One Year Later (Reflections on Studying Abroad)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August 28, 2014. For most people, it was just another Thursday. For some people, school had just started and life was back to normal. 

For me... August 28, 2014 marked the day I left on the best adventure I have ever had. On that day, I flew from Denver to Washington DC, and then from Washington DC to Paris, France. 

If you have followed by blog for a while, you may remember that I studied abroad in Caen, a town in Lower Normandy, France. It's about two hours Northwest of Paris, and about 30 minutes away from the English Channel (La Manche). I chronicled those four amazing months of my life on this very blog, and if you want to read about the adventures that I had while on the other side of the pond, click here. There are also a lot of pictures of food. It's fine. #camembertfordays

In some ways, it feels like I just left France. The past 8 months have flown by! I'm about to start my last year of college, I have a job, and I'm moving in just a few short weeks. How did any of that happen?!

I studied abroad in France for one simple reason: I LOVE France. There has always been a general fascination, as I remember watching Madeline when I was a little girl, and I started taking French as my foreign language in middle school, despite the fact that my family is Puerto Rican, I live in Denver, and Spanish would have been the logical (and perhaps more helpful) choice. I am lucky enough to say that I could have studied abroad virtually anywhere in the world... Prague, Mongolia, Chile, South Africa, Tanzania, Madagascar. Destinations that have a permanent place on my Wanderlust list.

But how could I have said no to the one place I have always loved? The one place that I have dreamed about incessantly? 

How could I have said no to France? 

I miss it. I miss it every day, all the time, and sometimes so much it hurts. I miss my host family. I miss Caroline, my program manager and literal Godsend. I miss the friends I made there. I miss the woman from Memoranda. I miss my favorite professor. I miss sandwiches under the stairs, and macarons from the green boulangerie, walking through the chateau, and taking the train to Paris on weekends. I miss the stationery store, and Clairefontaine notebooks. I miss café au laits, and crepes by the beach. 

I considered making a "Four Things I Miss About France" list... but that just seems so fake. I owe so much to my time in France. As cliché as it sounds, I changed so much abroad, as did many of my friends who also studied abroad. I became much more confident while I was in France. I think I proved to myself that I was a capable person - I could not only exist in a new country, but thrive and feel at home and at peace. I love the quote, "when you feel a peaceful joy that's when you are near the truth." When I think about Caen, I feel a peaceful joy. 

Caen will always, always hold a special place in my heart and my life. I love it, I miss it, and I think about it all the time. France me manque, toujours, chaque jour, et dans chaque instant.

4 Reasons I Took a Long-Term Blogging Break (+ Why I'm Back for Good)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Have you ever heard the expression, when it rains it pours? Well, the last six months it has been pouring, and pouring wonderful rain of new opportunities and exciting life developments! This post is probably better titled as "Confessions of a Hot Mess 20-Something." Being the hot-mess 20-something I am, it took me a little while to find the ever-elusive balance and devote to all the things I want to do. I'm so grateful that the reason I had to take a blogging break is all of the wonderful, positive changes in my life, and I'm even more grateful that I have found my path and my way back to blogging! 

Reason #1: I got a job! My first official big-girl job.

This summer marked my first time getting a real, official, 9-5 job - at a museum no less! Of course I've had jobs in the past. I worked on campus, and I've worked for my parents, but this is my first time getting a job for someone I hadn't met before, where a dress code was required. Granted, it's a pretty easy job (I sell tickets and memberships) but I really like the people I work with, and I'm so grateful to be employed. It's part-time, but I do work on weekends (which is when I usually wrote my blog content), so my schedule has been a little different lately.

Reason #2: That Intern Life

When I'm not working at my job, I'm at my internship. Again, it's the first 9-5 internship I've had, but I love it! I'm an intern at a library, and the people I get to work with are so fun! I ended up getting the internship through the history department at DU, and I have learned so much about libraries, archives, historical collections storage, and research.

Reason #3: Thesis Love

See that book? That is a 421 page (en francais) book about the reconstruction of Normandy post-WWII that I have been reading (it's actually the last on a long list) in preparation for writing my Honors Thesis this year. It takes a remarkable amount of time to read large history books, especially when one is on summer vacation and would rather re-read the entire Harry Potter series.... but I digress.

Reason #4: Tough Decisions & Bittersweet Change

This summer I said goodbye to something that has been a huge part of my life for the past three years. While I know it was the right thing to do, I'm still a little heartbroken, and it still feels a little weird not having that in my life anymore. It was a tough decision, certainly one of the most difficult decisions I've made in my life, and in the long run I know that it will be better for me. Here's to new paths, roads, and opportunities!

Reason I'm Here to Stay: I LOVE BLOGGING!

When I started blogging, I started with "La Vie en Zoe" and focused mostly on my love of France, and the little things in my life I love. As I grew through blogging my time in France studying abroad in Caen, this little space came to mean more to me than even I realized it would. At first, it was a place to put my thoughts, maybe splash a photo here and there. Nothing fancy, nothing big. But now? It is one of the most amazing creative releases I've ever had, and it stretches me artistically, thinking about layouts, designs, and photography, as well as constantly stretching my capacity to create new content, come up with new things to write about, and grow not only in my artistic/creative capacity, but as a person too. Plus, I love the positive, awesome, creative people I have met through blogging, and would love to make more blogging friends!

I may never have a huge blog, and it may never be something I do for a living, as an entrepreneur. But I love having this space, a place to share my thoughts and ideas, even if no one reads it. In the few months it's been since I've blogged, I've missed it tremendously! Sometimes I find myself writing posts in my journal, editing photos and creating graphics. It's time to come back again!

It's not a perfect place, but it's my place. It's my place to create my happy life.

Have you ever taken a blogging break? Any students out there who balance blogging with school, work, and internships? Any tips?