“Whatever you do… slow down and think about it. You’re still young. You’ll find the answers you desire… with time.” – A friend, jokingly, but I took to heart.
When I first arrived to Dijon with the university, I found myself staring at my ceiling, just thinking. “Four weeks in France… what stories will I uncover?” I tried to come up with adventures of all kinds. However, I did not expect my very first adventure to be running out of the building in my shorts and tank top…
The following day, I sat down with my teammates taking entrance exams and joking about how we did not understand a lick of French. While we joked in the lobby, a thought formed in the back of my mind. “How will France be like since I don’t speak the language?” The thought kinda made me uncomfortable. I understood I’d be learning French, but I felt under prepared. I felt like I should have chose French in high-school instead of Spanish. It was not a pleasant feeling.
Despite my insecurities during the initial week, I found my answer to my question. The locals of Dijon were perhaps used to tourists, but the way they treated me made me feel more at home here. With the incredible French I was learning within the week, I was starting to be able to read a bit of phrases, speak and order food, and just listen to French music.
Living here made me slow down, not panic so quickly because I don’t understand something, and just… breathe. I always felt like all my life, I rushed to find an answer for everything. Thoughts like, “Why didn’t I pass this test?” or “Why can’t I progress as quickly as others in my class?” would constantly be on my shoulders. I like to believe I am a very hard working person with a good heart and mind, but I will admit, I punish myself too easy for mistakes. Dijon has started to open me up, take a step back, and breathe.
I really cannot explain what about Dijon opened me up. I have encountered so much within so little time here, it is hard to pinpoint, but I have a feeling it was everything. The people, culture, events, and life here has been incredible. I feel like my classmates are very diverse; we all carry our strengths and weakness, but together, we can solve everything.
The culture here in France is vastly different than that of the States. People WANT you to say hello and goodbye to them when you enter a shop; mannerisms carry a person very far in France. I loved getting to see familiar faces who would pass on some French knowledge to me. I loved visiting cities that carried history as far as the first century.
All in all, I have fallen in love with this little city of France. Dijon is not as extreme as Paris with shops, interactions, and people. I feel like Paris is similar to Chicago. Historically and culturally rich, but if you trying to get used to a new country, major cities may be overwhelming. Dijon is just the right size. Not too many people, but enough people where you perhaps will never see a face again. Not as diverse as Paris, but not small enough to where people are not used to tourists. Dijon is just a pleasant city.
During my time here as well, I stopped to think about the value of a Euro and even dollar. Money is key to living in general, but I never realized just how important managing resources is until you’re alone in a foreign country. The souvenirs are gorgeous; the steak tartar looks incredible; the drinks look so satisfying.
However, you must pull away to realize that everything should be done in moderation. If you attempt to do everything at once, it can be extremely costly and not worth it. This is not in any way, shape, or form me saying do not spend. You should just find balance. Spreading things and goodies out makes for a more pleasant and enjoyable experience because you always look toward tomorrow wondering what will happen next.
I met some wonderful foreign people here in Dijon who also are studying French that showed me around and even tagged along with my team to Provence, an incredible region of southern France home to some of the most incredible sites I have ever seen.
Apart from learning such rich history and observing legacies left behind from as early as the first century, the Mediterranean Sea is as magnificent as I imagined it. I wish I lived near the sea, so I may swim as much as I wanted just like I did in the Mediterranean. Despite all the incredible stuff I have done, I realize none of it would have been as incredible had we not taken our time doing stuff and encountered the fantastic people I know today. It truly is a game of balance.
Upon coming back from Provence with some naturally made soap and some fig jam, I sat back down in my dorm room and laid staring at the ceiling again. However, I wasn’t thinking about how my lack of French was going to be my undoing, or what will my adventures hold… I was thinking about just how happy I was. My mind wasn’t in the past or future; I was here in the moment. I was thinking about now, not tomorrow.
This is why I am preaching about finding balance and taking the time to appreciate the moments right now. If you focused so much on the future or the past, you can’t enjoy the events of today. It is important to plan and get what you can done, but you must find balance. Spread things out. Do not feel obligated to get everything done today. When you’re in a foreign country, take the time to learn outside the books. Engage with the locals, visit a bookstore and cafe, or spend time exploring the city. My experiences here within Dijon has given me that gift. The gift to simply stop, think, and breathe.
I cannot express how happy I am. I am finding my answers within my own time. There is no need to rush for the events of tomorrow or reflect too hard on the past if you can laugh and learn today. It’s important to always find balance in life and to savor it, for you never know how long you have clarity. Even if you are still searching for your own answers, rest assured. They will find you. So stop, think, and breathe. Time is not meant to be taken for granted, for in the blink of an eye it all could be over. So if you’ll excuse me… I think I am going to take my copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, grab some cafe, and read outside. à bientôt!