As my semester is winding down and I am preparing to leave my temporary home of four months, Paris is heating up amidst new labor law reforms. President François Hollande has just forcibly approved a reformation to France’s Labor Code, facilitating easier lay offs without the consequence of harsh payoffs. A popular phenomenon amongst young sojourners, Richard Slimbach suggests that, “if we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (54). I believe that is the difference between being a resident of another culture who experiences life as a local and being a vacationer who simply observes this new world from afar. In order to delve into unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable depths, one must actively participate in the community to reach a sense of integration and comprehension. As a student attending a French university, I like to stay abreast of impending protests and strikes by watching the news and listening to the radio. Since many of these demonstrations affect my everyday life, from public transportation and even to safety, it is imperative that I remain hyper vigilant. This, however, is what separates the temporary visitor of the surrounding world from the citizen of the world within. Although a resident of four months, I understand the frustration and empathize with the French, who feel betrayed by their government. Instead of maintaining the typically rigid, American view that that the French are “lazy” for only wanting to work thirty-five hour weeks, I at least make an attempt to understand the root of the problem. Understanding does not necessarily equate to support and acceptance.
As someone with uniquely American roots, I sometimes think I lack important knowledge of the global community. Traveling abroad, I can affirm from personal experience, has opened my eyes to worldly issues. Due to a seemingly geographic coincidence, the United States seems to turn an unintentional blind eye to the social and political turmoil happening in Europe at the moment. That is not to say that we have not done our part on the war against terrorism, for example. I, however, am speaking purely from a personal standpoint. As an American citizen, I do not feel as informed as I should be on events happening in Europe. France, one of our closest allies, is facing a new revolution that recalls “May ’68,” a month-long rebellion that paralyzed the entire country until its end. In addition to political unrest, France is also trying to rebuild solidarity after the November 13th terrorist attacks. The responsibilities of a global citizen include staying informed and understanding how the instability in one country, may affect yours. For instance, if France was the United States’ main supplier of cheese, yet the trucks are unable to make it to the airport due to protestors blocking major routes, this presents a problem for consumers. If only some goods make it to the U.S., the demand may be high but the supply low, thereby raising prices. Although a small scale, hypothetical issue, France’s continued disorder may have an unintended ripple effect on many other nations. As an informed global citizen, it is important to understand all of the possible consequences.
Since it is inevitable, I now must discuss separation, but this time from France. Because my host mother has been such an integral part of my study abroad experience, I want to make sure she knows how thankful I am for welcoming me into her home, encouraging me when I had an upcoming French exam, surprising me with little gifts, and lastly, offering me a real look inside what it means to be part of a French family. Before I leave, I look forward to sharing one last meal with her to express my utter gratitude for giving me all the keys to success this semester. I cannot help but feel melancholy. Since all my friends have left before me, a quote from Slimbach sticks out in my mind: “It is little wonder so many returnees speak of their sojourns as “life changing,” as they often generate vital reconnections with oneself and the outside world” (40). I wonder what reincorporation has been like for them and what sorts of things I can look forward to in the upcoming week. Although it excites me, I am also sad to be leaving the city of lights, which I was lucky enough to have had the chance to call “home” for four incredible months.