The opportunity to attend school and live in the French Alps for a year was too good to pass up. By the time packing was finished and farewells were said I could still hardly believe the plane was taking off at the end of the runway. As I peered out of the oval shaped, pressure sealed window of the Air France jetliner I watched the distance grow as the daylight faded away. The eastern coastline rolled away, and I wondered what it would be like on my first trip to a foreign country. I had studied French for three years but to say that I could speak French would be a complete overstatement.
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As I heard the voices and conversations in my new home for the year, I could pick up words, but could barely follow what was being said. Everything was fascinating and marvelous at the same time. France poured over me like a waterfall and I was happy to find just how friendly and welcoming the French were upon my arrival.
I had moved into a host family in Chapareillan, France, took a step out of my comfort zone and dove into the French culture. Almost immediately I had a broader wider view of the world. Up until living in France I had seen everything in an American view. I had been exposed to political issues, social issues and international issues primarily through major US news syndicates. After discussing issues with classmates, new family members, as well as people I encountered during my travels I began to see things from multitude of views that differed greatly from my own. As I settled in and began my school year I found that being surrounded by the breathtaking scenery and historic locations was somewhat overwhelming. How rich the land was in history astonished me, while visiting Annecy the cobblestone streets winding through the city made me feel as though I was walking through history taking the same steps that travelers had taken seven and eight hundred years before. One of the major differences that struck me was the adjustment I made to the European approach to dining. Prepackaged, fast food was gone and replaced with fresh produce from the farmers market. My quick-paced lifestyle transformed into time spent at the dinner table around wonderful home cooked meals and hours of stimulating conversation. France enjoys streaming media and the latest technology.
However, they also love the time at home that is family centric. They enjoy nature, the outdoors, and are physically active and engaged in their community. Before I arrived in France, I had a view that was American centric. I thought as an American because that was what I was exposed to. However, being immersed in a different culture and seeing things from another perspective opened my eyes and altered ideas and opinions that I had previously had. There are many different ways to look at conflicts, world politics and social issues, and it broadened my thinking in general about my place and my country's place in the world. Although France was different, many things were the same. One of the last things I observed was a troop deployment of French soldiers leaving for armed service in Afghanistan. My host family and I discussed the hopes that all these young soldiers would return home safely to their families. I couldn't help but think about the American soldiers that would be serving alongside them in the line of duty and I wished that they would also return home safely. France is very different and very much the same.
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