My biggest dream for as long as I can remember was to study in France and travel the world. Right after graduating, I found an amazing hospitality and tourism school that allowed me to learn everything I had ever wanted. My life changed when I was accepted: I began to plan, to dream and to say goodbye to Colombia. Leaving meant opening a door to the unknown.
When I boarded the plane, I questioned whether I was making the right choice. My life in Colombia was comfortable, so I wondered why I really needed to leave. I was moving 8500 km away from home. But I knew I had to leave to start building my own way through the world.
I used to think that French people were aggressive, rude and even close-minded. I can’t deny that it was hard for me to make my way into their culture. French people are known worldwide as perfectionists; France is a country of culture, history and gastronomy, and Paris is the city of light and love. They have every right to be proud of their country.
I chose to move to a small city where I had no one, and it was definitely the perfect way to stop hiding and immerse myself in a new culture.
Bordeaux welcomed me with open arms and sunny skies, but for the first few months I felt like an outsider in the beautiful city. People are kind in southern France, so I used that to my advantage. Everything I used to do alone, I started doing by myself: I went to see movies, to restaurants, to parks and even to the beach alone. While doing these things alone in Colombia seemed socially unacceptable, in France it was normal. Plenty of people were doing the same.
With a croissant in one hand and a chocolat viennois in the other, I started sneaking into the French way of life. I got used to shops being closed everyday between 12:30 and 3 or 4 pm, and to making Sundays the official day of staying in and watching TV because everything was closed. I started buying my groceries in different places: freshly-baked bread from the boulangerie, cheeses from the fromagerie, meat from the boucherie, fruits and vegetables from local farmers, and the rest from the Carrefour supermarket next to my place. Thursdays were the day to go out with friends (yes, even if everyone had class on Friday) because many of them would go home at the weekend to see their families. I tasted food that I had never eaten before, and actually enjoyed them (although I still don’t like escargots or moules, while I love foie gras, raclette and all sorts of wine).
I came to understand that we are all struggling with something, and that sometimes it’s good to share your stories with strangers; you never know who will relate to you.
Once I felt comfortable changing my schedule and mannerisms, I felt 80% more comfortable with people I didn’t know. I started to ask more questions about things I was curious about (ingredients in a dish, directions, the meaning of words) and started making friends. I started traveling to other cities, and then other countries. I was surprised to find it so easy to travel, by train, bus, airplane, or simply getting in a car with someone going to my destination, with a service called Blablacar.
I chose to move to a small city where I had no one, and it was definitely the perfect way to stop hiding and immerse myself in a new culture. The French people opened up my mind and gave me the courage that I was missing to discover the world. I came to understand that we are all struggling with something, and that sometimes it’s good to share your stories with strangers; you never know who will relate to you.
Leaving Colombia was the hardest thing I have ever done, but living in Europe has been worth it. My love for France has grown enormously; when I first arrived I wasn’t really fond of it, but now I can’t imagine living or studying anywhere else. Maybe next year I’ll go somewhere else, but here I’ve learned some of the lessons I value the most. In every street, village, city, or country that I have been to, I have left a small part of me and taken something new. Home is not four walls anymore, it is everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I haven’t.