• Ashley Nicole

Living Abroad - First Impressions

It has been an interesting month, over here in France. I've already lived in two locations, made some really sweet friends, and have traveled by transit more times than I can count.

There is something really unique about living in a brand new place. There's the whole challenge of finding your bearings and getting around, the feeling of newness in the air, as well as the beauty of discovery. For me, it's the discovery that I really love. There is such wonder that comes with discovering something unique for the first time. Be it a silly sign, a cool looking tree, or a pretty little place that you can go to be alone, finding something new is what keeps things exciting and adds variety to life.

Living in this new country and speaking a new language, I wanted to share with you a little piece of what it's been like for me. Just like any other point in life, it certainly has it's ups and downs, but it's about how you react to it, that makes all the difference.

Graffiti Walls and Path

Pictured above is one of my favourite parts of the bike route that I used to take, when we lived in our apartment in Villeneuve D'ascq.

I've had the wonderful opportunity to join a young adults group here, where I've made some of the kindest friends. There is something incredible about being united with a group of people who share the same faith, that really goes beyond all language barriers. There are also a large handful of international students who attend, who empathize with adapting to a new culture and learning to communicate in another language.

Fashion is SO important here. Like really important. This concept is something that strikes me as a little bit unusual from what I'm used to. Back home, in North America, I'd say that the goal is to look half decent, most of the time. That being said, doing a quick Walmart run in the sweatpants you've been wearing around the house, would be considered normal. Here, that would be an atrocity. I've been told that when you leave the house, you and your personality are defined by the clothes that you wear, which helps to explain the intensity of the fashion craze. I like looking nice as much as the next person, but I would love to see a society (both here and back home) who wants to invest in a person because of who they are, not because of the clothing that they choose.

I live near a pretty city called Lille. What I love most about it, even beyond the beautiful architecture and the cobblestone streets, is that it was designed for walking. Pedestrians always have the right of way, and most places are quite difficult to access by car. Street roads between buildings are tiny, and throughout the town, there are only small areas for cars to drive through. Exploring it by foot is not only the best and most convenient option, it also really allows for for the ability to be fully emerged in the city and the culture.

Driving in the City

This is what it's like driving through the tiny streets in Lille.

They say that when you speak a second language, your personality in the alternative language can change. I haven't decided whether this is truly the case, or if it's just because learning to speak another language makes you more blunt, whether or not you are trying to be. The emphasis is taken off of being polite, and placed on trying to communicate a thought or idea, thus hindering the mental filter. I had a job interview, and accidentally told the manager that I didn't care where I worked, and that realistically, I just wanted a job. It wasn't until hours later that I realized what I had said, and I was mortified. I guess it worked out in my favour though, as I ended up being offered the job. Crazy, right! (I must have done something right.)

Living here has caused me to be even more independent. My friends are at work or at school during the day, so everything that I do, from buying food, to applying for jobs, is all up to me. Leaving the house, I need to figure out where to go, and how to get there and back. When - not if, but when - I get lost, I need to speak to strangers and ask them for directions. To be honest, the amount of times I have felt confused, lost or just stuck here is huge. It's these times that I need to take a step back, remember that God is in control and move forward from there.

Whether you are in a place right now where you need a friend, or you can be a friend, be sure to reach out to one another. It's the relationships that you share in life, that will help to carry you along. You have no idea whose life you can touch today, which could make a lifelong impact for the both of you.

Explore new places. Meet new people. Live the life you've been given.