I know what you’re thinking. If, after four months in a beautiful and foreign continent, these are my overarching sentiments, then I clearly did the whole study-abroad thing wrong or didn’t try hard enough.
It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t having “the best time of my life” during an experience many college kids would describe as “the best times of their lives.” I experienced a lot of mental anguish simply over the fact that I wasn’t enjoying myself the way I hoped I would or the way I saw others enjoying themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. I relish the opportunity to travel and experience new things. Before I left for Montpellier, France, I was excited to enter a new chapter of my life, to gain independence and new worldly views and eat some awesome food. But I did not anticipate overwhelming sentiments of solitude, a lack of personal fulfillment and generally feeling like I was not carpe-ing the diem.
I tried my hardest to be excited about everything and everyone around me. I tried to jump at every opportunity to explore the city. I tried to love all the new and strange foods I was eating. I tried to be a person I wasn’t so that the people in my small study abroad group and I would all have the same, awesome experience abroad that people rave about on their blogs and Facebook profiles.
I really tried.
But along the way of trying so hard that I hit a figurative brick wall, I grappled with the notion that maybe I wasn’t the same type of person as my peers. Maybe I didn’t want to spend every single weekend in another country. Maybe I wasn’t interested in eating foods that are weird colors and textures and smells — but that’s just because I’m a really picky eater.
If anything I learned from this trip (besides a lot of French), I learned that I’m a person that enjoys my own time to be by myself. Of course I want to see the world — I just want to see it on my own terms, when not regulated by mandatory Friday-afternoon classes and two-day time crunches. I certainly appreciate tap water and having my own bathroom. My study abroad experience by no means had to be the same as everybody else’s — and it wasn’t. As hard as that was for me to accept, I eventually did and I’m a stronger person for it.