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  • Writer's pictureEmma Nichols

breathe in: june. breathe out: leaving france.

Welcome back travelers, after a veryyy long pause! Thank you for continuing to support my blog and all of the experiences I'm tackling head-on. I'm so grateful for all of the support, messages, and love that you've provided me with this year.

With that being said, and with the seemingly somber title of this post, it is officially the last month of my internship in France. Even more - I only have 2 weeks left until my contract is finished, and I join my family in Paris for our first European family vacation together. While I am over the moon that my family is coming to "pick me up", we'll say, and will have the opportunity to see me in my new habitat, it has also been hard to really make myself realize that this chapter of my life is coming to a close. Now, that's not to say I'm not ever going to come back to France - frankly, all I can think about is fitting more and more France into my life! But I am just as excited about the prospect of coming home and starting the next chapter and adventure and challenge of my life at Oregon State University. I feel like the word bittersweet is the closest I can come to putting how I feel into words. While it will be hard to leave all of this behind, it will never really leave me, as it has helped shape the new woman that I am and it can only inspire me to keep growing and learning more languages and cultures. So, with all that being said - let's talk about these last two months and what I've been up to!

After returning from an incredible vacation during the last two weeks of April, where I visited the city of Annecy, France, in the east, and then headed north to the Netherlands, I hopped back into the "daily life" that I lead. The last week of May held a new experience - one of my dearest friends, Stella, came to visit me from New York for a week. Stella has been the first person to visit me from the US since I've moved here, and I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to show her around my new life here and everything I've discovered, and all the ways that I've grown.

I felt so honored to hear her tell me how proud of me she was for finding my way and forging my path here, as Stella is someone I really look up to for her strength, bravery, ingenuity, and maturity. It was cool to see Bordeaux through the "eyes of a foreigner" again and remind myself truly how different European life is from that of Americans. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I'm so glad I got to see Stella and share that adventure with her.

As June entered, I recently realized I've taken significantly fewer photos than usual. I attribute this to being so involved in the moments that I treasure that I don't need to take as many to try to keep a physical memory of them. Not to say I still don't take photos - I'd be lying if I said 50% of my Google Cloud storage wasn't made up of just photos. All that to say, I'm really working on staying in the moment during everything I do, whether I'm working with my five-year-olds in class or going out to dinner with friends, I'm finding something special in every moment. I think that when you search for beauty in the world, you start to see it show up everywhere. It's a really precious thing. I wanted to share a very special moment that happened two weeks ago - at my work, we held an end-of-the-year diploma assembly, where every student from K-12 received a diploma for finishing this year, and certain students received kudos from their teachers, for being one of the kindest students in the class to being a regional math champion. It filled my heart to be there, reminding me so much of my own graduation ceremony the year before. After all students were awarded their diplomas and props, one of the principals mentioned how they wanted to thank someone else who had been a big part of the school community this year - and she then proceeded to call my name and motion me up on stage.

"America, recognized for its collaboration; Congratulations to Emma Nichols, a year by the sides of our Albertins and Albertines (students) of all ages."

I was frozen in shock for a moment, then went up in front of the 200 students sitting in front of the stage to receive my honorary diploma from the school and engraved pens with the school logo. As I was walking up, all of my sixth-grade students started a chant, and all I heard was, "Emma! Emma! Emma!" echoing through the courtyard. When I say that this was like a movie moment, I'm not exaggerating.

I could not be more thankful for this school, these people, and this year. I couldn't imagine my life without it. I feel like such a big part of my person has molded to include France in it. I've learned more during the last ten months about myself, life, and world cultures than I ever could have imagined.

I am at a loss for words most of the time when people ask me what my favorite part about France is. I could say "the people, the language, the fact that I'm expected to eat baguette with almost every meal". But the reality is, my favorite thing about France is how at home I feel here, even after arriving and realizing that I didn't speak as much French as I thought. I could've never imagined that after only ten months in Europe, I've found myself, my purpose in life, and pure happiness.



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