Greetings! I’m Emmie, a Greenheart First-Time Traveler 2019 Scholarship Winner. I chose to spend one month of my summer in France at a Homestay teaching English. I’ve learned so many valuable lessons about France, people and customs across the world, and new things about myself and my role in it all. I’m eager to share how I made the most out of my first experience living abroad!
A funny interaction happened one weekday night during my second week in Tarbes, France. I had just cleaned my plate of another delectable local favorite: duck. My host parents asked if I wanted anymore, and I replied “Non merci, je suis pleine.” A beat. They looked at each other, then at me. Imagine my reaction when they told me, “You just said you’re pregnant…with an animal.”
Language is just a tool. If that tool isn’t serving you in your host country, pick a different one! Between knowing a little bit of vocabulary of the other person’s language, charades, and Google Translate, my host family and I communicated fine. My first two weeks in Tarbes, I would get frustrated because I wanted to understand everything immediately. Once I came to terms with the fact that I would not be fluent in ONE MONTH, and I need to soak up as much as I can, it was high flying. Try the best you can. Who cares? Maybe a great story will come out of it for the folks at home.
Greenheart Travel encourages its participants to make SMART goals before traveling. Similarly, I encourage a traveler to have a motto for her experience. Anytime I felt apprehensive or homesick, I repeated to myself my motto for the trip: carpe diem. Every second abroad is a gift, and there’s not a moment to waste. Whether it’s “hakuna matata”, “#blessed”, or “I can’t believe I’m really here”, having a travel motto will keep your mind focused on the present moment, getting the most out of your voyage.
Drift toward action like a moth to a flame. As long as it’s safe, say yes every chance you get. You could sleep in tomorrow morning, or you could check out the arts and crafts festival happening in town. You could go with the popular judgment that foie gras is disgusting, or you could try it and decide for yourself. Keep your eyes and ears open to new experiences – half of the things I did occurred by happenstance, just walking around and seeing what was going on, or reading a flyer in a local cafe. And don’t forget to use your best resource – your host family!
Reflecting on my own trip abroad, I became a better version of myself in France. I gained a useful perspective on the world and on myself, continually conscious of how others were perceiving the country and people I represent. After living in another country for a while, you’ll feel like there’s nothing you can’t overcome. Your adventure with Greenheart will a once in a lifetime experience; live every day to it’s fullest!
Emmie Dohse, from Washington D.C., is a Greenheart Travel First Time Traveler Scholarship recipient. Learn more about Greenheart Travel’s scholarship opportunities to help you travel for a change!