Life is like a voyage; you never know your next destination. When I was a freshman at Ewha, I had planned to graduate within four years, and then get a job; never had I pictured myself being a "petite fille" in France, walking down the streets of Caen; baguette in one hand and English-French dictionary in the other. My life is definintely a voyage.
The station that I'm stopping temporarily is Caen, a small city in Normandie, 2 hours from Paris. I'm taking a language course 20 hours/week. Unlike big cities, Caen is a city where people call it, "tranquil." Most shops close before dusk, and all you can hear are the sounds of birds singing and trees dancing because of the wind.
I am sure that most students are capable of handling difficult situations alone, but in an unfamiliar language is very different. Even though you have the abilities, those abilities become of less usage. As for me it was difficult getting things done on the right time. For example, in France, long-term foreign students must visit the the Administrative Office, to receive a "carte de sejour," a sojourn permitting card.
Even though I had followed all the complicated steps, it took ages for me to receive my card because I had. I had misunderstood the envelope size. In this light, no one is there to check if you are doing things correctly; you are the one who is responsible.
The French culture is different from that of Korea's. Have you ever imagined blocking up all buildings at Ewha, refusing to attend classes, and setting a day off nation-wide due to a demonstration? I got a glimpse of this a month ago, when French students were protesting against the "CPE," the First Job Contract that the Prime Minister Dominique Villepin had passed, they refused to attend classes in protest. Finally, their voices were heard, and the law was withdrawn. It was hard for me to tolerate this situation (since my classes were cancelled too); but I learnt how to accept different cultures.
Studying in France enables me to face the reality, thus to prepare myself with more knowledge. For example, while most people are very fond of Japan and China, sadly they are ignorant of Korea. This gives me a great passion and a responsibility to introduce Korea, but am I prepared to do so? One day, a friend of mine came up to me and asked, "How many people live in Seoul?" "How was Korea founded?" "What symbolizes Korea?" Even though I had taken Korean studies at Ewha, I found myself being ignorant of my own culture; perhaps very careless.
Every day, I tumble down. I'm not even sure if can reach the next station. However, at the same time, I feel that I am getting closer to the signpost and I'm preparing myself for it. There is a French saying: "Vouloir, C'est Pouvoir." It means, "If you have the desire to achieve something, you will be able to." Do you want your next turn to be right? If you are ready to make that turn; without doubt, you will be able to.
Lee Eun-joo (English Lang. & Lit., 3) is currently taking a year off to take the language courses at The University of Caen, France.