Since I began to learn French in kindergarten, my mom has always told me the only way to get the true French experience is to live it. A few years later, I was on a plane with my parents, little sister and godparents to see Paris, Avignon and everything in between.
As I was only 8 years old, the experience was not all it could have been. I caught a bug on the plane, so our first few days consisted of me vomiting everything I ate and my non-French-speaking-and-overly-concerned father trying to communicate with pharmacists. After spending most of my time in Paris hugging the toilet in our hotel room, I ate nothing but gelato and well-done cheeseburgers. Every inch of my sunburnt body ached and exhaustion prevented me from remembering much of the trip except my unfortunate situation. I returned to America, relieved to be home and unsatisfied with my experience.
Now, the opportunity has arisen for me to make a few new memories of France. Through the ISE (Intercultural Student Experiences) program at my school, a group of my classmates and several students from Colorado are traveling back across the Atlantic, and I am determined to make the most of it. Who cares if we have to hop off the plane after flying for eight hours and drag our sleep-deprived bodies and suitcases through the palace at Versailles? So what if we're surrounded by strangers in a foreign land and become increasingly self-conscious of our American accents? And what does it matter if we're exhausted and overwhelmed? What matters is that we're exhausted and overwhelmed in France.
This two-week trip consists of a week of sightseeing as a group, voyaging everywhere from the Louvre to Île Saint-Louis, home of the best ice cream in the world. From June 3-16, we will see beautiful churches like Notre Dame and Sacré Coeur, world-renowned museums like Musée Rodin and Musée du Debarquement, medieval castles at Chenonceau, Amboise and Blois, even walk on the sand at Normandy, all in about a week. After our visit to Saint Malo, a town well-known for its delicious seafood, the group divides, splitting up across the region of Brittany to live with a family for a week.
I've been preparing for this trip for nearly a year, gathering every other week with the students who will join me on this adventure. We've discussed everything from the strange public restrooms to what the etiquette at the Eiffel Tower should be. Finally, last week, we received the list. The packing list.
It's official. After 11 years of learning verb tenses and vocabulary, hours of homework and practicing pronunciation, I'm going to France. In less than 20 days I will be on a plane, French-English dictionary in my lap, attempting to soak up anything I possibly can.
I really hope no one on the plane is sick this time.