My Love Affair with France, French, and a Frenchman

My Love Affair with France, French, and a Frenchman 

My Love Affair with France, French, and a Frenchman

It’s funny how a trite cliché can ring an unquestionable and simple truth. “Everything in its own time” is just one of these clichés. When I prepared to study abroad, I knew it was time for a few things. It was time to escape the stress and rigor of university life where studying, working multiple jobs, and taking on a heavy class load had become an annual dogmatic ritual. It was time for a change of pace.

It was time to leave California for Bordeaux, France. What I didn’t know was that it was also time for another cliché: “Expect the unexpected.”  A love affair.

When I met him, he seemed like the stereotype of a Frenchman. He was a slim, opinionated, big-nosed, baguette-carrying young man. During our first conversation, we hardly made sense of each other. I didn’t understand the argot; he didn’t understand the accent.

But I felt something warm and electrifying when talking to him — a feeling I had never experienced before. And it all happened so suddenly. Two years later, not much has changed. Except everything.

When I met him, he seemed like the stereotype of a Frenchman. He was a slim, opinionated, big-nosed, baguette-carrying young man.

From day one, Xavier and my relationship was characterized by one obstacle after another. We encountered linguistic miscommunications and cultural misunderstandings. We tried to convert miles to kilometers after a jog and faced the bureaucratic beast that stood in our way, taunting us with visa paperwork. That was the biggest obstacle: accepting the fact that I had to leave the country at the end of my semester.

I was to return to my university life of sleepless nights. To my friends for whom translating the impact of living abroad seemed impossible. To my family who suspected something had changed in me as I cried for ten hours before boarding my return flight. I almost didn’t come home.

My Love Affair with France, French, and a Frenchman

My Love Affair with France, French, and a Frenchman
Reading French in a cafe

I had grown accustomed to my life in Bordeaux. My language improved without a doubt. I finally learned to walk from point A to point B without getting lost in the city’s winding streets. I mastered public transportation and recognized French logos, stores and boutiques. And I grew close to my host family as France became my home away from home. My fondness for each of these things made me afraid of going home: afraid of going back to the old me, the old life, the old relationships.

I was to return to my university life of sleepless nights. To my friends for whom translating the impact of living abroad seemed impossible.

When I did arrive home, I knew I wanted to go back for the many reasons you might imagine. That year, I worked harder than ever in college. I read stacks of French novels, took extra courses, watched basically every French movie on Netflix, and kept up a long-distance relationship. I was virtually living a French life from afar. I was in love. I wasn’t before, but I was now — with the country, the language, the culture, and with my Frenchman.

So I looked for opportunities to come back and 16 months later I did, to teach and to live once again in Bordeaux. And once again temporarily.

Now I’m working on my next step with a greater appreciation for patience and endurance. I don’t know where I will be in a year, or two, or ten, but I have learned to expect the unexpected while knowing that everything happens in its own time.

My Love Affair with France, French, and a Frenchman
Nika in France

 

My Love Affair with France, French, and a Frenchman 

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Real DealOn the Real Deal, women share the highlights and challenges from their recent trip–and what they wish they knew before going.

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