Welcome to France! (Except During the Lunch Break)

I’m reading on a bench in the sun, as tourists around me wait in anticipation to enter a museum; a museum that was supposed to open at 2 p.m. It’s now 2:30 p.m.

Living in France has been filled with delays like this along with strikes, holidays and erratic business hours. Every task here seems to take five more steps than the equivalent back in the U.S. Even with the ostensibly simple task of doing laundry, I have to go to reception (which is only open six hours a day) hope that the one lady who controls 300 student rooms is actually there, buy my fake money laundry coins with real money coins, then wait for one of two washers to become empty (which they never are).

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Let’s Take a Look at the Whole Thing

I sit here on April 2 on my flight back to London, where I’ll be taking a bus “home” to Leicester after 30 days of traveling. I feel like for the first time I’ve really started to get a grasp on everything, the entirety of it. What studying abroad means, what it does for you, all that stuff.

I’ve traveled around a decent amount now. I’ve been in school a decent amount. I’ve had some of the highs of my life. I’ve had some of the lows of my life. It’s starting to feel like a complete experience (oh man let’s count how many times I use that word in this post).

And although I still have two weeks of exams, and another 3-4 weeks after that before I finally head back to the States in mid June, this is my last blog post. So I think it’s time to get a little reflective, and provide some insight for any of you who may be debating whether or not to study abroad in the future.

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The Paradox of Being a U.S. Intern in a Ugandan Refugee Settlement

There are things in life that all of the reading, videos and frantic Googling cannot prepare you for. My experience providing emergency relief and humanitarian aid for newly-arrived refugees in Uganda was one of them.

I am currently residing in the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, where I spend my weekdays as an intern under the Humanitarian Aid sector for Action Africa Help (AAH), a non-governmental organization that supports communities in conflict and post-conflict situations (e.g. refugees and internally displaced people).

“The issues you will see here started long before you came and will continue long after you are gone.” This was one of the first things one of my intern supervisors at AAH told me when I reached the settlement.

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La Vie Quotidienne (The Daily Life)

Studying abroad has been an amazing experience so far; there is no doubt in my mind that I made the right choice to come to France. While in Europe, I have gotten the opportunity to bike ride in Spain, take a thermal bath in Budapest, and walk up the 700-step stairs of the Eiffel Tower.

However, studying abroad is not just traveling all the time, no matter how much it may seem that way from social media.

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On Being Alone

At SciencesPo, my university here in France, we’ve just finished our orientation week; a week filled with non-stop socialization from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. After each long day, I’ve taken the elevator up to my floor and walked inside my room to find the deafening silence of my apartment.

The gentle hum of my mini fridge coupled with the rhythmic chugging of the fast train outside my window are the only sounds here. I live in an 18-square meter flat in a student residency about a minute’s walk from the central train station and a three minutes’ walk to the closet bar.

But surprisingly, human voices are few and far in between.

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Mindfulness in Rome

I am sitting on a covered rooftop balcony in Rome, Italy reading “Search Inside Yourself” by Chade-Meng Tan, an exploration of the benefits of mindfulness and self-awareness. Tan explains the phenomenon he calls “Expensive Food Meditation,” where people tend to appreciate expensive food more and take their time. He argues that if we treated every meal as we treat expensive meals, we would be much more satisfied and happy.

When I reflected on this, I realized this is how people treat foreign countries versus their own countries. What we become familiar with, what we believe to be mundane and everyday, becomes gray in our minds. When places are new, fresh and expensive to get to, those are the places about which we appreciate every little detail.

I, myself, am guilty of this. Yet being abroad has made me realize how lucky I am to live in a place as great as San Diego.

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Appraising My Semester Abroad

Here we are: last week of school and last article of my journey writing for SDSU Be International. It has gone by so fast!

I am leaving full of memories, to give space for new international students that will come next semester. So, in order to sum up my journey here in this last article, I will give them a hint of what they should look forward in their semester abroad, from super legit to incongruous:

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Everything I Won’t Miss About Studying Abroad

As I write this on my final flight back to the U.K. from Berlin, I can’t help but reflect on all the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met these past few months of being abroad. I’m blessed to have a group of women here who share the same love for knowledge, adventure and (most importantly) incredible food as me. I now have friends from the U.K., the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Australia. I only hope they’ve grown from me half as much as I’ve grown from them.

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A Letter to Remember

Dear Ghana,

I cannot thank you enough for making this one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. You’ve welcomed me with open arms and an open heart. You’ve allowed me to explore who I am and what I want in life.

You’ve taught me that I’m stronger than I think (physically, mentally and emotionally) by putting me to the test hiking Mt. Afajato, challenging me with unexpected blackouts or rainstorms and even bargaining in the markets or with taxi drivers.

You’ve taught me to live in the moment and appreciate every given day, which should be lived to its fullest.

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