French battles = Serenity
This time around in France has definitely been a more “authentic” experience.
When I studied in Paris three years ago, I thought I’d had a more thorough experience than my classmates (not to say that I thought I was better). What I mean by this is that unlike almost all the other American students I didn’t go through a study abroad program because I couldn’t afford it and, as a result, had to find my own housing. So, I found a little hostel outside of Paris to live in, where I met tons of random, interesting people from all over Europe (a real Auberge Espanol experience). Of course, I went for a place geared towards foreigners in order to avoid French bureaucracy.
So, when I got here in September I was READY for the real deal. Ready to get my very own, Frenchy bank account, my long-stay OFII stamp, my Freebox, my carte vitale. Well…I thought I was ready. I nearly died from all the waiting, the excessive paperwork that I had to endure for the whole of September while my boyfriend sat in astonishment and disgust at my fits and rants about how “I’ve been waiting two weeks for a bank card, two weeks! They send me a letter saying it’s available and then, when I get to the bank, tell me to wait another week!” (that’s only slightly exaggerated).
On top of all of that, I suffered from extreme anxiety from being forced to engage with people in French only, literally from the point I arrived here. I handled the immersion better before because there wasn’t so much to do except sign up for classes and talk to teachers. This time, I’m living in France, not just study for X number of months (if that makes ANY sense). Which meant having to interact with random people who (in my mind) would judge my French and/or assume I couldn’t speak it because I’m American. All of this was exacerbated by the fact that I am an introvert…and literally HAD to speak to people in another language that I was rusty in. Let’s just say my first month wasn’t super fun in that sense.
So now, after being here for 9 months, I honestly feel as though I’ve gotten the hang of most things here. My last obstacle was….the telephone. I’m one of those people who HATE telephones.. I found it super awkward using them when I was younger (I mean the calling people I’m not close with part) and I am only now getting out of feeling uncomfortable making appointments, calling for information, etc. Now, that’s in English. Recently I called and made my first appointment over the phone in French. I can’t tell you how freaking proud I was of myself. It was ridiculous.
So, I feel I have almost reached a point of serenity with this wonderful French culture. Almost. More on that later.