When I was a junior in high school, I got a Rotary scholarship to study in Strasbourg, France for a year.
I was sixteen. This was before email and cell phones and Skype. Back when long-distance calling meant beaucoup bucks. So I was pretty much cut off from my family for ten months. Sure, we wrote letters back and forth, but that was it.
I was fully submerged in a completely different culture and a foreign language (sure, I had taken “4 years of French,” but really, what does that mean?). I went from Berkeley High School (with a graduating class of 800) to a private, Catholic all-girls school (graduating class of 27). I switched host families and homes every 2.5 months: suburbs, 200-year-old farmhouse, swanky urban penthouse, apartment.
It was simultaneously the best and worst year of my life.
Best: because I became completely fluent in French, I learned how to embrace life in a foreign country by myself, and I had to draw on some pretty deep wells of resourcefulness and creativity to figure out how to make it all work.
Worst: because I was lonely all the time, I felt like I never really fit in, I gained a ton of weight, and I was overwhelmingly sad.
So I was very interested in this article by Danzy Senna. In it, she chronicles her decision to move her young family to Paris for a year. She imagines a world of impeccable manners, a transformation from typical American to flawless French. She was “determined to make [her] kids tough, gritty, independent, and exceedingly polite in two languages.”
Needless to say, this isn’t exactly what happened.
It’s an interesting read…hope you enjoy it as much as I did.