Straddling two lives

Beaune, Burgundy, by night.
Beaune, Burgundy, by night.

The word straddling is funny and sexual but it is the only one I could think of to fit this context perfectly.

So, I have been back in France for just over 2 weeks now, and a lot has happened. I have finished exams for last semester, I have met lots of new people, and I have said goodbye to my best friend here. I have also gotten over coming back. One thing that nobody bothered to tell me about a year abroad is that moving between two different countries over short spaces of time is hard. Emphasis is put specifically on the getting there, and then the depression which follows the year abroad or, as people like to call it, post Erasmus depression. There is little talk about those nippy little times of traveling to and from a country, or how I would often feel very thrown, confused and disorientated as I moved between two separate lives.

Of course I only have one life. But it feels like I have two. My transition from school to university was a bit like this, but I feel that this time because I have moved countries and adapted to a new culture it is much more noticeable. On my first full day back in Scotland I went and had lunch with a friend from university in Edinburgh. I was immediately struck by how strange it felt- not because he was different, but because it was as if nothing had happened and Edinburgh had just been sitting there whilst I’d gone to Dijon. I had fantasies on the plane- vivid scenes in my head of how I’d impress my friends at home with all my new found knowledge and experiences and blow them all away. In reality, I still get made fun of because I can’t work a dishwasher and I still say stupid things all the time. C’est la vie.

The one big thing, though, that stuck out, was how differently I saw things. Coming home was more of a culture shock than going to France. I detest the way people who have gone abroad boast about how they are so much more worldly than others, or automatically assume that they have one upped everyone just because they got on a plane and ate some croissants or tapas for a year. I really did not think I would feel different on my return to Edinburgh, but I did. I felt different because I am a different person in Dijon, mainly because the people I hang out with are different, and it is the people you surround yourself with that make you. The friends I have here in Dijon are the strangest, wackiest group of people I have ever met, but they are also the most genuine and have taught me how to embrace life in a way I never have before. They are by no means a stable group- as I said before, my best friend just left France last week, but part of this experience for me is learning to adapt and enjoy who is here right now.

As well as an overwhelming feeling of relief at being back in Edinburgh because I could say ‘excuse me’ instead of ‘pardon’ all the time, I was also hit by a realisation that it wouldn’t be easy coming back every time. Edinburgh and the definition of ‘home’ won’t ever be the same again because somewhere else has become home. For now, I can’t really imagine giving up a life where I am surrounded by people who share my desire for change and upheaval.