After chaperoning students in Paris and a taking a day trip to Giverny, I went back to Caen for the third and final time during this stay in France, and it was a wonderful stay. After Christmas I wasn’t sure if it was the best decision for me to come back again, but I am so glad that I did. I was originally planning to visit for only four full days (Monday night until Saturday morning), but I ended up staying all the way until Sunday and going directly to the airport for my trip to Morocco (and slight visa scandal!) During my stay in Caen, I got to take a road trip with Mary, go to a party with my host sister Florence and her husband Jean-Claude, complete two Skype interviews (big news coming soon!), hang out with my host mom, relax, and have a big going-away dinner with friends.
When I left Caen in 2010, I wasn’t ready to leave France. I felt forced and I left a lot of unanswered feelings and goodbyes behind. When I returned to France this past September for my friends’ wedding, I was almost more excited to go back to Caen than to head to the south to begin my new job as a teaching assistant. Coming back to Caen during this past year has given me the chance to finally have that proper closure with the city and my former life that I had been searching for for the past four years.
I always had this fantasy in my head that Caen was literally the best place on earth–as was France. When I studied abroad, I was happier in Caen than I was in the United States. I felt more free and alive– as if I was seeing the world, and myself, for the first time. During this past year, I had a bit of a wake-up call. I have realized that yes, Caen, France, was the best place on earth for me, at that time. My semester in Caen was one of the most defining points in my life, and is definitely I reason I am where I am today. I realized that after coming back that I will always have a place in Caen, and with the French family who has always welcomed me with open arms. The wonderful people I met and the memories I created in Caen will always stay with me in my heart. However, I have also grown and realized that Caen, as well as the country of France, although wonderful, are just a city and a country like any other. They are at the end of the day ordinary places where ordinary people are simply trying to live their lives.
Even after this much needed closure, I couldn’t stop the subtle mist of tears leave my eyes as the train pulled away from the station for the final time during this stay in France (with the Harry Potter song playing in the background, bien sur. Caen may be just another city, but it is one city in France (along with Toulon) I was able to call my own. And I will always have a place here.