To say I am French at heart is completely true. Ever since I was a young child of the age of 3 I had wanted to speak, write, and read in French. In my room, maps of the world draped over my walls unlike my friends' rooms which were usually dominated by Pokemon or Power Rangers. So, with having parents who spoke absolutely no French, I created my own version of the language, adding the phrase "ou là là" made it sound believable. But as many find this amusing, French soon came back to me (with some help from French class in school) and now I speak legitimately and fluently.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
This past year through my school's exchange program, I, whose alter-ego, "Henri Cotillard" who is a Parisian student studying abroad for the last 18 years in the United States, finally decided to come home to my HOME country. That the reason I was there as an American student in an exchange program mattered little to me as Henri took control. As Henri, I spent the first few days in La cetè des lumières of Paris, my hometown. Walking the streets, I ventured to small bakeries, clothing stores, and cafès. And, like most Parisians do, I climbed the Arc de triomphe at midnight, saw the works of the great Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical masters at the Louvre, traveled back to the Belle Èpoque to see Impressionism at its finest at the Musèe D'Orsay, visited my "home school" of the Sorbonne, and of course scaled the Eiffel Tower. Wearing a scarf, a new chemise marinère and of course a beret, I, Henri, was home!
Soon after, I met my "family", the Lerats, finally getting to see my "brother" and his family once more. We lived in the town of Reims, centered in the Champagne-Ardenne region. Where the other American students stayed in the town of Èpernay, I traveled to see the beaches of Normandie, the great chateau of Versailles, the beautiful town of Bouilon in Belgium. Just as I spent time with relatives in America, spending time with my family in France was all the better. But this reverie had to come to a close; I had to finish my studies in the United States and go back to being Patrick the American boy. Hence, the home sickness rose up in my gut. I knew not when I would return for I had to save money for college and of course I knew my family in America missed me so. But I learned so much about my "home" in France than I had ever known before. As I talked to the locals and my French family, I learned about how both cultures, the United State's and France's, are different yet alike in many ways. Just as I learned to live life to the fullest in the U.S., my journey to my "home" gave me that lesson all over again.
With my philosophy on life altered–now a more arte de vivre ideology–those weeks I was in France gave me a sense of real independence, a chance to explore what life was like for myself. That just a few days to walk in ones shoes in their life could change me so, showed me that life needs to be lived to the utmost extent. I believe "Henri" has taught me as well; as an extension of myself, he has shown me the beatitudes of life and revealed to me love, freedom, and adventure. Today he still lingers around, showing himself to others with bursts of French randomly; he is taking over control, but it can only be for the better.
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