My ten-month exchange in France has come to an end. Since I’ve been back, it has been a rollercoaster of emotions.
I remember the plane ride back to the US so vividly. I was seated beside a chatty American couple in a decently sized window seat. As the plane took off, I snuggled into the complementary blanket that I had found on my seat. You know that thing people say about life flashing in front of your eyes. Well, that’s exactly how it felt as the plane lifted me up into the clouds. I saw my entire exchange play out in my head in a matter of seconds. Right then and there, hot tears started streaming down my face. But I was too afraid that the people next to me would see, cause’ we all know how investigative chatty American couples can be.
The nerves and emotions continued building as I headed towards the gate where my family was waiting for me. I think the only word to explain the feelings I felt as I hopped into my mom’s car, with my two siblings in the back seat– is weird. It was a bizarre feeling that took me a week or two to get over. But it was a weirdness that I was kind of prepared for. Basically, AFS had programmed a weekend in Paris with all the students in France on the Saturday before the departure. The idea was to give us the tools we needed to readapt to our lives back home through group activities/talks. That Saturday morning, I had to say goodbye to my host family. I didn’t know how to act during those last moments. Again, it was just weird. Weird and very emotional.
I am not one to cry in front of other people. I know that sounds hypocritical because I just explained how I started sobbing in front of hundreds of people on my flight. But it truly isn’t an easy thing for me. Which is why I didn’t cry during the entire Paris weekend. I felt numb to what was happening around me. As I watched my other friends blow their noses and turn red, I wondered if I would eventually feel those emotions. And it wasn’t until I said goodbye to one of my closest friends, that all the feelings hit me at once. At the end of the night, my friend and I sobbed into each other’s arms as AFS volunteers pulled us away because it was time for us to go to our rooms. She was set to take a flight much later than mine the next day. So, I knew that this would be the last time I would see her for a while since she lives in Denmark. At that moment, I was reminded of how this exchange allowed me to meet such amazing people and long-lasting friends.
Now that I am back home, I find myself daydreaming about my adventures in France. It was an incredible experience that I am so thankful for. It taught me more than just a new language. I learned and matured so much throughout those ten months. It’s weird (there’s that word again) thinking about how my second family and friends are thousands of miles away from me. Yes, this chapter of my life has come to a close. But I have no doubt in my mind that I will return someday. That’s right, Mackenzie’s Adventures in France have not ended yet.
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Note: Mackenzie is on a year program from our Greater Los Angeles (GLA) Area Team (AT) to France, 2021-2022. She is the recipient of a GLA local need-based scholarship.