Well hello there, everyone, it’s been a while!
On August 23rd, 2013, I boarded a plane headed for Brussels International Airport. It was one of the most exciting and terrifying moments of my life, knowing that the next 10 months would be spent in a French city that was entirely foreign to me. Nine hours later, we touched down on Belgian soil and began a very stressful 3-hour journey to our final destination, Lille, France.
Starting with that first train ride from the airport to Lille, there were many moments during my past year abroad when things did not go as planned. Over the course of those 10 months, a plethora of missed stops, misunderstood sentences, frustrating encounters, and worn-out shoes rattled hard on the boundaries that had previously contained my comfort zone.
My experience of living in a different country taught me countless things about myself and other people, but one of the most important lessons I now realize I learned was how to become comfortable with living uncomfortably. Now, of course, I don’t mean that my rented room was literally uncomfortable (I quite liked my 9-square-meter space). But, by default, existing in an environment where many things are out of your control and do not go as planned means that you will have those awkward encounters with strangers, those stressful conversations with the bank and immigration office, or perhaps the frustrating exchange with the residence office insisting that you have indeed already paid your rent for the past two months, thank you very much (true story). Personally, I had to learn to adjust my expectations and focus on goals as opposed to achieving them smoothly. Sometimes, you just have to walk in blindly with fingers crossed.
It would be impossible to write a summary of my year in Lille that would accurately express everything that I experienced and saw, but I can say that I am so entirely grateful for those moments of being uncomfortable. As individuals, we do not have power over how everything goes in our life. Sometimes, you have to fight for what you want in a language that you still aren’t 100% fluent in with someone who is treating you rudely when you’re exhausted. It happens. And you will get through it.
Ultimately, I couldn’t be happier that I was lucky enough to study abroad. All of those stressful moments were more than worth it, and I wouldn’t take back any of them for a second.