A Month in Vichy

I have to say, I can’t believe that my month in Vichy is already over. It seems like just yesterday I arrived here, totally lost and more nervous than I would have liked to admit. I didn’t even know what my host family looked like, much less what they would be like. But all of that seemed to melt away when I stepped off the train in Vichy and a kind-looking middle aged man walked up to me. His name was Jean Pierre Ducros (one of the most French sounding names I have ever heard), and he was my host dad for this last month. I always wandered how he knew which passenger was me, but he probably just went up to the most lost and confused-looking adolescent male with an oversized suitcase. And I’ve also been described as “painfully American” (thanks Hennessey Chism). Maybe that gave it away. But either way, Jean Pierre and Marie are some of the kindest people you could ever meet. Besides being fun to be around and fantastic cooks, they helped me make the most out of these past 4 weeks. When I went to Lyon, they gave me a map, pointing out all of the must-see locations. Every day, they helped me better appreciate all the things I want to remember about Vichy, and helped me learn and grow from all the things that maybe I don’t really want to remember. And that, I think, is something I never expected from studying abroad. Did I expect to learn French? Yes. Has my French improved? Definitely. But French is not half of what I’ve learned here. Not by a long shot. I spent four weeks in France with people from 6 different continents. I meet people that I never would have expected to come in contact with, much less come to love. Alaa from Bahrain. Martina from Switzerland. Carlos and Camilo from Colombia. Nicholas from Colorado. Fauzan from Indonesia. Schalia from Iraq (though she one day wants to say she’s from the country of Kurdistan). Fatima from Mexico. Omar from Saudi Arabia. Hee-un from South Korea. Han from China. Paula and Isabelle from Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner). Kiera from Australia. Pinar from Turkey. Alex and Karina from Michigan. Jodok from Switzerland. Ragna from Sweden. The list goes on and on. And I didn’t just study with these people. We lived life together. We climbed volcanoes to see ancient Roman ruins. We explored cathedrals and basilicas on the top of mountains. We found tiny little places in Vichy that became tiny little places in our hearts. And of course, all of the little things made Vichy the beautiful experience it was. Wandering aimlessly through Lyon, munching on crepes and talking. Eating sandwiches in a park created by Napolean III. Sitting at a tiny cafe (the Canotage) next to the Allier river, eating cheese and bread. Oh, Jesus, I ate so much cheese and bread. So, even though it wasn’t a perfect month and I might have gained a pound or two, I don’t care. Life isn’t perfect, and we learn just as much from our mistakes as from our successes, and we learn even more from our friends. Thanks to them, I can honestly say I got the education of a lifetime. So to Vichy, I say à bientôt, parce que je reviendrai. And to my friends, merci beaucoup. Je vous aime, et je ne vous oublierai jamais.

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