This summer has been a monumental experience for me and I know that it will be something that I always remember. I have been given the opportunity to participate in a UGA Faculty led study abroad trip through the UGA Arts and Gardens tour and I was then able to complete a Horticultural Internship through the French Heritage Society and work at two different châteaux in Normandy, France. I never could have predicted the series of events that would unfold before me this summer, the experiences that I would have, or the lessons that I would learn along the way.
Through both experiences I was able to be immersed in an entirely different part of the world and see the similarities and differences between my permanent home in Georgia and my temporary home in Europe. Making these comparisons in my mind was a huge part of the process for me and I believe that it will heavily impact my educational career and life as I move forward. Seeing all of the ancient ruins, art, and remnants of the gardens in Pompeii (and the rest of The Garden Tour, for that matter) truly put into perspective how young everything that I have ever known is in the grand scheme of the world. I do not believe that the youth of my home makes it any less important than the older, more historic parts of the world, but I think it is very important to see where humanity has some of its oldest remnants and how continuing progress has allowed us as a species to be where we are today.
While living and working in France I saw many things. Indeed, there are differences in the culture and customs but when you really examine day to day life when living in another country, there are more similarities than one might think. The men that I worked with every day in France were no different than those that I have worked with at home. They work hard to get the job done, they enjoy time spent with their families, and they look forward to their days off work so that they can go fishing.
After returning home, it feels good to be back in the place that I identify as home. After living and working in a different country and seeing the day to day life of the people that I have worked with, it feels good to know that there is not this huge dividing line between my home and theirs. The work feels the same in France but my daily experience does not feel quite the same. It was great to experience this opportunity but at the end of the day, it almost felt empty when I did not have a family or friends to come home to. The biggest overall takeaway from my summer, even larger than all of the information that I learned during the garden tour or working, is that having a place to call home makes everything that I do worth while. Where is the value in learning if I do not have someone to share it with at the end of the day?
It has been a wonderful experience coming to see several parts of Europe and then being able to have a true working experience in France. If I were told one year ago that I would be where I am today, I would have thought that the one who was telling me that was crazy. Life is unpredictable and even though you may think that you know where you are headed, there is no true way of telling. There is a plan for us all and all we can do is to try our best to steer as straight as we can until the current sweeps us up and takes us to where we are supposed to be. Going to Europe for the first time and then being able to work there was supposed to happen for me to teach me this valuable life lesson. Moving forward, I know that I will always bear these experiences in mind and be able to implement the things that I have learned throughout the rest of my life. I know that I will have an even greater and deeper appreciation for those that I am around on a daily basis.
Moving forward, I will have to work myself back into the schedule of a normal college student. I have been the stand alone “American guy” in France for two and a half months. It will be relieving to get to just be me again and go about my daily life without feeling the pressures of embracing and learning a new culture and language. I know that I have gained some unexpected skills while abroad and have had some fulfilling opportunities.