Monthly Archives: May 2012

The unsuspected hell of packing

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There it is, I am leaving. After 9 months in Washington I am going back to France, and more precisely to a socialist France, which makes it all the more fun. It’s important because even if I haven’t completely understood Americans, living in the United States for one year made me a little bit more France (it is the moment when you grab a tissue). For anyone who considers going abroad at some point I would say: do it. When you grow up in a country you take a lot of things for granted and you will never be able to actually take time to think about the logic of such traditions or ways of life if you don’t go live abroad for a while.

Everybody has been asking me for a couple of days : “are you happy to go back?” or “are you sad to go back?”. I am neither of those because I knew up front I would be leaving in May. I am just happy to have finished my finals (I don’t want to upset those who haven’t but it feels great).

Yet, I have one thing left to do: packing, which turned out to be more difficult than what I expected. There are six stages in this process:

1) Optimism: First, you start by thinking you’ll bring everything back because your brother who came for spring break took with him a couple of books and a coat.

2) Coming back to reality : You realize it is not going to happen so you start thinking about what you are going to leave. You start by throwing away every useless piece of paper (you did not intend to bring that back anyway but it makes the drawers look emptier which is reassuring).

3) Skepticism: You decide to leave your old clothes: white T-shirts that turned blue, embarrassing underwear, the cap your running instructor gave you (yes, he is back!).

4) Panic: You have everything you did not care about and your suitcases are still almost full (you have not put your books and dirty clothes in there yet). You start panicking, you check how much it would cost to ship them (a lot). You understand that is not going to happen.

5) Frustration: Your criteria to throw away clothes become stricter: shoes that hurt your feet, T-shirt you can only pair with one skirt, green sweaters (yes, at some point you need to be arbitrary).

6) Resignation: You decide to leave your ukulele behind.

Good luck everybody – GW students, exchange students – with finals, packings, going back home.

Peace from France.

Someday, somewhere, somehow…

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Nineteen years old… I thought reaching that age would make me an adult. That’s exactly how I started my first article four months ago. It was my first day in DC. I wanted to tell the whole world that I was alone. I wanted to let everybody know that I was scared. I wanted to scream and make people realize that I was terrified of being completely on my own. Instead, I spent the night crying. Instead, I drew a huge smile on my face when “Skyping” with my parents and pretended I was the most excited person on Earth. Instead, I decided to keep my fears for myself and promised myself I would try to stay mentally sane until I can finally go back home. I didn’t want to think that things could get better. I didn’t want to believe that this experience could actually turn out to be the best adventure I’ve lived in my entire life.

I perfectly remember that first day in this exact same room where I am writing this right now. But nothing except for the location is the same today. I was in a dark, empty room whose smell reminded me of a hospital. Almost too clean I would say… Today, I am sitting in this room and I can’t help but feel a twinge when I think about how I am leaving this place in two weeks. I am never going to see this homely, cozy and joyful room again. This room was my home for a whole semester, and now I have to say my goodbyes as I am leaving it forever.

I also have to say goodbye to my friends. I realize that I may very likely never see them again. Now I know that there are planes and that technology can help us stay in touch, but I am a very practical and realistic person. Flying to the US or Asia is not something I can do on a monthly basis and with a seven hour time difference between Morocco and the closest of my friends to Africa, I am not sure that finding a suitable time to chat every day is going to be a piece of cake. This is the hardest part, the part where I realize that I am going to have to say goodbye.

Maybe that somehow, if I was so scared on that first day, it was because I was afraid that if I fully enjoyed my time here, that would mean that I didn’t need my family and friends as much as before, or that I don’t actually miss them. Maybe I was scared I wouldn’t find anybody to have such an incredible experience with. Or maybe I was just afraid of actually meeting people, giving them a place in my heart, having the most amazing adventure anybody can wish for and realizing that I am going to have to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes. They shouldn’t exist. People should be together if they want to be together, and I want to stay with my friends. But I want to stay with my family as well. So, unless we all move in with our different families in one specific country in order to live happily ever after, goodbyes are an inevitable necessity.

I started this semester crying, and I am ending it crying again. But these are not tears of fear. These are a beautiful mix of joy, pride and nostalgia. I met so many different people. Some were incredible, others hurt me. But no matter who these people were or how they interacted with me, they all made me a better person. And for that, I truly am grateful. I accomplished a dream that I had. I crossed the Atlantic Ocean, by myself, on my own. Then I have been to the most beautiful and incredible places in the United States, with my friends. I slept in horrible seven dollars a night hotels and I saw Disney World. For God’s sake I saw New York City! I did it. I did all of it and I am proud of what this experience brought to my life and made me realize about myself.  My name is Salma, I am nineteen years old and I am finally ready to become an adult.

Now I am scared of coming back, re-adapting to my old life with my new self. But I won’t let my fears get a hold of me anymore. I can’t allow myself to risk missing out on something great just because it also might be hard. My heart oddly hurts when I think about how I might not see my friends again. Tears unintentionally fill my eyes when I think about their smiles and the magical time we spent together. But I am happy. I am grateful I got to live those moments with those people and I will always think of my time here as being… magical. Just like Alice went to wonderland, I went to the US and there was just as much magic in both those stories. So, goodbye, my friends, goodbye… Who knows, I might see you again someday, somewhere, somehow…