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Gap Year Abroad

2 posts from October 2014


Jeopardy: What is a Home?

1. the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

When I was younger, this question was easy for me. Where was home? Home was in Colombia and the United States was simply the placed where I lived. As I got older, the question became more important but the answer became less clear. I was born in Colombia and my family was in Colombia but my life was in the United States. When I go through immigration in Colombia they tell me “bienvenida a casa” but my family jokes with me and calls me “la gringa” (a term used to refer to people from the United States). When I go through immigration in the United States, the immigration official tells me “welcome home” but hands me my Colombian passport along with my US residency card.

It might seem like a simple and maybe even logical answer, but it took me a while to realize and even longer to accept that I wasn’t Colombian and I wasn’t American. I was both and at the same time neither. In Colombia I’m always “de visita” (visiting), and in the US I’m “the Hispanic girl,” “the Colombian,” and “probably missing home.” I also still get complimented on the fact I don’t have an accent in English, and I’m secretly still flattered every time someone mentions it.

Okay, but where am I going with this? What I mean to say is that realizing that I’m neither Colombian nor American but that I am something has made my experience here in France easier. You always hear things about “complete immersion” and “feeling like a local” and “how to not look like a tourist.” But honestly… like… why?? I don’t want to feel like a local all the time because that means that the sight of the Eiffel Tower wouldn’t amaze me every time I see it, I must be a tourist for this to happen. Granted, I also don’t always want to look like a tourist all the time because that means that the street vendors will always come after me with their furious French or broken English. Complete immersion isn’t mimicking a French person all the time and only drinking coffee and eating tartines for breakfast. Complete immersion is understanding something and deciding why you like, why you don’t mind it, or why you dislike it.

American breakfasts are the best things on this Earth, but nothing tops a Colombian bean casserole for lunch. I celebrate Christmas on December 24th at 12 at night or on December 25th at 12th in the morning, depends how you look at it. I also celebrate thanksgiving like a true American and eat pumpkin pie with turkey as if the end of the world was near.

So, what is a home? A home isn’t a place or people. Or better said, it isn’t just a place and/or people.

2. a moment in time where the people you are with willingly and happily share or sympathize with your emotions.

In that sense, how many homes do you have?


Slow and Steady

I've now been in France for about twelve days. Not everything is rose colored and things can get pretty frustrating rather quickly. The language is my main source of frustration, I'm not sure if I had mentioned it before but I'm a true beginner in French. Almost every other word is a new word and although my host family is incredibly nice, there's still a very big language barrier... a barrier that's felt more strongly when I step out the house.

But that's what I came here for, right? As frustrating and hard as it may be, I'm determined to try. I remind myself that English is a second language to me, so why can't French be my third?

Also, today's my birthday!! Happy eighteenth birthday to me.

Just to tell you a little about my days: my days aren't very structured but I always have something to do. For example, today I had culture class at 11 am and then I had French class at 2 pm. Tomorrow we have a trip to Provins and I'm looking forward to that. Friday I have culture class again at 10pm, French class at 2pm and then it's the weekend, which is always free! Lucie, the program director here in France is the sweetest person I have met in France by far. She inspires comfort, something anyone that's in a new country yearns for. The other participants in the gap year are also very nice, it would be quite a difference experience without them.

As part of the program we're asked to volunteer in two ways. One is called Club Barbès which is an after school club for homework help. The other one is teaching a one-hour English class at a French public school. The school I was assigned is called Collège Charles Péguy. At first I was reluctant to go to both of these because neither kids nor teaching are my strong fort but after going once, I loved it. The kids are so happy to see you there that it's impossible for you not to also feel happy.

Last weekend was my first weekend here and my host parents invited me to their country house in Normandy. It was a very relaxing weekend in a beautiful place. I picked almonds off a tree with my host mother!

That's all for now. I know this post is all over the place and doesn't follow any logical order, but honestly, it's a true representation of how my thoughts and feelings are right now. I'm still trying to find my footing.


* I can't upload pictures right now, I will come back and edit this post when I'm able to.

Gap Bloggers

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  • Eamon - Gap Year Abroad in Spain
  • Sage - Gap Year Abroad in China
  • Kira - Gap Year Abroad in France
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  • Maddy - Gap Year Abroad in Japan
  • Hannah - Gap Year Abroad in Italy
  • Chloe - Gap Year Abroad in Chile