by The Cowl Editor on September 16, 2019

Creative Non-Fiction

by Sam Pellman ’20

I turned around one more time and swallowed back the tears that were forming. I’d be back in four months, but why did that feel like an eternity in this moment? No, I can’t cry, I won’t. The car ride was silent. No one knew what to say. I was leaving my home, my family, and my friends, and all I could try to think was that this will be good for me. I tried to have the excited airport feeling you have when you are heading off to a vacation, but excitement was the last thing I felt in that moment. I waved one more goodbye to my parents as I walked to the gate, not letting them see the tears in my eyes. I’ll be home soon…

Fast forward to the plane. My stomach was in knots and I could feel myself sweating from the nerves. I had to get off this plane, this was all too much. What is it going to be like? Will I remember how to use my French? Where am I going to live? Who am I going to meet? The thoughts were racing through my head, I felt myself getting sick. It was the middle of January, and the day had come to pack up as much of my life as I could fit in two suitcases and plop myself in a foreign country thousands of miles from home by myself. Wait, was I crazy? Who let me do this? This is so not me. Maybe I should just fly back home.

I got off the plane and thought I would feel instant magic. But guess what? That’s not the reality. The reality is that I was in a foreign country, in a huge airport, by myself, without a working phone or an idea of where to go. There was no magic. In fact, this felt like my worst nightmare. All I could do was breathe. If there is one thing I’ve learned in the past, it’s not to get my hopes up for an unrealistic journey. This was real life, and it was going to take some time. I followed the signs, even though some of the words were unfamiliar.

Paris would give me magic, but I had to be willing to let it.

I raced to the meeting spot and was helped by a professor from the program with getting a cab. The taxi driver didn’t speak a word of English which made me panic. There is no way I can survive here for four months with what seemed to be a language barrier I could never get over. I stared out the window. Paris was different from how I remembered it. Granted, the airport was forty minutes from the city itself, but I certainly didn’t feel magic when I looked at the buildings and roads in front of me. Don’t force it, I thought. It will come.

All I wanted to do was call my parents and tell them I was freaking out. Too bad my phone didn’t work. Why was I staring at it waiting to get a text or a call? And that’s when it happened. I looked up and saw it. The magic filled my lungs to the brim. We were driving right past the Eiffel Tower and as cliché as it was, I was relieved. This was the Paris I remembered. This was my home for the next four months and it was in that moment that the excitement I pushed so far back was finally beginning to break through. All this time I allowed myself to become so anxious and worried that I was forgetting the reason I came here. And that was to feel this magic every single day because it’s what I deserved and it’s what I needed. I needed a change, I needed an adventure. This was going to be good, and I couldn’t wait to see where my adventure was going to take me. Paris gave me magic, and I was ready to use it.

Eiffel Tower at night
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