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Hutton Honors College

 — Indiana University

Ashleigh Crabtree
Fall 2001

It was a fear like I have never known. My heart raced, my hands trembled, and despite the fact that I was resolve in my decision not to cry, my eyes welled up with salty, anxious tears. I was about to leave everything that I knew, everything that I loved, for four long, long, months. How? No one seemed to understand the gravity of my plight. I didn't speak the language well. "Sure you do." I will be gone so long. "No, you won't." It will seem like forever. "Not a chance."

So, I mounted the aircraft, and that was that. Choices were few and far between. I would survive, for there was no other option. I would NOT return home before my intended departure. Although I was never one to whom courage came easily, I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was something I would accomplish. If I only could have imagined with what grandeur and excitement and utter ecstasy this adventure would be conquered.

The first few days after I arrived in Avignon, France, are a blur at best. I was exhausted, confused, and very, very scared. Yet, little by little, my host mother, Marie-France, guided me into French culture and assimilation began. Soon, I surpassed the stage where communication is painful, and only when absolutely necessary, to communicating at my leisure and finding myself enjoying my newly found skills. I learned that bread doesn't have to be soft to be tasty, that a big smile isn't the only way to feel wanted, and that the United States doesn't have anything on French dessert! Yet, I also learned lessons that I will carry with me forever. I learned that there really isn't anything I can't do. I learned that persistence and a positive outlook on a difficult situation is absolutely necessary. And, finally, I learned that it really isn't what happens to you, it truly is how you react to it.

I wouldn't trade one moment of my incredible adventure living in another world. In fact, I left a piece of me there, in my little town, in my little school, and in my little street that guided me to the place I called home. For every ounce of fear, I mustered a pound of courage. I am now one step closer to the person that I intend to become, although I am not totally sure who that is quite yet. But, I am certain, that without my life in Avignon, there would be emptiness in my heart, and potential that would have otherwise been left dormant. It truly was an unforgettably amazing experience.