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The Trail of Studying Abroad


New. Everything was new, the country, the people and my life. I didn’t know this type of new existed. 

On August 20, 2023, I left Michigan to study abroad in Lille, France. It was the hardest yet greatest experience of my life. It’s difficult to put into words when someone asks me how my exchange was. I have another life in France. Different friends, family, school, food and most importantly, language. 

It was an incredible journey that I would do again in a heartbeat. While I reminisce about my times abroad, there are specific moments that shaped me during my trip.  

The Purens. Jean Lin, Amelie and Rose Puren are the kindest people I know. They opened their house to me with open arms. Despite my lack of French knowledge, we did everything together: traveled the country, tried new adventurous foods, cried and laughed. We built a bond. My favorite moment with them was on a cold day in October. We were all cuddled up by the fire when my host dad Jean Lin asked me to read a children’s book to the rest of the family. It was intimidating to think of reading French to native speakers, but I knew they wouldn’t judge me; they were my family. Everyday from then on I read a five page children’s book to improve my French, and it helped immensely. Not just with learning, but growing closer with my incredible host family. 

Ema Burešová. I met Ema at an orientation; where students from around the world come for an orientation for studying abroad in a small town called Bapaume, France. I heard rumors that there would be another exchange student in my class. At first I was skeptical, I wanted to be the only student in my French school. But another American, Josie, was roommates with her and wanted me to introduce myself. I saw her at the top of the stairs, nervous that she didn’t even speak English, but gained the courage to walk up to her. I introduced myself thinking, I might see her around, but little did I know we would spend our exchange traveling everywhere together. Ema has returned to her life in the Czech Republic but I can’t wait to make more memories with her when I see her again.

Mission Impossible. The third moment is a simple sweet moment that not many people will understand. I’ve been asked “When did you know when you spoke French? When did it click?” It was late November after the fall break of Toussiant, when my host family and I decided to watch Mission Impossible, in French of course. It was the hardest thing ever, yet I enjoyed every second of it. But it wasn’t the movie itself, it was what happened after. When I went to sleep that night, I had my first dream in French and it was the most surreal moment of my French life. People who go abroad praise that when you dream in the language, it finally clicks, and they were right. 

When I arrived in France I had zero previous knowledge of French. All that consisted of my vocabulary was yes, no, hello and thank you. It was single handedly the most challenging aspect of my exchange. The amount of stares, laughs and judgment I experienced was immense but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Because it didn’t matter, what mattered was that I was there no matter the circumstances. I was there to have a chance to see new things, to experience a new world that I never once knew.  

I have thousands of memories that will last a lifetime. From going to my first day of school in France to seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle in the moonlight, my trip is something I will never forget. 

I dream to have made an impact in the seats of the tram I sat in, the steps I walked back from school to my house, the McDonalds in downtown Lille and in the hearts of everyone in France. 

Those 5 months, 152 days, 3,648 hours, 218,880 minutes and 13,132,800 seconds have changed my life forever. 

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About the Contributor
Jacqueline Boynton
Jacqueline Boynton, Journalist
Jacqueline Boynton is a junior at Community and is in her first semester on staff. Though it's her first semester on the Communicator, she was The Midnight Sun's social media editor last year. She likes doing theater, singing and traveling during her free time. She loves musicals and traveling to her favorite place, Chicago.

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