I have been in this country for five months and four days.
Before coming, I was under the impression that by the five month mark I would be as integrated into the french society just like any french kid would be. In some ways I am; in some ways I know the workings of my school and home like I was born and raised along side it. I understand the relationships I've made and the boundaries this specific french society has installed.
At the same time, France continuously produces little quirks that will never cease to surprise me. I think this is what induces such a love for traveling within certain people - the characteristics of different societies that are so stark in comparison to our own. They tend to exaggerate different cultures, making everything bright and bouncing and interesting, when, for its inhabitants, these mannerisms are nothing but normality. But to foreigners, societal differences open up an entirely different world - a world with a rhythm so eccentric and perplexing compared to that of our own. And this rhythm rests in the hearts and minds of the citizens that occupy its territory - allowing us to be unified by something as intangible as the essence of a country.
For this reason I don't think I'll ever be completely habituated to french life - or I would have to stay much longer than one year to be able to achieve this feat. I'm just not part of this dance.
But that's okay! That's what makes exchange fun and interesting - I can live in a country for ten months and still learn something new every day of the journey. Isn't that what I signed up for?
So my french is coming along fine, I've made some really great friends, and I'm really getting the hang of the whole school thing.
The fact that five months of my exchange have already slipped away from me is horrifying. Don't get me wrong - I miss a lot about home. I miss my friends and family, I miss California straight up. I miss Trader Joe's and the sun. I miss being 100% comfortable and confident in my surroundings, being able to flop down on the couch and eat chocolate covered pretzels while watching all my favorite TV shows without worrying about being judged by my fellow household inhabitants. And I miss my dog. Dear Jesus Christ, I miss my dog.
But the thought of leaving this place sends shivers of fear down my spine. I know after I leave, I'll never be able to come back and have everything be exactly the same. I'll never be able to take the bus every morning while listening to my music and trundling through small villages that date back to before the birth of the United States of America. I'll never be able to play pool in the foyer with my friends during the times when my teachers decide not to show up to work. I wont be able to fling open my french shutters in the morning and be surprised by the result of a night-full of snow or rain or nothing at all.
Most of all, however, I'm scared of going back to being normal. Before my exchange, France was my goal. France was something to work for and be proactive for. France was a sign that I was doing something interesting and exciting with my life - that I knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. But when I get back, I'll be just like everyone else. I'll have to face the imminent future, I'll have to blunder through the stresses of American high school with really no idea of what's ahead, or how I'm going to face it.
I guess that's the experience, though. I've learned a lot of things, like how to make friends, how to speak french, and how to keep my room clean for longer than three days. But most of all I've learned that I really know nothing- at least not as much as I thought I did.
So I think I should just accept what's coming to me blindly. I accept that I will one day leave this place, though it might make me cry. I accept that I'll have to face American high school and the goods and the bad's that accompany it. I'll have to work hard enough there to get into the colleges that I'll have to eventually apply for.
It's all looks stressful, long, and hard, but it's all coming. And maybe, if I've done this experience right, I'll be somewhat ready for it when it does.