Posted on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

When I left Paris almost two years ago, as a college junior, I knew I'd be back.

The last time I saw the Eiffel Tower, in December of 2010
It wasn't necessarily a firm plan - I never really actively sketched out the logistics of my return, or had a solid idea of what I'd do - but I knew, in the cheesiest and most predictable corners of my heart, that I wasn't finished with Paris.  Or, maybe, that Paris wasn't finished with me.

Two years and two college degrees later, my bags are packed and at the front door of my suburban Philadelphia home.  My trusty book of Parisian maps is tucked away in my purple backpack between collections of WB Yeats' poetry and Gertrude Stein's work, my Euros have replaced the (pathetically few) dollars in my wallet, and my métro card has moved back into its familiar zippered pocket.  Tonight, I'll leave my home again, but in a markedly different way.  While preparing to study abroad held much of the excitement and anxiety that these past few weeks have contained, there's some distinct yet unnamable difference here.  Certainly, some of the contrasts are easy to identify, but I'm not sure any one of them singly makes the distinction in full.  Living alone in a shoebox-sized apartment rather than with a roommate and family in a comfy and spacious homestay comes to mind as I warily eye my large and heavy case, but I don't think that's it.  Perhaps it's a newly found sense of maturity and sense of self?  Not yet, I don't think.

Whatever the difference, this trip feels somehow more uncertain than it did last time.  The decision to go was made quickly - I'd applied last winter to be an English language assistant in France, more or less on a whim, and was surprised to find in the spring that I'd been placed in a school just outside Paris.  Even after being accepted, I still didn't think I was going.  But as a few doors closed on me in the United States, I realized that there was a window still open - a window with an Eiffel Tower view, no less.  I decided to go, to accept the position, and so here I am.  I'll arrive back in Paris tomorrow morning, and I'm not sure how I'll feel upon touchdown.  Excited, for sure, and definitely nervous - but there's no way for me to know whether or not a dramatic move of this kind will pay off, will lead to something worthwhile.  With friends from coast to coast in the US working in very real jobs and studying to obtain very real degrees, it's difficult sometimes not to feel like I'm evading reality a bit by making this leap.  But then I look back at the final entry my last blog from my time studying abroad (click here to read), and I'm certain this is the right thing to do.  Paris does something to me, makes me feel free and alive in ways that nowhere else really does, and I realize just how fortunate I am to be returning.

My time here over the summer has been wonderful - from the debaucherous week after graduation spent in Outer Banks with an incredible group of college friends to quiet Sunday mornings at home with my family - I can't underestimate the amount of love and gratitude I have for family and friends.  I'm leaving behind so many people that I care about so much, but they know (I hope!) I'll never seem too far away.  This opportunity is a fantastic one, and I'll be fully ready to seize it come tomorrow morning.  At least, after my first croissant. Stay tuned, my friends.

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