Student Exchange: The Ups, Downs, and Everything in Between

I was 14 years old when I first went to Europe. As soon as I stepped out of Charles De Gaule airport, I instantly fell in love with France. The language was beautiful, the cities sparkled, the patisserie and boulangerie made the entire country smell like a dream. The culture, so different from my own, fascinated me. I decided I want to live in France at least once. I wanted to be “Emily in Paris” before Netflix made a show about it. 

I applied to the IESEG School of Management, located in Lille. When I got my acceptance letter in October, I began counting the days till I could finally leave. I spent hours dreaming about the perfect French experience. My Pinterest search used to be filled with “Top 10 places to visit in France” or “Must eat in France”. Unfortunately, none of my fantasies took place except the fact that I left my room every day with a jacket on. 

Living in France is very different from living in India, but if you embrace the change and accept the new things coming your way, there is a lot to learn. For starters, the language barrier was fairly overwhelming. When I reached, the only French I spoke was bonjour and Merci. I started by holding conversations with Google translator. Every day my doorkeeper used to say ‘ça va’, (the French “sup”) and I simply smiled. Slowly, I started taking Duolingo, and Youtube lessons in French, and before I knew it, I was able to hold a conversation with my doorkeeper. Once I did this, I started glazing like a doughnut. 

These 3 months taught me so much about being independent. Living alone is more than partying and breaking rules. I learned how to manage my time, prioritize tasks, do chores, and above all immerse myself in a place that was so different, and absorb everything it had to offer. I was extremely grateful to have my parents sponsor me, however, budgeting is a challenge. I learned how to manage my own finances, and plan expenditures, save, and, obviously, splurge. 

I also made friends with people from all over the world. I got the opportunity to learn about Mexican, Columbian, Canadian and Austrian culture. I learned about different French wines and cheeses. But in some strange way, this incredibly international and diverse experience, made me come closer to my identity as an Indian girl. 

My time in France has challenged me and helped me grow. It showed how a little spontaneity can give me unforgettable memories. My learning there wasn’t limited to the four walls I was studying in, I was learning something new every day even while just walking to the grocery store. 

I have met fascinating people, heard captivating stories, and had the time of my life. Through all that went wrong, and all that went right- I have grown and lived. France will always have a special place in my heart, and I am grateful for all it has given me. 

Je t’aimerai toujours, I will always love you. A bientot! 

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