Returning to France

Monday, May 16, 2016

Over ten years ago, I dropped everything and moved to France.  Back then, I spoke French like “une vache espagnole.” Describing my poor language skills simply using this common French expression not only insults Spanish cows, and cows everywhere, I would be leaving out vital information about just how in over my head I was.

Photo taken my first night in Paris, August 2003.

My first night in Paris, August 2003.

For example, my first morning in Paris, I headed to the post office to send a package, and somehow I walked out with a box of envelopes.  Shaken, heart racing, I went straight back to the apartment and didn’t leave the for the rest of the day. Incomprehensibly fast French on TV kept me company until my friend Sophie was home from work to help me navigate this whole new world.  It took me weeks to build up the stamina to put myself out there, be willing appear a fool, be misunderstood, learn the skills to communicate what I felt were the simplest of ideas. For months, I would go running around the loop at the local park, and would refuse to pass people because I might have to excuse myself: “pardon.” My current career and life path leads a direct line back to these experiences riddled with fear, excitement, and incalculable growth.

Next week, I’m headed back to France. This time, as the teacher, the leader, the role model for much younger, braver versions of myself. I feel so much gratitude for this opportunity. I believe in my core that travel wakes us up to our day-to-day privileges, invites us to experience ourselves anew, and demands us to listen like we have never listened before.  Who can say how these students will have their lives changed, their imaginations might alight, their futures touched.  I do this work precisely for these moments: may this trip plants countless seeds that will bloom for decades to come.

by jillian nicks