In one week, I will get on a train. I will finally finish this chapter of my life. I will cry. Or maybe, smile. I have so many conflicting emotions that it is hard to say what my reaction will be when the conductor blows the whistle. Will I be excited or will I be a teary mess? I don't know. Probably both.
â–º Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
I will miss France. I will miss the stone buildings in my town. The typical Normandy architecture that is still intact in towns that weren't affected by the war. The little towns sprinkled in between the cow pastures. I will miss finding another magnificently constructed church that is who-knows-how-old in every town that the two-lane highway passes by. I will miss how green the hills are. A cartoon-ish green; a caricature of reality. I will be sad to stop indulging in fancy tarts after the three-hour meals Sunday afternoons. I will be nostalgic for the extended family lunches that are possible because no one moved away far from home. I will miss the shops that specialize in meat or bread or vegetables and are of much better quality than what the chain supermarkets provide. I might even miss electronic music. More than anything, I will miss the people. The siblings, cousins, parents and grandparents that all live close enough to drop by any given afternoon. My international friends from AFS (my abroad organisation) who were such a relief when was all too much, and who teach me about other international cultures. And my French friends, stylish and confident, whom I envy, love, and dance with until dawn. These people will really have me sniffling as I load my bags onto that train.
And I will be happy to land in Berkeley. I am excited to get a taste of the international cuisine found in restaurants all over the city. I will be relieved to rediscover the open-mindedness of the bay, where people can look past blue hair to see the real person inside. I miss being in a megalopolis where it is possible to walk down a street and not see anyone you know. I miss not being the outsider, the one who is always wrong, whose customs are always strange, and who still trips over words occasionally. Above all, I want to see everyone I left behind. I have lived a year without my parents to pick me up after the SATs and ask how it went. A year without my brother or my wonderful friends. A year without my real relatives, who may not all live in California, but who provide wonderful excuses to travel through America. I missed everyone so much this year.
If I had to choose where to live permanently, I would choose Berkeley over France. I love Normandy, but I would miss California enourmously if I came here for good. But leaving after one year is still difficult. It’s more than leaving a place I am fond of. I will leave not only what I love here, but also the new life I have finally built for myself. I did it; I succeeded in finding friends and understanding the French way of life. Giving that up is awful. Like that song: I've tried so hard, and got so far. But in the end, it doesn't even matter.
I know what I've done here matters. I know how much it affects my life. I will be happy to be home. But I can't yet tell if the happiness or the tears will win on the plane.
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