This year has been, without a fraction of a doubt, one of the most rewarding journeys in personal growth that I have ever experienced. It has taught me, not only much about my personality, but also about other people, in different parts of the world, from all walks of life.
This year has not been easy, but it has been incredibly and exceptionally worth it.
Being a student who has lived abroad in a cultural exchange environment, I’m used to the familiar pangs of homesickness—the culture shock—and like to think that I have learned to cope with them. Despite all of this, I’m left, on May 24th, 2014, with the same sense of astonishment and wonder that I felt as I packed my bags to leave France two years prior. I am astounded that this year has gone by so fast, amazed I managed to “stick it out” through the difficulties, and extremely satisfied and proud of the work that I have done this year.
Mr. Boyer, throughout the entire year, spoke often of the reputation of Neuchâtel Junior College; about how it was a unique school, unlike any experience one could ever imagine. At the beginning of the year, I was convinced these claims were exaggerated. I now know, am convinced, that they are 100% founded; 110% true. There is nothing like NJC in this world.
No school gives its students an opportunity to integrate into the local culture quite like NJC does. The pension living is the spice of the school year. It was extremely challenging to move into the house of a complete stranger and live with them as if you’ve known one another for years, but I think that the forced social interaction, and in the French milieu, made this aspect of the year extremely satisfying. Not only were the Ferrantis welcoming and kind, but they treated us as if we were part of the family, rejoicing in our triumphs and comforting us during times of trouble and stress. They were always open to conversation, and were very patient each time I asked them whether or not a certain noun was masculine or feminine, whether or not I was properly using the subjunctive tense, or as we discussed dialect differences between the Suisse Romandes and the Français. They were extremely interesting people to get to know, and they are people I will keep close to my heart for years to come.
What has been an extremely rewarding part of this year, as well, is the language learning. Now, I really should start off by saying that I am, by no means, as good at French as I am at English. It’s really interesting to think back to the very beginning and look back on the completely unrealistic goals I had in terms of what I wanted to accomplish in so little time. I had dreams of coming back to Canada speaking perfect French, without an accent, sounding 100% like a real French person—but, they call them dreams for a reason.
Obviously, this wasn’t a realistic goal of what I could accomplish in nine months time, but it’s been such an interesting experience having to learn a language that I really do think it’s changed how I see myself, people, and the world in general. Brave words, I know.
I don’t really remember what it was like learning French. I stretch my mind back to September and think about my first weeks with my pension, my first few days at school, my first few nights out, and have trouble coming to terms with the fact that, at one time or another, I was not as good at French as I am now. It all feels sort of like a blur. It’s been a process that has continued for all of my year, and is definitely one of the most empowering.
I was told once to envision language-learning like a staircase, with surges of progress followed by a flat, plateaued period. One of the most interesting points of learning a language is definitely when you’re in mid-conversation, speaking with someone, and experience one of those surges forward. You say to yourself "Damn, I feel good!" and then keep on speaking, with, rather suddenly and more or less frighteningly, a new arsenal of language knowledge just waiting to be tapped!