The last time I went to France was the summer of 2005. It was the first time I’d left the country, and was something I’d dreamt of since I was a child. And I’m not exaggerating, I first start talking about going to France when I was a little girl. I wanted to see the castles and the sparkling Eiffel Tower, I wanted to speak French and eat crepes, and be fashionable and experience the world outside of America. And so between my sophomore and junior years at Ohio State, I took out a big ‘ol student loan-because that was the only way ever that this would happen- and signed up for the program and went (I still may have been ultra poor in terms of spending money and called the parents for help a few times, thanks guys). I lived on baguettes and cheese and occasionally croissants dipped in mayonnaise (disgusting, yes). And I’m still paying off those student loans, although it’s mostly for grad school, now, and I still don’t regret it a single bit. Studying abroad was the start of something for me. It was a chance to do the most superficial and yet most life-changing part of college life that I could get. I was dumb, and drunk, and silly, and a complete American tourist. But I learned so much about myself and what I was capable of and what it was like to go out into the world “alone”. And I was inspired. If I hadn’t taken that leap and studied in Dijon that summer, I don’t know if i would have had the same experiences that led me to apply for World Teach after graduating, which led to me going to the Marshall Islands, then South Korea, and now England (with so many places in between). The privilege of being able to join the masses of ignorant college kids, coming from a background where travel out of Ohio was barely an option, and travel out of the country that’s not on a cruise ship?, uh no. It was a big deal. And I know that study abroad as a program has its own issues and is not in reach of many, many kids, but if I could pay for everyone to do it, I would. It changes how you see things, how you view and participate in the world, and how you recognize that you are a tiny speck in a big big world, and everything that you have known is not the way that everything is.
Anyway, this turned much longer than I meant it to. What a rambling screed, eh? What I’m saying is that 7 years ago I went to France, and it was a big deal for me then, and today I’m taking a train from my home in England with my English husband that I met when I was living in South Korea, to visit one of my best friends in Paris, and hot damn if 7 years ago Ashley had known that someday this would be her life?? You could have knocked her over with a feather. (Or maybe not, that Ashley was pretty overly optimistic as a person).