My placement at an end, I packed my things, got on a flight and came home for good today. Paris is currently in turmoil- in the past two weeks, protests against the law permitting gay marriage have blocked the roads and filled the streets with sound, a soldier was stabbed at la Défense, a man has committed suicide inside Notre Dame, and another in front of the Eiffel Tower. The airport was patrolled by armed soldiers, the boutiques locked down, security extra vigorous. Happily, the flight and journey home from the airport passed without incident- for once the Welsh weather trumped that of Paris. That’s a turn-up for the books.
How do I feel? I don’t truly know. It is a real mixture of emotions. It is lovely to be home, to know that I can sleep in my own bed without a dent in the mattress, that I can visit friends, get reacquainted with Cardiff, find out what has changed in the year I’ve been away. I can be satisfied with all that I have done, how much I have learned, changed, and, clichéd though it sounds, grown as a person (I’m not just talking about the after-effects of patisserie.) Linguistically, practically, interpersonally, I have made improvements. The year abroad frequently draws you out of your comfort zone, forces you to develop, explore, just try. Of course you will make mistakes. You’re (assumedly) human. I will readily admit that I have been reduced to tears over malfunctioning washing machines, accidentally ordered raw fish, been frustrated, confused, exhausted, embarrassed and occasionally asked myself Why am I doing this? But the friends I have made, the things I have seen and the experiences I have had have combined to make this an unforgettable and overwhelmingly positive chapter of my life, one that I am sure I will recall with fondness in the years to come.
After all, this is what it boils down to: for a relatively short period of time, you will have the chance to be a teacher, a student or an employee in a foreign country, teetering on the brink of responsible adult life. You might not always recognise it, but you are fortunate to have that chance.
You will never be in this time, this place, this state, again. So grab it with both hands and make the most of it.
To those of you who have followed my adventures, this is the end of the line. Thank you for your interest and your time. And if you yourself are preparing for a year abroad, the best of luck to you. Adieu. 🙂