So... What Now?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A while ago, I had a bit of an existential crisis about my time in France being just a memory, and how I desperately wanted it to be a reality. Since I've been home, I've been having some of the same feelings: I don't want Caen, and France, and all of the amazing experiences I had, to be just a memory. I want it - need it - to be real. I've been kind of in a state of asking... so what now?

Before I left France, I wanted to write myself a letter using to remind myself throughout the year about the things I learned. I have it set to send at various points throughout the year, but I wanted to share it here too as a reminder and a hope as to what's next in 2015. My post-abroad life.

This is probably the last of my post-abroad posts, but it's one of the most meaningful. Follow my entire journey abroad here.

Dear Zoe,

Hi. I hope you're readjusting to life in Colorado, and I know it's really hard. I bet the memories hit at the most random times... and I know it sucks. Even thinking about leaving this place had made me tear up at various points (including right now, as I'm sitting in CDG). Walking past the Where the Wild Things Are mural, realizing you will not walk by it again. Walking down the hill toward Mli, with that great view of the city. Sitting in Memoranda... I'll stop.

Before you dive back into your life in Denver, there are some things I want you to know about your time in Caen, and I never want you to forget them.

You really like sunshine.
But there is beauty in the rain. Never forget the way it smells, the way it makes you feel like everything is new again.

The world is a really big place, but you definitely have a place in it.
It's easy to feel like you and your problems are so small compared to everything. But they're not. You matter.

Perfection is stupid. 
"And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good." - John Steinbeck

It's okay to be wrong sometimes.

Creativity is really cool. 
Paint. Draw. Calligraphy. Write. Write a lot... it's all amazing and you should do it more.

Your grades do not dictate your worth.
You are more than a number value assigned to a piece of paper. Learn to learn... learn to be enriched, not to try and achieve a stupid number.

People are really cool, and really good if you give them the chance.
Never doubt people. They will surprise you.

Simplicity is hard, but it's totally worth it.
What do you really need to be happy? Not things, honey.

You're a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for.
There are a lot of times you could have given up. You could have said, this is too hard, and I'm not good enough and I'm going home. But you didn't, and that means something.

Home can be a lot of places.
For you, home will be in the sandy beaches of Normandy, on the banks of the Seine. It's in the castles and the cathedrals, and the places you really felt your soul come alive. It may feel like your heart is broken, but it is just your love all over the world.

I remember how you felt at the beginning of this whole adventure. Nothing but openness, a vast blanket of opportunity, a willingness to do something different and change your life. You had a chance to truly be and exist as you wanted to, create something yourself, and you did it.

You keep saying you created a life in Caen, that you changed in some undefinable, immeasurable way. To say that you are a different person isn't entirely correct. Yes, you changed.

Into who you should have been - and loved - all along.

With Glittering Eyes,


Vraiment Française: A (Mostly) Photographic Summary of My Time Abroad

Monday, December 29, 2014

Guys, I miss being in France. I know that I'm in Denver, but sometimes when I wake up it still takes me a moment to readjust to where I am. The moments and memories hit me kind of out of the blue... I'll be ordering coffee at Starbucks and BAM! Memory of coffee in France. I'll be folding my clothes and BAM! Another memory... racks of scarves in France. Cooking dinner... BAM! Camembert fills my nostrils. It's bizarre. 

I've seriously been just looking at all the pictures I took and re-reading my journals and blog posts about France and abroad, and I thought I'd make a sort of summary post to culminate some of my favorite memories of this awesome experience.

Study Abroad By the Numbers:

116 days
15 cities
5 languages
3 new fountain pens
2 currencies (and a billion headaches over conversion rates)
1 unforgettable experience
countless friends around the world

I would love to detail everything I did and every city I went to, but no one wants to read that long of a post. Instead, I'll give you the highlights of my journey abroad (so many pictures!).

My home for four months. A place that inspired me in countless ways.

And, of course, we all know about my obsession with Memoranda. 

Home of the Bayeux Tapestry, a seriously beautiful cathedral, and some quintessential Norman charm.

A fortified city on a rock, and my favorite photograph from the four months I spent abroad.

My favorite photograph from my time abroad. Captured on my phone and edited with Afterlight.

Rouen was the only time I didn't plan anything, and it was absolutely amazing.

I truly learned the meaning of "Not all who wander are lost." - JRR Tolkien
Capital of Christmas (Capitale de Noël)! Last hurrah before leaving France. Absolutely amazing.

London is my second favorite city in Europe (after Paris, of course). I was able to experience this wonderful place with my dad, and I will never forget it. 

Life dream #1 fulfilled.

Life dream #2 fulfilled.

New life dream: work here (the Victoria and Albert Museum, or V&A).

I love Amsterdam. I was incredibly lost the whole weekend I spent there, but if I could go again, I would go in a heartbeat. It was absolutely amazing.

The city of love, the city of light. My favorite place on the planet.

Have you been to any of these places? What'd you think? Where do you want to go?