Journal Entry #11 — This Day Will Only Happen Once

Strasbourg buildingsI write this from my room — a new room — on the Centre College campus in Danville, Kentucky. I’m trying to make sense of the last 100 days of my life. On February 11, I boarded a plane headed for Strasbourg, France. Today, I’ve moved back onto campus and I’m preparing to start my summer job.students at a cinema
In the weeks prior to our departure for Strasbourg, my girlfriend Emily asked, “Are you excited to be going abroad for three months?” I replied, “Yeah…I am.” She was upset with me because, while the rest of our Strasbourg classmates were as excited as children on Christmas Eve, I seemed distant and nonchalant concerning the opportunities to come. I was excited but there were other things occupying my brain in the days and weeks before February 11. I still had to take the final exam in Dr. Benjamin Knoll’s CentreTerm class. I was registered to take the LSAT on February 9, but had no real time to study because of the intensity of Dr. Knoll’s class. I was worried about packing enough clothes and I didn’t know if I was mentally prepared for the weather. I was concerned about my family for many reasons. And I was nervous about arranging a summer job and lining up an internship while living 4000 miles away with no telephone access.
Despite all my anxiety, February 11 still came. I took the final in Dr. Knoll’s class and was proud when I learned that my final grade in the course was an A-. I took the LSAT and was so relieved upon completion that I forgot that I would receive my score via email while in France. I packed and readied myself for the weather as I boarded the plane. That’s when it hit me.
“Shoot,” I said, looking at Emily. “We’re going to France. I’m going to France.”
At this point, we were stuck in a massive aluminum glider some 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. I realized that, even if I wanted to renege on my commitment to study in Strasbourg, I couldn’t. So, I watched the in-flight movies offered by Air France and tried to contain my uneasiness. I was tired and I was nervous. Before I knew it, I had been escorted to an apartment in Strasbourg and reality set game
I asked myself, “How did I get here? Why am I here?”
These started as quick questions that qualified my status as a student in Strasbourg. But I used these questions to guide me through the rest of the term as I fought to understand my place in the world.
My analysis of my time in Strasbourg is one that echoes the larger narrative of my time as a fully-realized, growing young adult. I had the fortune to call France home for three months. It became a part of me and I became a part of it. My experiences were wide-ranging and produced varied emotions. Like any other young person in any other part of the world, I experienced ups and downs. I was happy and sad. The difference is that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and boldly went where I hadn’t been before. This is what made my time abroad special. This is what made the time worth it.
I couldn’t have had the experiences I had in Strasbourg in any other place on the planet. I wouldn’t have learned to balance classes during the week and traveling during the weekends if I were on campus in Danville. I wouldn’t have lived with four other men that I didn’t know very well. In any other situation, I wouldn’t have met the people that I had met and wouldn’t have done the things that I had done.
plane at airportThat is the major revelation. My term in Strasbourg was unique because it was mine. I was a first-hand student to the customs of another culture. I took the passport that Centre provided me and I spent three months away from the comfort of family, ESPN, and Centre College’s campus. I made new friends and grew closer to those I already knew. I exercised my freedom to do what I wanted with my free time and refused to do what I didn’t want to do. When things happened that I didn’t like, I couldn’t run to my room on campus and shut the door. I faced those problems head on. When things happened that made me very excited, I was pleased to be able to share them with my best friend.
These past three months were comprised of an ongoing learning process. I learned more about Europe more than I would’ve otherwise. In the same vein, I learned a lot about myself because of the situations that I allowed myself to experience.
I’m fond of the sentiments displayed by the quote, “This day will only happen once.” It’s the perfect way to sum up my feelings about my time in Strasbourg. As a junior in college, I had an opportunity to go to France. I may go back to France and I may even spend time in Strasbourg sometime in the future, but I’ll never get the chance to be a junior in college again. This is why the last three months were, and forever will be, important. My time abroad has shaped who I am and it will continue to do so until the day I die. We’re the sum of our experiences. Understanding that, I feel privileged and honored to say that Centre-in-Strasbourg is one of the many experiences that make up who I am.
by CJ Donald ’14, currently participating in the Centre-in-France study abroad program. Learn more about study abroad in France.
PHOTOS (top to bottom): My last view of Strasbourg the evening before departure to the US, a class trip to the cinema to see “Les Miserables,” our view at a Strasbourg basketball match, and waiting to board a plane in Charlotte (N.C.) for the final leg of my journey home.

By |2013-05-22T14:19:14-04:00May 22nd, 2013|News, Study Abroad, Travel Journals - France|