It’s been one month of living in Rennes, and I can’t quite describe how I feel about that. While this past month seems to have gone by in a hurry, it also feels like it’s been much longer. It seems that the end of first semester is already drawing near, but when I think of going home next summer, this entire year looks never-ending. Time seems to play tricks on you when you’re studying abroad. That’s what I was thinking to myself walking home after class today. It almost feels like I’ve escaped from the world I knew… temporary as that may be, it’s a surreal feeling.
I suppose in a way I have escaped some aspects of what life was like at home. Most specifically, especially during
the first few weeks that I was here, I became accustomed to the idea of not checking social networks every couple hours. You see, my residence underwent huge renovations over the past year, and while these renovations made the place awesome to live in, they also happened to leave us without internet for the first two weeks of living here. They only way I had access to internet was by kindly asking a member of the international student integration association for a school wifi password, or by taking my computer to a café with wifi.
The funny thing was that beyond checking and sending emails, or getting documents together, I didn’t really feel so disconnected here without internet. I checked my facebook account once a day, and maybe sent a tweet or two when I could, but beyond that, I felt like a weight was lifted. Back in Canada, I was always connected somehow whether it be through my computer, since home and school/work were wifi-connected, or my blackberry phone. Considering much of my job required being connected, it didn’t seem like such a bad thing, but looking back, I realise it couldn’t have been healthy to have had the need to check half a dozen websites every few hours, even if I could somehow excuse it as “work”. (I feel like it was getting rid of the smartphone that helped this transition most. Now, I simply use a regular phone to keep in contact via regular text or call to find out what’s up).
I feel like this is somewhat of a confession of my “addiction” to the internet, but yet I feel no guilt. I remember what it was like at my university at home, and the way people were constantly tapping away at a keyboard or touchscreen, even at a party or out with friends. The mentality to do that barely exists here (among the international students at least), unless you’re desperately trying to find a friend who hasn’t shown up, or who has gone missing.
What has changed in my life as a direct result of this phenomenon has been my outlook towards how we spend
our time. As I mentioned in my Jumpstart program speech, a previous post you can find below, interesting people have interesting stories. People love to follow the stories of others through our social networks (facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc), yet we don’t make the same effort to tell our own. Being on exchange opened my eyes to that a lot more. Day-to-day life involves many of the same mundane tasks here in France as it did in Toronto. I still need to grocery shop, go to the bank, pay my rent, study for class, etc. But it’s when I go out and do something different, even the simplest things, do I realize how much I don’t experience life as I should have been at home. It’s so easy to make excuses as to why you shouldn’t go down to the lake or the islands, have a coffee, and read a book or take photos (“I woke up too late, and I have work to do later, and it’s far away, and why bother…”), yet you’ll just end up on the internet, tapping “Like” on the photo your friend took while going out and doing something just as simple.
You don’t need to go off to another country to make every day a day of exploration and simple enjoyment. It doesn’t have to be espresso and a croissant while gazing at the Eiffel Tower across the Seine. All you need is a willingness to bust out of the routine, have the confidence or independence to get out of residence/home/bed and get out there (especially if you’ve come to a new city!), and make the day yours to enjoy. Maybe it won’t turn out as you thought it would, and maybe it could lead you on a unpredictable adventure through town, but in the end, you’ll certainly feel better about the effort you’re making, and the life you’re living at the end of the day.