom before leaving for school, I didn’t sit in my room beforehand and mentally prepare sentences in French in my head that I would say to her. When I took a shower, I didn’t get frustrated at the fact that I couldn’t stand up all the way. Instead, I sat and looked out my balcony and smiled.
The truth is, culture shock hits you. It may not hit you hard, but it’s that lingering feeling in the back of your mind that something just isn’t exactly right. That things would be better if you were with your friends or family. That this place isn’t exactly home. And unfortunately, there’s nothing you can to do to fight it or accelerate it. Because if you study abroad, you’ll be feeling the effects of culture shock, until you aren’t. Things will feel a little off, until you wake up one morning and things will feel completely right. I know that this means leaving this beautiful country will be more difficult, now that I have adjusted, but there’s no use worrying about that.
I’ve made it over that obstacle that’s been in my way for far too long. So bring it on, Paris. I’ve got two weeks left here, so give me all you’ve got.