I rack my brain for words…words just seem to be inadequate for this experience, for all that I have done, all of the sights I have seen, and all that I have changed.
I came here unsure of what to expect and with minor expectations, I began to see a whole new world (Cue Aladdin) and I was asked to ‘be our guest’ (But really, we’re in France, so this is a Beauty in the Beast moment).
I was at a time in my life where this adventure could not have been better planned. Being here- learning about myself (with the assistance of a good book), forming friendships and memories, exploring a new degree of agriculture and discovering France- has meant so much more to me than I could have imagined. There is such
a peace within and I have felt so incredibly happy.
Right from the start, we were enjoying the open markets on the weekend (despite my luggage being lost initially) and traveling to Albi. I automatically fell in love with the countryside, but I couldn’t help but kick the feeling that this was much like Bedford County back home- the glorious mountains, the lush green farmland… I loved it all, but back home held a sweet spot. I guess I’ll never forget how much home and where I come from means to me…it is and will always be part of me. This experience has definitely made me appreciate all I have even more.
As classes began, I realized that learning French would be a bigger feat than expected as I tried to mix some Spanglish with French. Although, French could be a struggle, I continued to observe my interest in agriculture. Not all of the lectures were totally agriculturally based, but I soaked in the ones that were and yearned to know more. The concepts of integrated agriculture and utilizing bio-systems for increased sustainability impacted my thought process and I loved discussing more thoroughly of how animal and crop production worked hand in hand. I’ve even had some valuable conversations regarding the tool that GMOs can play in our future, despite their own country’s fight to resist this technology. The farm visits were easily my favorite part, but the chocolatines, bread, cheese, etc. were definitely a close second as the weeks have progressed. It’s hard to believe 2.5 weeks have already passed and it’s nearly time to go home.
I leave with the goal of being more culturally present and more up to date globally, and the hope to raise my future kids learning more about other cultures and languages (including tolerances). I leave with a competence that I am ready for whatever- and wherever– life has in store for me and refuse to be held back by anything- my comfort, myself or anyone else. I leave with an opened mind and more connections regarding the opportunities that my degree, and prospective Masters have in the future with the continued dream of connecting people to where their food is coming from and improving life for farmers- understanding now that those issues exceed the United States and recognizing that politics and policies have a large impact on food accessibility/ security and farmer potential. Finally, I leave with a better understanding of myself and where I stand; in doing so, friendships have been tested, grown and formed, and I hope that I continue many of these in Athens.
I hope one day to return to Europe, and I still have a few more days to make some lasting memories in Toulouse and then Paris, but I look forward to returning home and the comfort of not having transportation strikes and taking a “less adult” role, but have 4-H camp, a dairy experiences and studying for the GRE to look forward to- among family time and vacation which I have realized is second to nothing.
Thank you to all of the support from friends and family. I know I will write more and have endless pictures to share and moments to recollect…including some rather embarrassing ones, but as for now, I want to appreciate this fleeting moment for I am young, free and alive and have so much to be grateful for.