Back to Reality

After two weeks of vacation, this past week was a rather harsh awakening. We were welcomed back to school for the first time in a fortnight with the French AP exam, which will be the standardized college-bound result of all of our months of immersion. So besides you know, keeping up our reputations and proving we actually learned French while in France, there was no pressure riding on this exam or anything… The majority of the test did serve as a bit of a confidence booster, and the facility with which I could answer certain questions made me realize that this year has done more for my grasp of the colloquialisms and writing style of the French language than I may have realized.

Going back to school also marked the final two week block and the start of goodbye. Sadly, the first event to come to an end was my involvement with the local retirement home. As we sang both French and American songs, I looked around the circle at the many faces I knew, recalling each memory we had formed together. The stories I heard and the afternoons I passed in this now-familiar building were one of a kind. When I signed up to participate in this activity, I had no idea it would turn out like this.

In addition to the reality of returning to the school grind, I’m forced to acknowledge the fact that I only have one week of classes left. When I arrived all those months ago, heck even at the beginning of the second semester, my year still seemed to stretch out before me, open-ended and full of possibilities. Although for the past few weeks, I’ve been keenly observing the countdown, this reality has yet to sink in. Like I’ve said for the past month, I can’t imagine leaving. Life here is so normal now: these people, this house, these streets, this routine have become a part of me. How do I let that go?

Returning home from our very last school trip this weekend and internalizing the beginning of my series of lasts compounded the resounding aura of finality. It saddened me that this was the last time I’d converse with my English teacher and his family at the front of the bus with the same group of people who’ve formed a little bus gang since our first excursion, the last time I’d singalong with my entire bus (my art history teacher and his son included), the last time my classmates and I would occupy the Fac de Droit bus stop on a Sunday evening, and the last time I’d fall asleep en route only to be awakened by a reading of “Où est bébé elephant” or an announcement of the Discotech password for the night. Even our destination showed traces of nostalgia. In going to Normandy, we’ve kinda come full circle, seeing that our first all-school excursion was crossing the baie de mont st Michel in Normandy. Additionally, the atmosphere was reminiscent of our first weekend school trip around Brittany: the coast, the brisk weather blowing over the rows of white crosses at a cemetery and a cathedral for good measure. No trip with SYA is complete without one! Following in the footsteps of the brave men and women who arrived in these cities and on these shores all those years ago was touching and inspiring- a moment of reflection for us all.

(French WWII propaganda at the Memorial of Caen)

(#victory announcements showcased at the Memorial of Caen)

(Les plages de débarquement)

(La Cathédrale de Bayeux)

(The impressive facade of the cathedral)

(In honor of the unknown soldier at the American WWII cemetery in Normandy)

(The German WWII cemetery with my American and SYA classmate A.S)

After the bittersweet conclusion of yet another school trip and in anticipation of my upcoming AP exams, I write this in a sort of stupor. We’ve entered the realms of single digits, a cold undeniable truism that has yet to sink in. I’m reluctantly going through the motions of someone who has to return home in a week: I’ve finally pulled out my suitcases after postponing the inevitable for days. I keep having to remind myself that this is real. But unlike my reality checks nine months ago, I have no desire to believe myself. This is one case where I’m content to led someone else be correct, as long as I never have to leave. I can’t fathom that it’s almost over, to the point that I’m tempted to pull a Peeta and question everything around me. SYA France 2014: real, or not real?

(My host sisters, host dog Lucky and I after celebrating my host dad’s 50th birthday en famille)

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