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My Summer in the South of France, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 747

Essay

My summer in the south of France this past year provided more than a few revelations. Oddly, one of the most striking had little to do with where I actually was. It was more the realization that you often do not even know you have a “comfort zone” until you are no longer in it.

As regards a complete shift of environment, these months were for me remarkable. I am both Hispanic and a native of South Florida; moreover, I had only two years of French study behind me, and I was to stay with a family of seven who spoke no English or Spanish at all. If a “comfort zone” is made up of various elements which are so familiar as to be taken for granted, this single factor of the language barrier made me realize how important simple, basic communication is. It is difficult to feel comfortable when you suspect that even the family dogs are listening to you in French.

I had known what it was to be removed from my family setting; three years at boarding school had helped me to adapt to a different mode of living, and one among people who are initially strangers to me. In this case, I was more concerned with the reality of my being an alien presence in a family unit. A family is often the ultimate comfort zone, and I was jumping in headfirst. Then, I realized that anywhere I went there would be, if not as tightly knit as the family hosting me, completely unknown. I wanted badly to be there, yet I was keenly aware of the challenges lying ahead. Somewhere in my mind, I believe, I also just assumed that my own comfort zone would be with me there, as blatantly unrealistic as that is. Such is the power of what we know of as our ordinary lives.

It was not wonderfully easy, certainly in the beginning. The family was kind and welcoming, but I was still a stranger who was not understood by them, as I struggled to make sense of words, landscapes, and behaviors. Today I can say with absolute certainty that I treasure the experience, and that every last bit of anxiety it cost was well worth it, for I learned a great deal about myself. More importantly, I learned a self-reliance I never would have otherwise known.

Being with the family provided a sort of capsule exposure to the greater culture at large; observing and interacting with them on an intimate basis, I gained great insight into how the people of that beautiful region reflect their own culture. With every day, I began to feel that my immersion into the life of the south of France was happening at an exponential rate. Experiencing the food led to talk about it, which helped mutual communication. Then, shared feelings go a long way in breaking down barriers and adding “comfort” to a strange zone; my hosts knew when a village street or a superb dish excited me, and this clearly pleased their sense of native pride, even as it drew us closer together.

Upon returning home, my time in France was an enormous help in my advancing to French 4 honors. The greater advantage, however, will stay with me as a new and empowering sense of adventure, strangely linked to a comfort factor. By this I mean that those months away from home, in France, taught me that I can create a comfort zone wherever I choose to go. As long as I am willing and eager to embrace a different culture, as well as be both respectful of it and aware of my own, inexperienced presence there, I can literally live a different life. The opportunities for new ways of thinking, seeing, and even eating and socializing, seem to me to be endless. All that is required of me is the desire to try, and to do my best to take in as much as I can.

I have learned that a spirit of adventure comes after the first, perhaps anxious, adventure is done. This in turn creates a sense of independence that is, quite literally, freeing. In a world filled with an astounding array of different cultures, I can enjoy each by being sensitive to everything each has to offer. I do plan on returning to France for a semester, as well. After all, it is now my second “comfort zone”, and one in what I hope will be a long list of others.

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