By Guest Contributor
Saying Au revoir is never easy. At least that’s what I’ve always thought. The idea of leaving something or someone behind, knowing you won’t be back for quite some time doesn’t exactly make me jump for joy. So when the time came for me to start getting ready to leave for a semester on exchange in Paris—the longest I’ve ever been away from home and, incidentally, my first time living on my own—I braced myself.
If you’d asked me six months before, I would’ve said I was ready to escape. Because that’s what Paris would have been: an escape. However, as 2012 ended and as the semester went on, I started to reconsider. Why exactly was I leaving Ottawa? It has everything: family, friends, a great job, and classes I like. It’s home, and there is no place like it. I was starting to meet interesting people that I would have to leave behind. I was starting to doubt my decision.However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that there is a certain degree of sacrifice in leaving that’s worth making. And I know how corny that sounds, trust me. To me, it’s always better to leave when the party is in full swing. Home will still be home when I come back, and that the people that make it hard to leave now will be a reason for me to return.
All cheesiness aside, I was fully expecting waterworks on the day of my departure but surprisingly enough, no tears were shed. Call me insensitive, but I think it’s because it was time for me to go. I bid my parents and sister goodbye saying, “Mmk bye, see you around!”. This isn’t to say I won’t miss my family or Canada in general, but I have no regrets whatsoever about leaving. Though I can’t speak for everyone, I consider myself pretty darn lucky to have this opportunity, because there is always something good in leaving, even if that something is what makes you come back.
So I’ve arrived, here in the City of lights, after a pretty counter-climactic goodbye. I can’t even describe how cool everything is. I’m the spitting image of the tourist that doesn’t know what the heck she is doing/where she’s going and that’s wonderstruck by everything. This being said, there are some things I miss about Canada. Like open space. And the constant stream of apologies and politeness. And the fresh air resulting from the no-smoking regulations. And the MAPLE. And the cleanliness. And, mostly, the effectiveness of administration.
Half of my time is spent in wonder at the history and architecture and general deliciousness of the city while the other half is spent battling bureaucratic red tape. You thought Rabaska was bad? Oh gosh, it’s the promised land compared to my school’s registration system. I’ve also been rudely brought back down to earth with comments on my accent. Let’s get one thing straight: French is my first language. I speak it everyday at home and study it in school. My French is DIFFERENT not INFERIOR. You’d think I was from another planet when I speak here. I won’t lie; I get a little offended when I’m spoken to in English or when someone decides to correct something I say (that would be totally acceptable at home). I usually bite my tongue and explain I’m from Canada, after which people assume I’m from Québec (not that there is anything wrong with that, but I do like to rep for French Ontario). These differences, however, simply make the experience richer. What surprises me most is how much there is truly an exchange that happens, whether it be with the other international students or with Parisians.
I do miss my friends and family, but I’ve lucked out and have great roommates. I’m meeting interesting people (okay, okay, they’re all Canadian, but it’s coming!). I get to run by the Seine and Bastille and Notre-Dame and Centre George Pompidou. I get to study at a university originally founded in the XIIIth century. And I’m writing this in a café that’s older than Canada and used to be an opium smoking-house where the likes of Charles Beaudelaire and Eugène Delacroix would hang out. So, all in all, not too shabby. Actually, pretty incredible. I know I’ll want to come home. Just not quite yet.
Breakfast at a café older than Canada. French baguette for the win!