Reflections; from 01/09/18 to 02/10/18
A question I often ask myself these days is: “How did I end up here?”. And by here, I mean studying as an international student in the middle of France. Nine months ago, at the beginning of the second university semester in Winnipeg, I began applying for a study-abroad scholarship. In hindsight, my actions at the start of January turned out to be the grassroots of a serendipitous adventure.
This past month has brought with it beautiful moments disguised as stress filled confusion. Whether it was complications with finalizing my learning agreement (which is still a mess…), discovering how to set up a French bank account, or simply knowing how to construct a sentence properly so I am using the correct grammar, living abroad has taught me to graciously accept challenges while simultaneously allowing myself to revel in every small success. As difficult as it can be to leave behind all that is familiar, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone always results in a period of self-reflection and personal growth. Throughout the last heat-filled days of August, and the fleeting Indian summer of September, I have discovered parts of myself that I did not even know existed. Wait, let me rephrase that; I have discovered parts of myself that I always knew existed within me, but only ever got a chance to explore until now. I have welcomed all my petit daily mistakes and insecure habitudes into an environment where things are greeted by an everlasting feeling of curiosity.
Slowly, this place is becoming home. My apartment walls are beginning to fill up with postcards and photo of friends, while my house plant (thanks to mademoiselle Véronique for such a lovely gift) is thriving in a quaint corner. However, when I think of home from a more personal perspective, I often find myself questioning how I should define my place in this world. My experience in Europe thus far has been accented by various unique factors that make up my cultural identity. As a Polish-Canadian, I am constantly living in two separate worlds. I was raised in an entirely European household where Polish was my first language, yet, I spent my childhood and teenage years surrounded by poutine, maple syrup, and tons of snow (somehow, these are the three most popular stereotypes that are thrown my way when French people find out that I am Canadian). This dual-identity has shaped my French experience as one that is unimaginably foreign yet inexplicably familiar, all at the same time.
Although I knew that my upbringing allowed me to look at the entirety of Europe through a unique lens, I had no idea that my roots would be the focal point of all my introductions.
“Hi, my name is Natalia. I’m Canadian. But, I’m also Polish…”.
Automatically a conversation starter. However, as naive as these type of conversations may seem, they remind me that I am a citizen of an intermingled society that is the most globalized that it has ever been. In 2018, almost everyone has something to share concerning their roots, their upbringing, or their home. One thing that I am continually thankful for is that the Erasmus program (an organization for international students) brings together students from all around the world. Here, people’s stories and experiences are all accompanied by the fact that in some way, everyone has a dual identity.
(too cheesy? maybe a little…)
~with love, from France,