I grew up wanting to escape America.
Now don’t start jumping to conclusions. No, I’m not unpatriotic and no, I don’t hate America. But there was always a part of me that thought that some things would be so much better in another country. Maybe I can blame the idealized descriptions of Europe, maybe I can blame the affinity I always felt with French ways of life. But, the bottom line: I didn’t truly appreciate the good ol’ US of A.
However, as ironic as it is, studying abroad has changed that. Once again, DON’T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS. No, I don’t hate Europe and no, I’m not totally ready to leave. But during my time abroad as an American in Paris, I’ve come to realize the truth behind one very, very cliché phrase: You don’t appreciate what you have, until you don’t have it.
Today, I celebrated Independence Day in a city that didn’t set off fireworks or grill out burgers (although I did make a point to eat a hamburger and fries for dinner). At the beginning of my trip, I didn’t think it was something that would bother me; I wanted to be French, not simply an American in France. However, when I woke up, I found myself eager to sport an outfit that would resemble an American flag. But what was happening? How had I, a girl who had always wanted to escape America and live in France, grown to feel so attached to my country?
Something interesting happens when you study abroad. Often, you go somewhere foreign and in your mind (or at least mine), you think things will be cooler. More interesting. That foreign things are just better. But that’s what it is. When something is foreign, it’s simply more intriguing because you don’t know what its about. So, you want to know more.
When I arrived in Paris, I began to see some things that were just better here than in America, like the more relaxed attitude toward drinking or the lesser dependency on technology. But at the same time, I also realized that Paris isn’t simply “the city of lights and love.” Instead, it’s a real city, just like Bloomington, just like New York City. While some things are good, some things simply aren’t. Paris isn’t a place where life is so much “better,” it’s just another place where life is…life.
So while I’m sad that I return home in exactly one week, I know I’m returning home to my friends, my family, and a country that I’ve always taken for granted. Even though I hope to live abroad when I’m older, there ain’t no doubt I love you, America…”God Bless, the USA.”