Letters from Abroad: Dating an Entire Country

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Letters from Abroad: Dating an Entire Country

Jules Struck ’19, Abroad Columnist

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As it turns out, studying abroad is largely an exercise in humiliation. And, with the same gleeful venom as any native New Yorker, metropolitan Toulousains have been quick to revel in my frequent mistakes.

Two weeks into my French adventures and I have been reprimanded by a bus driver for expecting the bus to stop for just me in the middle of the street (I thought you had to wave it down, whoops,) been chased off a mountain for trespassing (the trail markers weren’t clear…) and announced loudly to some 20 museum goers that the ancient Romans were known for their innovation in giving blowjobs (“pipes,” pronounced with a French accent is not, in fact, a water conduit.) So beware, those of you who feel inclined towards exchange, the going is not always easy.

If you, like me, embarrass easily, you may wonder why anyone goes abroad at all. Well, you learn incredibly quickly because you have to. There is no way to get around speaking French in Toulouse, short of emphatically gesturing your desires to bemused natives. I have acquired more vocabulary in the past week than I would have in a month of traditional courses; the type of words one would be hard-pressed to find in any textbook.

Oh, and the crepes are damn good.

But I don’t need to convince you with the food, you already know the cheese and the drinking age will be fun. The truth is, it’s impossible to be bored in class because even when the teacher is droning on about the history of the XIX République, your brain is constantly engaged in trying to understand a different language. Every conversation is stimulating; everyone is interesting and has something new to share with you. It’s basically like the first months of dating, but your significant other is an entire country.

So take the plunge, not despite the fact that studying abroad isn’t easy, but because studying abroad isn’t easy. It’s sometimes humiliating, often uncomfortable, a little bit surreal and totally, completely thrilling.

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