Sometimes the path may be smooth, but you trip over your own two feet for fear of the road being bumpy. Or maybe sometimes the road has far more bumps than you could ever prepare yourself for.
And sometimes, life takes you down a different road than the one you expected in the first place.
In my case, I ended up in a country I never dreamed of going to. I know, you’re probably thinking, “Let me guess,you somehow ended up in some dangerous African country? Was it absolutely horrible?!” Well, on the contrary, an African country was always my intended destination for my study abroad experience. Since my early teen years my heart has been captivated the beautiful colors, traditions, people, and culture. I thought I would be in Uganda, or maybe back to Malawi,the beautiful yet petite country I was able to explore for 20 days almost a year ago now.
You would be surprised to hear that I never intended, dreamed, or really even wanted to go to France. Weird, I know. You see, I began learning French when I was 14 years old with one sole purpose in mind, traveling to francophone Africa. In addition, my brother speaks fluent French and had already lived in Dijon for nine months four years ago. Although, I wanted to be different! I wanted to follow my own path, create my own way. I didn’t want to go to France solely because that’s what my brother already did. However, when going to Uganda was no longer an option and I kept hearing the voice of my french professor in my mind encouraging me to go to France, I started to look into it. Furthermore, after praying for several months that God would provide me at least one person to come with me on my study abroad experience, I learned that my brother would be teaching in France, I felt comforted by the idea of having a close family member who would be with me in an unfamiliar place who knew how to navigate the culture. However, going to France would not be easy for me. Because French is not even close to popular at my university, I was forced to withdraw from my school because there were simply no french speaking opportunities for me. I had to pave my own path, or so I thought. Really, it was God who was leveling out the path before me that lead me to Grenoble, France.
The summer before my departure, I began refreshing myself in French. A year had already passed since my last course. That’s when the fear really began to sink in. I’d heard for years how the French are snobby and cold, especially when it comes to their language. How could four years of high school and barely one year of university level French possibly help me to survive that? What if I couldn’t communicate? What if I couldn’t be understood? What if I couldn’t understand?
Nevertheless, I choose a study abroad company, my brother and I obtained our Visas, booked our flight, and set off for the region of the Rhone-Alpes in south-eastern France.
All the while, I was being eaten up by fear and insecurity. While traveling to France is a dream for many, it was a cause of great anxiety for me. Would my language skills be enough for me to really connect with people? Would four months be enough time for the people I cared about most back at home to forget me?
As I had written in a previous post, my brother’s and my entry to France was anything but a smooth landing. The blue white and red flag welcomed us with great loss-the loss of a backpack, wallet, and more than that, a loss of stability and comfort.
Far to quickly, I learned what it meant to be the outsider and the “étranger”(stranger). The one who had an accent, smiled too much, and had a faith in Jesus that was no longer deemed acceptable or necessary in a “laïque” (secular) country.
Although the landing was rough, God continually held my hand as I walked over the bumps and holes in the road. He held my hand as I quickly learned that sometimes life doesn’t go the way that we would like or expect, but that in the unexpected bumps, I still have my Jesus who picks me up when I trip and fall flat on my face.