Autumn 2014, my first few hours in France and I was desperately trying to communicate in broken French to the airline authorities that my baggage had been lost somewhere along the 7,413 kilometres that I had just travelled. My bags were now the only connection to home that I had. Dejected, I met the school driver who had come to receive me at the airport and we drove to the place which was to be my new home for the next two years: my studio apartment on Nantes campus. I didn’t have time to worry over my missing bags though, as I found myself enjoying my first French meal at the university restaurant and waiting to play a game on the badminton courts in the huge gymnasium.
The first official day at school, I was suddenly thrown into a melange of students from 25 different countries or more. Different languages, cultures, mannerisms and attitudes, some students were talking loudly to everybody, some were shyly waiting in the corner to be introduced. There were initial miscommunications and confusions, new course classes and teaching methods, frenzied official documentations and chaos in general. However, eventually over the course of a few weeks, randomness gave way to routine and we all settled down into our new lives.
As I look back on all these first memories today, I can’t help but smile at the long way I have come, both professionally and personally. Career wise, I have grown tremendously, learning from professors coming from universities world over and working with multicultural team members. From late nights over multiple cups of coffee to meet deadlines, to group studies to crack that one tough exam together, to just being considered an important part of every fantastic project team; it has all helped in developing multiple facets of my personality. I don’t have a 3am buddy that I can call when I need help, in fact I have a friend at every hour in every time zone.
It has truly been a spectacular journey. My room which was once empty and bleak, today is decorated by a host of gifts ranging from a Mexican piñata on my wall to Turkish coffee in my kitchen and Indonesian batik in my closet. I came to France alone but I will be leaving with a huge family and the most amazing experiences.