Senior year of college brought with it all sorts of feels, the most prominent of which was an impending sense of doom mixed in with lots and lots of nostalgia. That may sound dramatic, but I loved the person I had become after four years in college. I loved my friends, the activities I was involved in, and the classes I was taking. I was happy, so I suppose the “impending sense of doom” I speak of was really just a fear of unhappiness, a fear of losing the places and the people that made me feel so alive in college.
It didn’t help that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. While some people were whipping out their 10-year-plans, I was figuring out what to eat for dinner. I told everyone I was just living in the present moment by not worrying about what was going to happen months from now, but let’s be real; I was lost.
That is, until I stumbled upon an email from my French professor about the TAPIF program. Run through the French Embassy, this program gives Americans the opportunity to teach in France for one academic year.
Since returning home from my semester abroad in Paris a year and a half ago, an urge to return had been quietly yet persistently percolating in the back of my mind. What can I say besides that there is a certain je ne sais quoi about France that stayed with me long after returning home to the states.
I tried to suppress this urge for a while by convincing myself that it just wasn’t practical. I told myself that I should be realistic and that it was selfish to want to do this because it wasn’t a good return on a very expensive college investment. I told myself all of this, but the idea of returning to France never left the back of my mind. So, on that frigid January day when, as serendipity would have it, I saw a TAPIF email from my French professor appear in my inbox, I decided to press pause on what I thought I should be doing and just apply.
Fast forward a few months, and a second TAPIF email pops up in my inbox. This time, an acceptance letter. There was pretty much no turning back after that.
As post-graduate summer would have it, people often asked what was next for me. So, I had to explain to them that I was packing up eight months of my life into two suitcases and trading in the big apple for lots and lots of cheese to work as an English teaching assistant (in far more eloquent terms, of course). At this point, I often got asked a whole slew of questions. Where are you living? What are you teaching? How long will you be there? Do you know French? And more often than not, I got hit with the what made you decide to do this? question. When on the spot, it was often difficult for me to articulate an answer in a few words. So, I’ve decided to put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) to explain why, despite all my reservations and all the time I spent convincing myself that it wasn’t practical, I decided to live abroad after graduation.
- I’m young. 22, to be exact. And while I can imagine significant others, mortgages, children, and other adult-y things bring their own unique set of joys and challenges, I’m pretty sure they’ll still be there in 8 months. Right now, I’m basking in the unique freedom that comes with not having any of those things. I’m basking in being 22. Not to say this is the absolute only time in my life I can travel and that post-graduate life will be devoid of any semblance of adventure (at least, I hope not!). But I’m definitely not willing to risk passing up an opportunity like this on the hope I will have the freedom to do it later in life.
- I just spent 17 years in the classroom, and I learned a lot. Now, I’m ready for the world to be my teacher, a world which happens to be getting smaller and smaller every day in our globalized society. If, after this short time abroad, I can more clearly understand my place in the world and my role as a global citizen, I hope I’ll be that much more prepared to take on whatever career I choose.
- It can never hurt to know a foreign language.
- If my short 22 years of life so far have taught me anything, it’s that the experiences that scare me the most are often the ones that make my heart feel so full. They’re the ones that allow me to grow, to shift perspective, to gain awareness, and to become more authentically who I am. I would argue that this is the biggest return on a hefty college investment.
- I’m hungry, and I want to eat the world.
You had to expect that last one. This is a food blog, after all.