Excerpt 1“Interestingly, Belgium was cold and foggy but when I stepped out of the train station at Valenciennias (a town in Lille, France) I was pleasantly surprised by blue skies and sunshine mixed with cool breeze. It was lovely. I basked in the goodness of being alive … I was extremely happy and I felt my dream came true. Yesterday was my best birthday ever. My friend took me to church with her and afterwards, we ate at another friend`s house where I was again surprised by a chocolate birthday cake. I was like WOW WOW WOW! Imagine, I was in Belgium looking at their wide array of chocolate and thought that this place is full of chocolate. I would love to taste but didn’t want to eat alone. I ate dinner with the cook (a lady from the Congo) my friend and a guy from the Ivory Coast. Today, my friend took me all over town and gave a good overview of life in France. However, in the evening I took the train to Arras where my administrative teacher picked me up. She is lovely. I`m now at her house where I just had a feast. Her (probably 7 year old) son cannot speak English yet so he used gestures to get me to play football with him and he showed me his dog, rabbits and pigeons. I feel at home already…SMILE!”Excerpt 2“I AM BLESSED AND I MUST NOT COMPLAIN BUT BEING HERE IN FRANCE WITHOUT ANY FAMILY MEMBERS WILL MAKE YOU SCREAM so what I have decided to do is to go out with my students. Most of my students are involved in a sporting activity or a music club. I have always wanted to learn to play the Congo drum. One of my students told me that she goes to music classes in the town that my Lycee is located. I went with her on Saturday, I learnt a lot and I had a new opportunity to talk to different persons. Plus, I feel better emotionally when I get to meet new persons and interact with them. On Sunday, I went with my student and her mother to a Horse Back Riding Championship. She won a trophy and a ribbon for her horse. The horse`s ribbon was quite cute. Dogs are highly cherished here. I am not fond of them because I was bitten by one when I was a child. But in France, people treat dogs like babies. It makes me laugh – there are dogs everywhere – in the front seat of the car, in the bus, even in the bakery, and at home in the chair, and underneath the bed….they are watching TV and even wrapped up in towels. Now this was a big culture shock for me but now I am starting to really like them. “
It was obvious that my friend was feeling the emotional pressure of being away from her family while teaching in another country. How did she cope with those feelings? She immersed herself in the culture of France. She also spent a lot of time making, meeting and enjoying friendships there. Even though she missed her family, the task of learning a new language and enjoying the simplicities of life, like walking a dog, helped her to overcome the initial homesickness she felt. These tips are tried and true so when you are lonely and need companionship one way to cope is to reach out to someone.
Thought for today: “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson