2 days left. Seriously where did the time go? Like I said before, it seems like yesterday I was on my way to Spain freaking out because I didn’t know a single thing about my host family. It’s going to be so weird going home. I know people always tell you this experience changes you, that you’ll never be quite the same. I didn’t really believe them but now I’m heading home soon, it’s totally true. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how I’ve changed but I definitely feel like I’ve been more independent.
For example, all the traveling I did? I planned all that out! My parents had nothing to do with it. I looked up the hostels and the flights (ok I will admit I may have used the “emergency” credit card a few times to pay for flights BUT they were all Easyjet which is notoriously cheap). I had to figure out the airports and the transportation networks around the cities I visited. Granted, I was never completely alone during these travels but I didn’t have my family to rely on like I usually do. All my parents did (besides pay for a few flights) was receive a copy of my itinerary, which they proceeded to ignore since they kept asking me which country I was headed to next every time I called them to let them know I had safely arrived.
So that’s one way I changed I guess. But just the way I think and the way I view things have changed. Being exposed to two different cultures for extended periods of times really does have an affect on you. It makes you more aware of your cultural identity, makes you appreciate the things you’ve enjoyed, and for me anyways, makes you more open to trying new things. I noticed some of the students in both programs remained closed off to trying new things and clinging to their American ways. Well I mean I suppose I was like that in the beginning, it’s what we were all most comfortable with. But I like to think I opened up to trying new things (esp. in the food department), even though we all know I am not the biggest fan of change.
But I’ve realized (though I’ve always known) change is inevitable. I suppose I was going to experience some kind of change going abroad, however small or big. I think the biggest change I’ve realized is that it’s not all about me. When I say this, I mean about me personally, but about my culture. All countries are to an extent centered on their own existence and care little about what goes on outside of it. I think I’ve realized it’s important to care about what goes on internationally, even though I may not directly be affected. I’ve realized in France and Spain that the news tends to focus a lot on things that happen outside of their countries, especially the US. Obama features prominently on the news. Now I know a lot of Americans will be like “Well he isn’t their president, what do they care?” It goes to show how, pardon the word choice, ignorant some people are of the US’s influence abroad.
Anyways yesterday at my oral presentation about my internship in front of our program director, my boss, and our program coordinator. My boss was dressed up all formally which confused me since he usually wears jeans to work and I got worried I hadn’t dressed formally enough. Turns out he had been to some kind of commemoration ceremony before and that was the only reason he was dressed like that.
Anyways it wasn’t so much a presentation, as much of a discussion. As I predicted, my boss talked a lot about history. You can clearly tell he is passionate about the Resistance and the Deportation, which like I’ve said before, are two movements which occurred WWII. The Resistants were the people resisting against the Nazi occupation in France. A lot of them joined secret networks which passed along information in order to coordinate attacks against the Germans. And a lot of them also got deported, ie they got sent to concentration camps in Germany and were tortured.
Anyways I told my “jury” I had learned A LOT throughout my internship. First off, just reading the texts I had to translate taught me so much about the Resistance, something I had very little knowledge of. They don’t teach us this back at school in the US, we learn everything from the American perspective. What we learn is that the Americans saved the French’s butts during WWII, which isn’t entirely true. Sure we helped out A LOT but it wasn’t like the French were sitting around doing nothing, contrary to popular belief. The Resistance was already at work then. And since WWII is something that affected both sides of my family, it was all very interesting to me to see how people lived back then.
I also talked about how difficult I found translating to be, yet also how rewarding it is. It is like math for people who prefer language arts. You have to find the right word, the right expression in order for it to make sense. One faulty translation and it throws off the entire text, discrediting the entire work. It is incredibly draining, but at the same time it’s like something you need to decode. At the same time I admitted I don’t know if I would have been as comfortable translating from English into French, something I’d find probably a lot tougher. I don’t feel like my level of French (which is very good) would do that kind of translation justice and I envy my dad’s language skills who seems to make translation so effortless. Papa, teach me your translation ways!
And of course I mentioned that even though our seminar had prepared us for the worst when it came to working in a French workplace, I told them I was actually confused because my experience had been so positive. The people at the museum welcomed me with open arms and directly talked to me, instead of ignoring me and pretending like I wasn’t there. My boss agreed with me that because he likes to talk so much with people that the museum is more of an anomaly in the French professional world. He doesn’t insist on much of a hierarchy, the staff is all pretty equal and acts like a family. Also the survivors of WWII who come to the museum to talk about their experiences to the school groups that visit the museum (practically every day I was there) are just another part of that family. According to my boss, all those survivors came to his wedding last summer which just goes to show how close everyone is.
For the most part, I was complimented for my translations and my boss told me he was pretty much blown away by the way I had been able to maintain the style and the “spirit” of the texts. Which is true, I had worked my butt off trying to do that. I had wanted to make sure the English speaking visitors would get the same experience reading those texts that the French ones did and trust me, that was NOT an easy job. It is true when they say things get lost in translation, including meaning. I wanted to make sure I stayed “faithful” to the texts’ original purpose.
So it seems like I did a pretty good job overall. I was embarrassed to be complimented that much since I’m not used to having people praise me that much (other than Mom but she just does that since she is my mom). The one criticism they did have (which I beat myself up for) was that I never did go and listen to any of the survivors recount their stories to the visiting kids. I was that much wrapped up in my work I guess! 😛 And I mean, in a few short years, there won’t be any survivors anymore. My generation is the last generation that will be able to benefit from firsthand listening. Everybody else will need to listen to these people via audio devices.
So yeah, that’s that. I have 2 days left here which means I need to pack, argh. My least favorite part of traveling!! And also getting my haircut soon but don’t expect anything dramatic. I’m only cutting enough off so I don’t need to suffer in the heat this summer.
I wish my fellow study abroaders a safe trip home or safe travels if you will be traveling after your program ends, like I am. I’ll probs write one more entry before I leave France and then I head to Espana.