CAPPS: Did I mention I was abroad?
Leaving the country can be a rewarding experience, even if it makes you a snob
Everyone has “That Friend” who studied or worked abroad. They seemed pretty normal when they left, but somehow in that span of time abroad, That Friend turned into a condescending jerk that somehow forgot how to be relatable. That Friend starts out most sentences with, “It’s so funny because in Cool Foreign Country, they do Something Cool and Foreign Unlike the United States.” You smile and you act interested, but you secretly can’t wait until they’ve finally run out of espresso shops and trendy clubs to talk about. Confession time: I am That Friend. And I think everyone should make his or her full transformation to condescending jerk with me.
This past summer I was an au pair in the south of France, watching two twin 5-year-old girls called Abbie and Juliette. (I purposefully said, “called” instead of “named” because I’m very European now.) They were adorable and British, with British accents (however, they were fluent in French and Italian). The first day I arrived, they were playing pretend. They both were princesses, talking about how the cleaning lady was late to clean the castle. Princess Abbie told Princess Juliette, “The bus drivers are on strike, so the cleaning lady isn’t coming today.” How French. In fact, when I arrived, the real bus drivers were on strike, so I was stuck in the house for two weeks. But once I was able to finally leave and meet people, my life completely changed. The transformation began. Countless beach days in Cannes, shopping trips in Nice, hangouts in Paris and crazy nights out in Juan-les-Pins later, I grudgingly returned back to the Land of the Free.
When I arrived back in the States, my first problem arose when I wanted to get a coffee. I ordered a shot of espresso and the cashier had to ask his manager how to ring me up since no one had ever ordered one before. Not to mention, the smallest cup they had was as big as Texas, and was an inappropriate vessel for my mediocre American espresso. I eventually had to order a moka pot from Italy and make my own because I was so embarrassed by my secret problem with American coffee.
My friends constantly made fun of the changes that I couldn’t hide. I started wearing lipstick. I gained 10 pounds almost instantly from eating processed foods. And worst of all, I adopted a slight British accent from my host family. I thought I couldn’t have become more douchey if I tried. But I was wrong. I started taking French classes and couldn’t help but notice when my instructors’ vocabulary didn’t match how they talk in France. And when I drank, when I normally would be spitting game at Coupe’s, I would pull out my phone and show pictures of Abbie and Juliette on their dad’s yacht — or worse, talk about the Parisian guy I’m trying to court from an ocean away. That Friend.
So why do I think everyone should live abroad? While I have made a full transformation to condescending jerk, my three months in France completely changed my life for the better. Before I left, I wanted to make money. I wanted to have a plan. I wanted a stable future. Now, I want to be anything but stable. I want to live in other countries. I want to learn 20 languages. I want to be spontaneous. I used to think that traveling to different countries was enough to understand other cultures, but I was wrong. There is something that a person can only gain from full immersion into a different culture — and I’m not just talking about becoming That Friend. Since I’ve already admitted to you that I’ve transformed, I’m not ashamed to say that it’s difficult to explain until you’ve done it. But I insist that everyone should live abroad at some point during his or her life and this is the perfect age to do it. If you have the opportunity, be That Friend with me. Then at least I’d have someone to relate to.