Lessons Learned

It’s been two weeks since my last update (oops), and I’m running out of inspiration, so I’m going to make a post out of realizations that I’ve sort of cobbled together over the past six months. It’s a work-in-progress because I’m not done studying abroad, but voilà :

  • International students are all incredibly friendly and nice, because they know that you’re in the same situation as them—thrust into a random country, miles away from your home. So it’s actually pretty easy to befriend international students. Europeans also tend to be more inclined to physical affection than Americans are. Even if you just met someone a few hours ago, they’ll hug or cheek-kiss you.
  • Apparently, telling people that I’m from the US isn’t enough, and I’ve had it people asking me what my “country of origin” is. Clearly, POC can’t be born in the US. So why don’t you ask a white American where they’re from? Oh, right, because we like to pretend that indigenous peoples don’t exist and that white people were never immigrants. Carry on.
  • You’re expected to be a lot more independent: nobody tells you anything. You have to either ask or figure things out for yourself. Example: when you get hopelessly lost, shyness goes out the window. (I’m glaring at you, OFII. Even police officers didn’t know how to find your elusive office building, probably because you’re managed by incompetents who stick two different addresses on the envelope to ensure that you get lost.)
  • It’s amazing how quickly studying abroad makes you go from “I want an A!” to “Eh, whatever, I just need to pass.”
  • Being an international student here is completely different from being an assumed international student at R-MC. Here, European students ask me about English words and pronunciations, inherently trusting my knowledge of the English language because I’m a native speaker. Whereas at R-MC, I legitimately had a boy in my creative writing class tell me that it’s nothing short of a miracle that I have a natural grasp of “English grammatical syntax” and that I can “identify and correct English pronunciations without second-guessing [myself.]” He even said that my poetry has “a sort of redefined Eastern essence,” whatever on earth that’s supposed to mean.
  • Hearing small children speak French is adorable. (And somewhat jealousy-inducing because their accent is better than mine will ever be.)
  • Some people will tell you not to use Facebook while abroad. Don’t listen to them. Sure, it might make you homesick and overly attached to your laptop, but it’s the easiest way to keep in touch with your friends. And unlike texting, it’s free, so it’s a good medium for making plans with your newly acquired international friends.
  • Since the dorm kitchen doesn’t have an oven, I’ve learned that basically every vegetable can be stir-fried. Cooking for myself isn’t so bad, either, because I can choose what I want to eat and don’t have to suffer through questionable Estes/Commons fare.
  • A lot of European international students are insanely multilingual and tend to speak a minimum of three languages. America, step up your game and stop judging people if they speak English with an accent.
  • Google maps and paper maps are lifesavers.

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