Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm baaaaack

Jardin du Luxembourg on a beautiful spring day

I'm horrible, I know! Okay, so I have had entries written out, saved for later to be finalized, and then sort of..forgotten. I witness potential blog entries nearly every day, and then I get home and catch up on e-mails and eat dinner and zone know.

Anyway. The last month. So, I had this whole long entry written about how I had too many choices for the next year and I just didn't know what to do, quarter-life crisis business, etc. Here's the abbreviated version since I know I get long-winded:
I seriously have considered moving to:
--New York
--Paris (staying)
All would be for studying, or working for a year and then studying (to get in-state residency, for first two). All of these possibilities sound just grand, and I like each one for different reasons--New York for the budding journalist in me/big giant city, Florida for the warm weather and really good program at UF, Germany for an exchange through my old university and friends that live there, and Korea for ridiculous good money (teaching English) and a totally different culture for a year.

Ultimately, I've decided to try to stay in Paris. For a number of reasons. The first being that I'm already here. Hardest part is crossed off the list. Add to that that:
--I have a valid, renewable visa
--I have a job for the next year
--Grad school costs a whopping 231€ per year
--I speak French and know the culture well enough to get around comfortably
--World's best health insurance
--There are a few programs that I really like that I have yet to see in the States
--Did I mention that it grad school costs 231€ per year
--Traveling is easy and fairly cheap

Of course, there are some downsides to it as well. I'm committing for at least two years, maybe more. This is the hardest part for me--to know that I won't be near my home country, friends, and family for long stretches of time. I'd say I'm a pretty good expat; I don't really get homesick much, and I think I've adapted well to living in another country (most days). But I am missing out on life at home, too. Siblings and cousins will have grown and not only be taller than me, but closer to adults that I feel like they should be. I remember this being a weird sensation when I came back home in 2007--as if the world I left in the US was going to be exactly how I'd left it 18 months before. But my little sister had gotten older, her face longer than I'd remembered, the "baby" roundness diminishing with each month. New stores had popped up in the former cornfields, my university had changed the names of its buildings, and music I'd never heard was on the radio. It was surreal, as if my own country were foreign to me, kind of. I coined it "reverse culture shock," but I doubt I'm the first person to ever use this term.

There were stories that I wasn't a part of, most of my friends had graduated and moved on, and I had to start from scratch--new job, new apartment, new roommates, new friends, new classes. That first summer back was tough sometimes--I missed Paris, I missed speaking French, and I missed the family I had worked for. But I survived. The American in me came back, with maybe a little European flair for fun. I had a really great last two years at college. I have to think about the amazing opportunities I could have here, too. I'm always going to be missing something, somewhere. All I can hope is to catch enough good from both places.

This isn't a finality--I haven't yet been accepted, and I'm not necessarily a shoe-in just because I'm a foreigner who speaks English as a mother tongue. The programs I'm applying to do have limits of how many people they accept, but I haven't seen anything seeing exactly how many people apply. What am I applying for? In general, international media/culture studies. There are a few tracks, one being more focused on culture, one more on media, and one on the creative industry--page layout, websites, etc. The cool thing is that they are bilingual--and I won't be signing up for the English/French program. I'm (eek) trying to get into the Spanish/French program. The application process is a pain, especially the part where I have to fork over tear-inducing amounts of money to get my transcripts and diplomas translated. In addition, I have to write a detailed cover letter and CV (in French), and give a 20-minute interview in French and Spanish. But the scariest part? A three-hour exam where I'm given documents in Spanish and have to write a 2-page resume in French. I've been putting off studying this because it scares me..but I need to get my ass over to the library soon and get to work. It's not just the Spanish that I'm worried about that--I can study that and prepare answers to potential questions. I'm actually more worried about the format and way the French write their essays. They have a certain format--ie, this piece of information is presented here, transitional phrases must be used in certain places, blah blah. I'm giving myself an ulcer so I'm going to stop thinking about it for tonight.

If I'm not accepted, I'll have to reorganize my plans. I don't know if I want to live here another year just as an elementary school teacher making a piddly salary per month. From what people tell me, it's not as hard to get in as they make it out to be--some departments really need students to keep up the quota, and in general, French universities are not nearly as competitive as their American counterparts (except the elite "Grandes Ecoles"). I also have advantage already speaking English, since a lot of the programs strongly recommend a good level of it to apply. But I'm not going to let myself think I have any better of a chance than anyone else. I've already finished my CV, half of my cover letter, and my transcripts are in northern Paris being read over as we speak. More than anything, I need to work on my skills reading and resuming texts, and of course, my Spanish. I bring my Spanish grammar book with me everywhere, and I'm reading Camus' famous L'Etranger (The Stranger) in Spanish (El Extranjero) since I know the story and can understand it a bit easier.

Alright, so much for not being long-winded. I hereby promise to not suck so much as posting. It's my 25th birthday resolution (as of yesterday..I'm offically old). I recently went on vacation, and I will soon post pictures of my little escapades around Europe. Paris isn't too bad, either! I was out and about in Paris the first week of my vacation, when it actually felt like spring here. No such luck since last week--I've had to (re)pull out my winter coat and make pouty faces on my way to work in the morning (as if 7:15 am wasn't bad enough on its own).

Seriously lucky.

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