My Semester in France By Co-Recruitment Chair Michelle Doyle
Since I was a junior in high school, I knew I wanted to be a French major and one day go to France to better learn the language. So as I ended my first semester of junior year and got on a plane New Year’s Eve, toasting to a New Year, what I didn’t know was that I was toasting to something more waiting in France for me…something that will be a part of me forever!
Living with a host family in France opened my eyes to a new way of living and challenged me to think about mine. I was especially challenged when I started to notice that every Friday and Saturday evening, my host family would make time to have a drink together and then enjoy a two to four hour dinner discussing life. At first, sitting and talking, especially in French, with people from 7pm to almost midnight was exhausting. However, after a month, I found myself impatient for these dinners, but didn’t understand fully why.
As the months followed, I noticed a change in myself as I spent more time talking to my host family or going out to dinner with friends. I finally started to understand what had changed in me one night in April when I was walking out of a movie. As I was going to my bus stop, I saw two girls and a boy to my left outside of a restaurant at a high top enjoying a beer and laughing. I questioned what they were still doing out because it was a school night, but then it all came together: The French purposely take time to have a drink together, eat long dinners, and talk for long periods of time because of the importance they place on relationships, and it was starting to become a value of mine as well.
I remember towards the end of the semester that one night there were four different countries represented at the dinner table. People were speaking German, English, and French in all different directions. As I looked around as my host mom made homemade French crepes, I realized the deep and fulfilling meaning behind this specific aspect of the French culture. I recognized it in the meaningful and personal relationships I had made because of the time I had taken to do so. These relationships were enriching my life by bringing joy of fellowship, community, and simplicity.
So the treasure that was waiting for me in France wasn’t just the cuisine or the French language itself, but rather it was a new way of living. It was a treasure that shined brighter and has transformed my life. As I have been back in the United States, I have implemented spending more time with friends and family, and as I head back to Creighton for my senior year, I want to host friends for a French “prendre l’aperitif” (having drinks and small snacks) and make time to really talk with them. I like to think the change in me can be explained as the following: First semester junior year, when spending time with friends and family, I would have been stressed about all the things I had to do, but now after this intercultural and life-giving experience in France, when spending time with friends and family, I am no longer stressed but giving them my complete time. In the words of De Jean de La Bruvère, a famous French writer, “Être avec les gens qu’on aime, cela suffit”, – to be will the people we love, that is enough.