January 19, 2013 at 8:31 PM
The journey I’m taking began when I was 5 years old. After watching Madeline episodes on repeat, I knew I was destined to go to France.
It was more than the urge to meet Miss Clavel and the 12 little girls in two straight lines, however. I knew I had to study there and speak eloquent French while sitting by the bank of the Seine river.
But now it’s a little harder to leave home -- not just State College, but the place where I grew up: Newtown, Conn. And now, almost a month after the elementary school shooting that left my town devastated and confused, the time has come to leave my small town.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared to leave. I think I am one of the few people who still talk about their hometown with wonderment and enthusiasm, but in December that image was shattered. The events of the past month made me realize tragedies like this can happen anywhere – even in my own backyard.
After watching hearse after hearse roll down Main Street and the grief-stricken faces of local families on every national news channel, Paris will be a nice change of scene.
I can’t help but feel an incredible anger over what happened and the amount of people I know whose lives are in disrepair, but I’m hoping Paris will help me heal. In time, I’m hoping Paris can be my home away from home.
But I know I’ll keep with me a part of the town that led to where I’m going. Newtown is where I spoke my first word of French in Madame Maxwell’s hot, cluttered seventh-grade classroom. Newtown is where I was inducted into the French Honors Society, as I rolled my eyes over the cheesiness of the candle-lit ceremony. Newtown is where I hosted my first French exchange student, fumbling over misspoken words and language barriers.
And now I’m doing what I always dreamed, living in an apartment with a Parisian family. I’m situated on the banks of the Seine, a two-minute walk from the Louvre Museum and four metro stops from my French university.
On Wednesday, I’ll travel to the Loire Valley with the 30 other American students in my program. From there, we will be challenged to only speak French in our lives and in the classroom.
But I’m not too worried. Newtown has brought me to Paris, and for that, I’m forever thankful.