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!