I really hate to admit this, but yes, I miss home. 😦
Never thought that I would, but oh man, the feeling hit me hard last week. I had just returned from an exhausting, but amazing twelve-day vacation throughout Europe (which you can read about here), and was getting back into the swing of things at work. Perhaps it was the struggle of getting readjusted to work, or maybe the fact that I was leading my classes for the first time, on my own.
But by the end of that week, I was really feeling drained, discouraged, even isolated in the comforts of my flat in my small town. Throughout the week, I kept asking myself why I was feeling this way, so low and deep in my thoughts.
Then, I realized it: I was homesick.
It’s amazing that I have been able to get through the first two months in France without the nagging feeling of wanting to go back home. I had told myself that being in France was an adventure, and that I was going to take full advantage of it by traveling all over the country, and then some throughout the rest of Europe. For those two months, I kept myself busy, spending almost every weekend and free time in different cities throughout the Normandy region, exploring with other fellow assistants and whatnot. As already mentioned, I had a fantastic time backpacking through Europe during les vacances de la Toussaint, and felt that all was well abroad.
But then coming back to reality (aka “work”) afterwards kind of made me realize how difficult it was not only to teach students, but also to integrate into my small town in Normandy. Again, that was my first full week of conducting classes on my own; I had forgotten how crazy high school (let alone le lycée in France) was, with angsty, apathetic teenagers, over-worked professors who just didn’t give a shit, and the fear of not fitting in at school.
The fear of judgment.
I have already touched on my personal experiences being “othered” in France because of my Asian origins (which you can find here). But still, I do not feel comfortable here, not because it’s unsafe (in fact, my town is very safe- helps that it’s isolated, I suppose), but because I am American, not French. I can speak French, but not fluently, and many of the people in my town do not know much English, if any. In that way, the language barrier makes it even harder to feel at ease with others, and I am pretty sure that people have talked about me behind my back. Good or bad, I don’t care- what I do care is that I am the subject of their conversation.
…and that makes me uncomfortable.
During my first week teaching at the collège (middle school), I had a minor breakdown in the staff room. Basically, I cried, and my colleagues saw me. Super embarrassing, but what triggered it was the fact that I was overwhelmed by the number of people in the room, all laughing and speaking a language that I was familiar with, but also not adept in. The staff wasn’t being malicious; in fact, they were super welcoming. But again, it was all too much.
Teaching at the lycée last week really jolted me. I had expectations for how my classes were going to be, but I didn’t realize that it would be harder than it was. I won’t go into too much detail of my lessons, but basically I was left feeling frustrated and discouraged from the students (majority of whom are decent, but there are those who don’t give a shit about learning English), as well as myself for being paralyzed by fear to interact with the staff. The introvert in me came out, and was in full over-drive that week. Not good.
Then, the issue of living in my flat: don’t get me wrong, I like my flat. It has most things that I need to live comfortably, and the monthly rent is reasonable. But again, it’s in a small town, not a lot of things to do, and isolated from the big cities. I am about 40 to 45 minutes away from the nearest city, and I do my best to go out and explore in my free time. But I can’t do it every day, and so the times when I am at home, I am bored. I don’t have roommates, and the other assistants are living in the cities. Haven’t made friends in my town, since they are either students (which would be weird if I was buddy-buddy with them), colleagues (who are nice, but again, the language/cultural barriers), and the locals, most of whom are over the age of forty.
By being cooped up in my flat for a long time now, I found myself wishing for my family and friends. Even if my parents drive me nuts most of the time, I do miss them- took until now to realize that. I have been good with staying in touch with them through international texting apps and whatnot, as well as with my friends back home, but we’re all busy with our own lives, and so it’s not like I can talk to them all day everyday. Plus, the nine-hour time difference doesn’t help, either. 😦
I have discussed this feeling of homesickness with other assistants, and they said that they can relate, too. Although not with the British assistants- they have no reason to feel homesick, since they are just a boat ride away from the coast! Plus their money issue is not as bad as the American’s, since they are here on grants and scholarships. Psshh.
Anyway, I’m off-topic…
While I have expressed my thoughts to people like me, I don’t dare do so with my parents and colleagues at school. Even though they might be understanding and whatnot, I have a feeling that they might also be rather…patronizing to my state of being. Saying things like, “oh, you poor thing” or “it must have been a shock for you to have arrived in France, all the way from America.” Trust me: I’ve already gotten those comments, even before feeling homesick. Personally, I find them more insulting than sympathetic, and so that’s why I’ve done my best to say that I’m doing fine.
I have been rambling on for too long. This post is probably all over the place, but I feel a bit better writing all of this to you. Taking some time to cool off before writing this out helped, too.
What I want to say is that, while I like being in France and all, there are going to be challenges with teaching at school and fitting into my isolated town that will continue to test me. I know that I will have to keep going forward, make changes to myself (e.g. be more open to others, make an effort to be less introverted and shy), and just be more…patient. After all, it is still relatively early for me, as I have only been in France for two months. I still have another six months to go, and so I will need to keep adapting and adjusting to it all- the language, the culture, the society.
Thank you for reading up to this point. Just needed to let some things out, as well as figure out how to move forward. I think that I will be okay- again, it’ll just take time. Thanks again, and have a good day.
— The Finicky Cynic
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