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Well. Wouldn’t you know it, the day I’m leaving France at last is the day I seem to have lost my bank card. Luckily I took out 200 euros yesterday to cover my taxi to the airport (nicest cab driver in Paris, I swear), food, and emergencies, but I’ve also sent a secure message to my bank asking them to cancel the card. I have to close the account anyway, so this isn’t really as serious as it might have been.

Anyway, thank goodness for Paypal, because even without my card I was able to buy an hour and a half of surprisingly reasonable airport internet access.

(Since writing the above, I have received a text message from BNP Paribas confirming the cancellation of my card. All I have to say is, three cheers for BNP!)

I thought, as long as I’ve got some time to kill while waiting for my flight, I might as well write some kind of post-mortem on my year in France. Where to even begin? I’ll begin at the beginning, I guess, since that is widely acknowledged to be a very good place to start.

The truth is, this whole adventure started because I thought to myself, “Self, you could totally get money to go to Europe.” I know people who simply HAD to get to Europe, who were total Francophiles, who had studied abroad and fallen in love with a country and a language…and that was never me. I’m not even sure I thought about what it would all mean when I was doing all that work and writing and revision to apply for grants. When I started, winning a grant was the goal. That was the thing to do. And I honestly never expected to win. I knew a couple of people who were auditioning with me for the Beebe Fund grant, and I didn’t seriously think I had a chance. And then I won, and I seriously contemplated not going, but how often does somebody else offer to pay to send you to Europe to do nothing but sing and study? Pigs were clearly flying, and on a gorgeous day last August, so did I.

It has been an immensely trying year. I have battled homesickness, loneliness, frustration, language barriers, other people’s body odor (okay, and occasionally my own), bureaucracy, the métro and the RER and the SNCF, Charles de Gaulle airport, lack of air conditioning, and communal kitchens…and I’ve come out the other side a stronger person. There is a big difference between a 23-year-old who has never spent more than a couple of months in a foreign country and a 24-year-old who has just finished a year in Paris. It was a chance to re-invent myself–only that’s not quite what I did. As Judy Holliday as Gladys Glover in It Should Happen to You puts it, “I haven’t changed. I’m the same as I was before – only in a different way.”

I feel like a better, stronger, more confident version of myself: somebody who can call herself fluent in a foreign language, who can sing piano, who can quote hundreds of movies and sing full musical theater scores by herself, who can navigate Paris and other cities in Europe by herself, who can learn how to act by taking a class in a foreign language, who can sing Gilbert and Sullivan really well. I’ve found my personal style, and decided how I like to spend my time and with whom. And even if I knew those things before France, I think this year has given me the strength to insist on living my way, and not to settle for anything that doesn’t make me happy, comfortable and fulfilled. Also, when you don’t know anybody in a city, it’s pretty hard to try to meet their expectations, and so the only standards you are held to are your own. I think I have the confidence now to be myself, and, to quote Elizabeth Bennet, “I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.” (Take that, Lady Catherine de Bourgh!)

So thanks, Paris. It’s been a real slice.

Mes derniers bisous,