Almost three years ago, in February of my freshman year, I got the opportunity of a lifetime. My father phoned me from his office one evening, as I sat working on homework. The first thing he said after greeting me was “Do you want to go to Paris with me?” I shrieked some incoherent affirmative answer, and after hanging up the phone, I was so excited I sobbed.
I had just begun my first year of studying French, a class that changed my high school career when I discovered I had a passion and talent for language. I had always dreamt of traveling abroad, but I certainly hadn’t expected the opportunity to appear so soon. My father traveled extensively on business, but seldom went to Europe, and had never invited me to join him.
The trip would be a whirlwind: just three days and two nights. My father needed to attend the French tradeshow for work, then hurry home to attend to other urgent business.
I had never left the country prior, and thus had to have my passport rush-serviced. In the week preceding my trip, I couldn’t tell enough of my teachers and peers about what had happened and I that I was going to France!
During the seven-hour flight, I attempted (with basic French I skills) to read French magazines I had purchased. Arriving in Charles de Gaulle Airport was strange… no endless lines and security checks, as can be found in American airports. In no time at all, we were in a taxi speeding towards the city. I tried to communicate our hotel address, but quickly discovered I had a long road to fluency, and ended up having to write the information instead. During the rest of the cab ride, I listened attentively to try and catch words and numbers in the radio program, simultaneously staring eagerly out the window, trying to absorb as much of France as I could.
Upon reaching l’hÃ´tel, we had only ridden the miniscule elevator and thrown our baggage into the room before I begged to see the city. I would have to wait, however, for business had to be attended to.
Immediately following the textile shows, I began my exploration of the city: wandering les petites rues, eating in quaint cafÃ©s, hitting a few major tourist stops, and shopping for beautiful French clothing!
I was eager to speak French, but was usually only able to emit a quick “pardon,” or “merci.” Any lengthier attempts were interrupted by the listener switching to English. I was determined, however, and when I wasn’t trying to speak, I was eavesdropping intently on the conversations of passersby, to catch pieces of conversations I understood.
Leaving was difficult because even as short as the trip had been, it had inspired me to want to live there.
My quick excursion had awakened so many new aspirations: I was going to return to Illinois and master the French language; I would listen to French music, watch French movies, read French books; and I would go back to France as soon as possible.
Since then, my plans have flourished: I hosted a French exchange student. I immersed myself in language studies, taking the AP French Language exam a year early. I skipped a year of class and am currently in Honors French V – Independent Study. I have integrated my passion for language into my college goals and future career intentions.
I still find it amazing how drastically three days of travel have shaped the past three years of my life, and all the years to come.
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