1 | Shipped Off To France

I was born in Minnesota surrounded by cornfields, smiling strangers and hundreds of different fast food chains. My childhood was a short chapter out of the American Dream pamphlet. By the time I headed off to college I was the stereotypical American that only the good ol’ Midwest could produce. I was sporty, patriotic, polite to a fault and incredibly positive with a toothy white Colgate smile that only years of braces and dentist trips could create. I had also never traveled outside of the US, lacked any in depth knowledge about history and geography, and my idea of an extravagant culinary delight was a new flavor of milkshake at Steak n’ Shake.

My cushy bubble burst for the first time when I decided to study abroad. Sibling rivalry is a powerful driver. I was absolutely determined to study abroad like my older sister, but obviously do it way better than she had. I chose France. It didn’t matter when I signed up and paid for the semester that I could barely point to France on a map.  I could mutter a few phrases in French thanks to high school and I lived for carbs and pastries so it was an obvious choice.

When it finally came time to pack, I cried for days. I was terrified of leaving everyone and living so far away and I had just found out that my host family had no internet so I was having a real WTF moment. My mom gently, but firmly told me I didn’t have a choice. Looking back, I realize it was too late to get the deposit back, so I was subsequently shipped off to France with a pre-paid phone the size of a brick and a suitcase full of peanut butter.

I not only survived those four months in Pau, France, but I genuinely flourished outside of my comfort zone. Let’s not exaggerate, I did have my moments. And boy were there a lot of moments. Tears after parties and dinners where I struggled to look interested in conversations I couldn’t even follow. Tears when I could not for the life of me understand why this French postal worker seemed to be genuinely shouting in my face when I just wanted to buy some stamps. And more tears, when I was so proud of asking where the bathroom was in French, only to be told that I was rude because I didn’t say “bonjour” before I asked. Luckily, I made some really amazing friends and we all helped scrap each other off the pavement during this mini meltdowns.

After my first four months in France, I was determined to live and work abroad. I came home from that trip and announced to my parents that I no longer wanted to be a doctor, after specifically picking an out of state, expensive college due to their amazing medical school. I had also decided to finish school as a French and Business major in 3 years instead of 4 because I now had a French boyfriend. He was of course seven years older than me, and I planned on finishing school as quickly as possible, marrying him and living in Europe. 🙂

It’s safe to say that I more than shocked my parents with these announcements and I’m still thankful to this day no one had a heart attack. Now, I won’t spoil all the fun, but I don’t think it will come as any surprise to anyone that my plan at 19 didn’t work out exactly how I had in mind. But what really does?

I’ll be writing more stories of my adventures in Europe, so stay tuned to find out the rest!

xoxo

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8 thoughts on “1 | Shipped Off To France

  1. Joy says:

    Random, but speaking of steak&shake, did you know they’ve opened in France?! Went the other day and, while the menu was a little bit Frenchified, I was not mad.

    Oh and jot me down as another Midwestern girl who has had random meltdowns over ridiculous crap such as the cocoa powder being in the “wrong” aisle at the grocery store, my now husband never having gone on a hay ride as a child, and so on and so forth.

    • unintentionallyfrenchified says:

      I heard that the Steak and Shake had opened, but I surprisingly haven’t been yet! I’m putting that on my necessarily places to go eat when I completely crack on my new year, healthy new me plan 🙂 and I hadn’t thought of the hay ride yet, but getting Robin over to the states for a Halloween hay ride, would be priceless!

      • Quentin says:

        I saw the Steak n Shake here in Bordeaux, but as a Frenchman I didn’t know it was an American chain. It’s right across the street so I will definitely go check it out!

        I’ve lived abroad as well, and reading your words made me remember how things are when you’re far from home, knowing nobody, not speaking the language, feelings alone. It’s definitely not always easy, but it’s worth it.
        It’s still a great experience to go out of your comfort zone and force yourself to meet different people and learn new things.
        I even kinda wish this was mandatory, I’m certain there would be less stupidity in this world, less racism, and more open-minded people.

        I found the YouTube channel of “Not even French” which then lead me to yours, and now here I am.
        Great blog, it’s a pleasure to read it 🙂
        Please keep doing the videos!

    • unintentionallyfrenchified says:

      Hi Zyanna! My semester abroad was quite pricey because I was going to college at an out of state school and I was getting credits in France towards my degree so the price per credit stayed the same as if i was still in the states. So it was around 10,000 in total. However, if I hadn’t opted for credit taking classes it was MUCH cheaper like 1/3 of that. Living in Pau is really inexpensive, it was maybe 250 dollars a month to live with a family which included almost all meals for example. I think the cost will depend a lot on the school you go with and the school you are affiliated with in France. Hope that helps a bit! x

  2. Sarah Freytag says:

    Ah, I’m so glad I found you and Not Even French on YouTube recently. I’m a bit obsessed, I always love reading expat stories lol <3
    I've been traveling on and off for the past three years, with one full year living in Australia, and fell in love with the excitement of it.
    I've finally decided to "settle down" a bit and go back to school but I'll be focusing on International Relations with a focus on business so I'm hoping that will open some doors. Plus there is a mandatory study abroad which I cannot wait to do, maybe in Paris…
    Keep writing, these stories are so inspiring! 🙂

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