Friday, September 18, 2009

Culture Shock (Mercredi 9)

I had a bit of a meltdown today. After only two long days of orientation, little sleep, I absolutely broke to pieces. I opened the book that had been passed out and realized we were starting , yet another three hour block of orientation, this time the entire book was in french.  I felt my head shut down and tears swell. I had to get away, I ran, but the bathroom was full, the halls full, then someone ask the wrong question at the wrong time, and the tears flooded forward. 
Next, I was attempting to be comforted by a series of question, along the lines of is someone bothering you, are you sick, did your boyfriend leave you (when the hell did I ever mention a boyfriend), because of course those are the only plausible and logical reasons why I would be having a mental breakdown in a brand new country and culture.
- " I can't speak French," I blubbered, "I understand nothing."
he said not to worry about it. I stared at him skeptically and tearfully. I wanted to punch him in the face for even attempting to tell me not to worry, even though I must admit I have had said those same words to comfort many a friend in many a rough time.
He rushed me outside, which cued other advisors also to rush in to see the distraught me he had pulled aside. As they tried to reassure me that everything would be and was o.k... I began hyperventilating. I cannot begin to tell you how embarrassed I was. (Little did I know this was just the beginning).
Now I must say I was in no way homesick. I was a bit of a lot distraught, but not homesick. I was just overwhelmed. I was happy to be there, but unable to communicate my feelings, feelings of isolation and unable to express myself, that was a lot. I had to release. I just wish I had chosen a better place. Though I am glad to know I that I am in the care of a very supportive staff.
So I took what they said and the comfort they bestowed and the horror stories they told and took my seat in the auditorium. Maybe, I thought, I am not alone in this way, maybe is it true and there are many of us struggling, but we can't or won't allow ourselves to express what is within afraid that showing fear makes us weak that uncertainty makes us weak... I opened my book. Actually maybe I am alone on this one
Then a voice comes from behind, no not within my psyche, as I originally thought.
-"I don't understand one bit of this"
I turned around to face a red haired girl, with the same perplexed look as me.
I smiled
I laughed
I sighed. 
I learned a very valuable lesson today, that is often forgotten. You are never truly alone.


  1. so if u would give me ur skype name and were ever available i could tell u about my concurrent meltdown--Malikat

  2. aw poor dyl. im wondering if the same thing u were feeling is the same way non english speakers feel in america?? thank goodness paris isn't needed for your survival! i know you mustve been relieved to find someone else. i wish i was there to console u so that we could be lost together :-/

  3. Dylan I feel the exact same way. Not necessarily in the sense I cannot speak the language but just the feeling of the unknown and utter isolation. Everything familiar is gone and won't be back for quite some time. we will never be the same people ever again. While it's exciting in the long run, that is no consolation now, I know. I had never been here before and now I have to keep telling myself that THIS is my home now and stop comparing the way of life I've made here to what I had back home, where everything is comfortable and familiar. You will become comfortable and familiar with Paris, I know you will. It's going to be easier once school starts and you will be able to busy yourself with that, and with school comes events and friends and that feeling of comfort from it.
    Uggh just wish I started uni sooner--I still have two weeks of doing absolutely nothing in a city I don't know and I don't know anyone.
    I think we're on the same wavelength, just different channels of it...heh. We just both have to hang in there and make sure we stay on top of everything. Melting down feels great but it just makes me feel worse, as I'm sure you do too.

    P.S. Think I might start a blog too. I'll link you to it!

  4. Hang in there, Dylan! You are stronger than anyone I know and the French are going to love you!