Travel Journal #1 – I Don't Know

My mother knows me better than anyone else and I’d like to think that the opposite is true also. Because we know each other so well and spend so much time together, we are alike in many ways. We share, aside from nuclear and cytoplasmic material, dogged stubbornness, and we both yearn to know.
As a new initiate of the “I Am the 85 Percent,” I sought out past participants of the Centre-in-Strasbourg coalition in order to strive, seek, and find. I inquired about bedding, packing practices, travel destinations, ticket prices, hostel recommendations, train stations, professors, clothing, weather, food, medicine, laundry, and shower pressure. When I had finished speaking with all of those grizzled veterans, I headed home for a two-week break and was fairly confident of my knowledge base of Alsace.
Despite this vast knowledge bestowed upon me, I didn’t pass my mother’s hypothetical test. “Where will you go if you need medicine?…What will you do if you are locked out of your apartment after a morning run?…Where will you get your haircut?…Where will you buy toothpaste if you run out?…How will you get in contact with us if you are in trouble?” She fired these questions — and many more — at me as if I was in a dunking booth. Again and again, I said “I don’t know.” At first, I felt bad for my ignorance. I thought, “Gee, if I don’t yet know how to respond to practical situations, how will I survive? Do I deserve to go?” That’s when my stubborn self-conscious kicked in: “Of course you’ll go!” As my old baseball coach would say, “Figure it out.”
My mother’s intentions were pure, but I realized that as a Strasbourg neophyte, it’s not necessary to have all the answers right now. It’s sufficient to say — “I don’t know.” Spending spring term in Strasbourg is not a tourist-fueled getaway. This isn’t an all-expenses-paid “The Price is Right”-esque European excursion. Centre College is not sending 24 vacationers to Strasbourg; Centre is sending 24 young adults (and two faculty members) to France. We’re expected to behave as young adults. We’re expected to live, learn, and get along as young adults. We have a fantastic support structure both with us and at home, but, in essence, our task is to become French. That doesn’t mean that I’ll return to Danville sporting a beret and patriotically humming “La Marseillaise.” It just means that I, along with mes copains, will successfully learn how to live a Strasbourg life.
I write this from a desk in Hartsfield-Atlanta Airport awaiting a 5:35 p.m. departure. After nearly eight hours in the sky, we’ll arrive at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. From there the group will fly one additional hour to our new home — Strasbourg.
Go to sleep in Atlanta…wake up in Strasbourg.
by CJ Donald ’14, currently participating in the Centre-in-France study abroad program. Learn more about study abroad in France.
PHOTO: Me and my mother before I began my trip.

By |2013-02-11T10:47:02-05:00February 11th, 2013|News, Study Abroad, Travel Journals - France|