Graduation and Studying Abroad

I’ve been awake since 6am because I couldn’t sleep, so forgive me if this post lacks coherency. Anyways, in a lot of ways, graduation reminds me of the end of my year abroad. Both experiences just felt so surreal—and still do—because they were definitive epilogues to different chapters in my life. Granted, I spent three years at R-MC versus one year in Nice, but I honestly don’t understand where the time went. Am I really free of school forever? (Hush, ignore the fact that I might go to grad school.) I have, however, left behind a place that indelibly marked my life and helped shape who I am today, much like Nice did.

Parts of both experiences also passed in a blur. With regards to France, I barely remember saying goodbye to my classmates, running across airports, and climbing into planes. And today, the whole getting-my-diploma has blended together into a haze—according to one professor and two friends, I had a cheering squad, but I noticed absolutely nothing because I panicked a bit and thought, “There are too many people watching me I have to get off this stage right now.” (I did, however, succeed in not tripping!)

Plus, when I finally got home after France, I was sleep-deprived and exhausted, yet oddly awake, which is a perfect description of my mental state right now. Though funnily enough, I didn’t start crying until the plane landed in Richmond, because I guess that’s when the fact that I’d left behind a lifetime of memories in Nice finally hit home. But I haven’t really cried yet after graduation, and in all honesty—despite having cried ten times before graduation about having to leave my friends and professors—I think it’s because the fact that I’m forever done with undergrad hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

That’s where the parallels end, though. Firstly, when I left Nice, there was no pomp and ceremony because I was brain-dead from seven straight hours of exams—and then I had to finish packing and leave bright and early the next morning. Secondly, in France, I didn’t have six professors who made me blush and internally scream in distress, “I HAVE TO LEAVE RIGHT NOW IMMEDIATELY” when they casually showed me off to my mom. (I’m an adult. I can handle compliments with grace.)

(As I’m typing this post, three of my friends are telling—no, yelling at—me to email one of my favorite English professors a picture of us and call the poor, innocent guy “dope.” That’s the final difference—my friends in France weren’t such terrible influences.)

Little Study Abroad Things, Part IV

I’m posting part four of my ongoing list so that I can get it up before graduation:

  • When my friends and I were in this cute little tea shop off-campus, I happened to notice French among the decorations and excitedly pointed it out: “Look! It says ‘Parisien!’” One of my friends, utterly unsurprised, responded, ‘Of course you would find the one French thing in here.”
  • I’m so used to writing French essays, I don’t know how to write papers in English anymore. Somebody help. Does bilingualism begin with realizing that it’s easier for you to write in a foreign language?
  • I finally listened to Hamilton for the first time, and the lyrics I most identified with were, “Where have you been? / Uh…France.”
  • During dinner, when I announced I didn’t even know where the Sociology house was, one of my friends argued, “Yes you do! The honors thing was there last year.” I looked at him and said, “I wasn’t here last year.” The ensuing expression on his face was absolutely priceless—he was so horrified that he’d forgotten.
  • I nearly posted an English blog post with the transition “de plus” in it. Whoops.
  • Do you reach nerd status when you dream in French? One of my dreams involved me returning to Nice with a friend I’d studied abroad with, and we both got peach gelato. (The gelato lady, for whatever reason, corrected me when I said “Puis-je avoir…” to “Est-ce que je peux…”) And then I somehow made my way up to Amiens, where I cried because the canals were so pretty. Waking up and discovering that I wasn’t in France was, as you can imagine, a lovely feeling.
  • I got really excited when I wished one of my international friends happy birthday and then we got to catch up a bit! (…during my French tutoring hours. Shhh, it’s not like anyone ever comes to French tutoring, anyways.)
  • As I half-heartedly attempted to prepare for the oral part of my Chinese exam, everything came out in French, and I was like, “…This is not what I wanted.” The proper solution? Stop studying. (It’s fine, I’m pretty sure I got an A in the class anyways.)
  • I might’ve overachieved just a bit on my capstone project—my French professor told me that it “might be a little too in-depth.” Oops?
  • My English professor got really excited about existentialism and naturalism when we discussed Voyage in the Dark because, as he told me, “You’re the only person I can talk about French things to.” I’m glad that my French major is being put to use.
  • Even though I spent 11 straight hours putting together my final paper for French, afterwards, I mourned a bit because I’d finished my last-ever French undergrad assignment. I’m still a bit sad. I’m probably going to be that nerd who writes an essay during the summer.
  • It was an utter tragedy, discovering that the Beauty in the Beast DVD offers neither French dubbing nor subbing. I still feel betrayed.
  • Discovering that I got an A in my 100-level Chinese class but an A+ in my 400-level French capstone is still one of the funniest things that’s happened to me.
  • When my roommates and I were walking back from Martin’s, we saw two cats, and for some reason I declared, “J’adore les chats!” Yeah, I still have no idea why I said that in French, considering that neither roommate understands the language. Multilingual problems…?
  • I was vaguely offended because my summa cum laude cords are gold and ruin the whole blue, white, and red French aesthetic of my French honors cord and French flag stole.
  • Like the nerd I am, I decorated my cap with a French quote from the text I did my capstone on: “Le present s’enrichit du passé et de l’avenir” (the present enriches itself with the past and the future) because it reminded me of my study abroad experience and the time I spent in French class during my last year here.

Pre-Graduation Thoughts

Despite all the times I’ve been salty about R-MC (and despite the grudges I continue to hold against a certain part of FYEC and the stolen Honors House being converted into offices), I’m still half-hesitant about leaving. As graduation draws inevitably closer, I’ve been thinking about the things that study abroad has made me grateful for here. It turns out that, ironically enough, leaving my college for a year is what made me love it more—my amazing friends, my incredible professors, and the acceptably beautiful campus.

And after crying four times during the latter half of the last week of classes—and making some of my professors cry as well—I’ve finally figured out what terrifies me most about the prospect of teaching. It’s not, surprisingly, the fact that I’d have to talk in front of people and grade potentially terrible papers. Rather, it’s the fact that I’d have to deal with “leaves and leaving,” in the words of one of my favorite professors.

It’s just…how do teachers and professors do it, knowing that the students they help and watch blossom will eventually walk out of their life? I mean, at least nowadays there’s email and social media, but I still I feel like I’d become a sobbing mess. Departures are part of the human experience, I guess, but that doesn’t make them any less depressing.