Timeline of a Voyage Home.

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18h00  – I’m at the university to print my boarding pass, do online check in and say final goodbyes to some of my closest friends. The day has been a bit slow, trying to tie up loose ends and make sure that I’ve packed everything, while recovering from the huge dinner and party last night. Seven of us had come together for a dinner beginning with camembert and bread, salmon for some, and comté with an italian honey and walnut mixture, as well as a delicious salad composed of lettuce, apple, onion, and walnuts with a homemade dressing. Dinner was an amazing mushroom and onion risotto, and for desert, a tiramisu flavour ice cream. All was complete with plenty of wine and accompanied by Vampire Weekend and Santana.  The night out was an apartment party with most of the remaining exchange students. Goodbyes and overindulgence.

18h50   – One of my best friends accompanied me to the train station in Rennes and has just left. I hate saying goodbye. It’s similar when I hear someone I know has died. I feel very little in the moment, just empty. It’s not until later that I realize what has happened, and then it’s too late.

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19h03  – Train departs the station, and the empty feeling is in my head. Earlier I was thinking about how strange it will be to be home. Now, I have difficulty to think of anything but the moment I’m in.

19h43 – A scenario just played out in my head of where I could go for fountain pen ink back home and how I would ask someone. Random hypothetical daydream of no importance. Out of nowhere, my stomach sinks and I feel the weight of leaving again. It’s gone, and unfortunately so is any focus I might have had on what I was trying to work on.

21h15 – Train has arrived and I’m now staring down a teenager in the metro who isn’t doing a good job of hiding that he would like to pickpocket me. That’s the trick. Recognize them and make them feel uncomfortably aware that you’re aware of them. Naturally, it’s also pouring rain in Paris. Super end to this little voyage.

23h30 – I’m in an Irish pub not only to say farewell to several of my friends who live in Paris but also to meet a few new people. “How does it feel to be leaving in… 9 hours?!?” Numb.

4h35 – The suffering I’m willing to put up with for a cheap flight.

Truth.

Truth.

5h45 – Finally in the Roissybus on the way to the airport. My flight leaves in 3 hours and the trajectory for the bus is about an hour to my terminal. My stomach is turning and and I’m nervous. It’s really happening now… and I’m being paranoid about my flight.

6h50 – Wow. I didn’t expect there to be so many people here this early in the morning. I wonder where that huge, crowded lineup is heading.

1 min later…

Oh, sh*t.

2 mins later…

Whoever came up with online check in and being able to print a boarding pass from home is a bloody genius. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so grateful for having planned ahead. Other than some book shuffling (1.5 kilo from one bag to another), my luggage was good to go.

7h15 – Seems I’ve completely lost my ability to be ridiculously efficient when passing security. That was embarrassing.

7h30 – Ballentine’s or Johnny Walker Red Label ? Decisions, decisions. At least if I spend enough time mulling over this duty-free decision, I won’t have much time to think about the moment. Finally, instead of being unable to think about anything but the moment, now it feels I should avoid it at all costs.

7h45 – They definitely said on the website that there was a smoking room somewhere in here…. Disappointing. And I’m starving.

You said it, Belmondo.

You said it, Belmondo.

8h25 – They have begun the boarding and though I’m generally relaxed and calm about flying there’s still one thing that ends up annoying me.The people, before their seat row has been called, who insist on standing in front of the airline employees who check your ticket. It drives me nuts, We’re all going to the same place, the plane isn’t going to leave without you, chill it out. And for some reason we’re taking a shuttle bus to the plane. Ça change un peu.

8h45 – When I checked in I asked to switch for a window seat. Not only did an old man take the seat but the window isn’t lined up so it’s useless. And I’m right beside the toilets. I lied. I don’t love flying unless I get what I want. And once I can’t have my window, away from the toilet, nor can I sleep, I may just use the rest of my euros to deplete  the stock of…

And as I was writing that, an older French woman came up to say that I was in her seat. Turns out that the man next to me was lost and in my seat. I win!

9h22  – We take off. Interesting fact that I learned a few months ago I would like to share (regardless of whether or not it’s true) but it turns out that the reason you can’t have electronic devices turned on during the take off or landing of a plane is because those are the times in which an accident is most likely to occur. In this case, they want to ensure they have your full and undivided attention when instructions might need to be given, rather than you just keep continuing to play Angry Birds.

 

10h12  – Somewhere over England or Wales. Really hungry. I filled out my customs paper and as per usually, just threw down a random number. I mean, after 9 months, who cares how much I’m bringing back. I think I earned it.

14h00 – Have been sleeping and listening to music for the past while. I feel fine about going home, I suppose. I can’t tell if I’m handling it well or if I’m still not getting it. In any case, I’m watching the episode of FRIENDS when Joey wants to learn French, but I’m watching it in French because I wanted to see what language he would be learning. Spanish. We’re almost over Newfoundland.

15h38/9h38 – I don’t know whether to use Paris time or Toronto time. We’re somewhere over the Saint Lawrence basin and as I stare at the map screen telling me that rests only an hour and a half until we land and I see where I am, it finally feels really real. And thoughts flash back through snapshots in my memory of these past few weeks and forward to once again being on the 401 highway seeing the CN Tower in the distance on the way home. Everything feels heavy and sick. I can’t stop wondering about how life will move on from here. Whether I’ll see many of the amazing people I’ve met, ever again. Whether I’ll ever have the opportunity to go back. I was super lucky and privileged to have this experience.

exchange students

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About Drew

A student at the bilingual Glendon Campus of York University in Toronto, Canada, I also work as an eAmbassador in Student Recruitment and Applicant Relations. Currently studying Political Science as an international Bachelor of Arts, with a Certificate of Law and Social Thought. Last year, I was on exchange in Rennes, France studying at l'Institut d'études politiques.
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