You might think “France? What’s so difficult about living in France? That would be a dream!” You’re not completely wrong. Living in France can be dreamy. Having just arrived, it probably is pretty dreamy right now. It’s probably not as difficult to live and adjust there as it would be in a non-western country. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, no matter where you find yourself. The first three months are probably the hardest; opening a bank account, finding or changing housing, getting insurance, getting a phone, building a support network, getting CAF, and all the bureaucratic stuff. It gets easier, but there will be bumps of various sizes in the road which might make things difficult for a while. Here are some important things to remember if you’re feeling down.
If my experiences abroad, especially the first one, taught me anything, it would be that you will encounter stumbling blocks and most often, you will have to face them alone. These might be things you wouldn’t even know how to go about in your own country. Don’t let these experiences make you fall. They will make you stronger if you let them do so. The negativity won’t last forever. Everything will be ok in the end because that’s how it has to be, even if it doesn’t end the way you hoped. Remember that.
You may not be in Peace Corps (or maybe you are if you’re reading this and that’s pretty freaking awesome), but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel down at times. Just make sure to get yourself back up. There’s many times I wanted to drown myself in chocolate and tea. So I did. Healthy? Maybe the tea. But it’s ok to indulge yourself sometimes. Be patient with yourself.
You have to learn that you are a strong and independent individual who must believe in themself and that even if you’re not as strong as you want to be, the only way to get stronger is to fight for yourself and what is right.
You have to learn to stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone’s experience will be different, so focus on making the best of your own and supporting those around you. Just because you’re having a rough spot and others aren’t doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong.
Adaptation. You can do it. It takes time. You can’t rush it, though getting involved in your community helps. Get involved with something as soon as possible. Try a bunch of things and then find a few to stick with.
Life’s not fair. Things will happen that are out of your control. They won’t be your fault, but you’ll still have to suffer because of them. I came back from March break to find my window cracked. I didn’t do it, but I had to pay for it and figure out who to call and what to do on my own. While the struggles suck in the moment, they’re usually not as bad as you think they are. And you know what, even if it is horrible, when something is out of your control, it’s out of your control. You can only do so much, so just try to learn something from the experience. Pick your battles wisely, do what you can do. There’s no use stressing out over something you can’t change. Easier said than done.
Learning to work with others who are quite different from you. Not everyone will like you. You won’t like everyone. People have different motivations and priorities. You can still work peacefully together and even make friends you wouldn’t normally choose. These may or may not be the most fulfilling relationships in your life, but they will be instructional. That’s important.
It’s ok to be alone. Sometimes, you may travel alone. It can be quite liberating, actually. Maybe you won’t end up making many good friends or it takes a long time to develop relationships. It’s important to learn to enjoy your own company.
Most of all, you can do this, and TAPIF will be a great experience if you choose.