Not that I talk about it all that much (not anymore anyway, I did when I first got back - my poor friends), but when my semester abroad comes up, people usually end up asking me why I did it, and for the life of me I can never ever come up with a good reason. Usually I just say baguettes, and people think I'm kidding, which I guess is fine by me.
No really though, I've been back over a year now (holy goodness), and I think I've finally got my answer.
I did it because I didn't want to be the shy girl with a common name that people still can't seem to remember. And because I wanted to force myself out of my comfort zone and do something a little crazy. I'm not a shy girl. Up until high school, I was really the opposite of that. I don't know what happened, but I wanted to fix it. Shy is not who I am.
I can admit that I am not an especially motivated individual. Homework has never really been my strong suit, let alone something silly like studying (ha). All lack of scholastic motivation aside, I wanted to do something tough to prove to myself that I could. I wanted to be motivated. And exchange programs are pretty tough, lemme tell you what.
Another reason I wanted to live abroad though is because, at least in my family, everyone else was doing it. My dad was in the air force and worked in the government a bit too, so our family moved around a lot. My mom has moved 30 times since she was 18. Yeah.
As the youngest child, though, with my dad hitting retirement when I was like 12, I got the tail end of all that adventure. Not that I didn't love every bit of it, but I am a little jealous that my three wonderful older siblings were such globetrotters when I got to live in the same place for all of high school. I mean, what is that? I decided I was going to do something about it, so... I up and went to France for a semester.
The last, and probably biggest and best reason I did it is because I knew I needed to grow up. I'm not saying I came home with a monocle and Shakespeare's complete works memorized, but I definitely learned a lot during my semester abroad. It was only five months, and it's not like I was really that removed from my life back home, but leaving home at 17 does some pretty cool things for a person. Living in the same place for a long time wasn't exactly something I was used to, and I really didn't handle it all that well - I let myself get stuck in a rut. I wasn't doing the growing up and the figuring out I wanted to, so this was my way of leaving that all behind and doing my own thing, just to figure out what the heck my own thing was. Everyone has to do it sooner or later, right?
I know nobody reads this anymore, but sometimes I like to look back and remember that this experience made me. I think that every decision like this that we make makes us who we are, in a very cheesy sort of way, and I don't regret this decision one bit. It was super tough, and I remember many a night spent crying because it was too late for me to call my momma and all I wanted was for her to buy me a ticket on the next plane home. But I stuck through it, and for an unmotivated giver-upper type like me, it was probably the most empowering experience of my life.
Sorry to go all sappy, but for real, I can't say enough how much I learned about myself while I was off learning about my host country. So if you, by chance, are a youngin' wondering whether or not to go for it, I give you my endorsement ('cause I'm basically the bees knees, right?).
Anyway, that's why I did it. Because I didn't know who I was and that's how I found out. :)
Plus the baguettes.