Here I present to you the beginning of my travel diary where I shall inscribe the happenings of my time in Paris. I believe writing weekly will do best, and leave me enough time to recount my experiences at a desirable length. In any case, I am quite nervous, I must say, but I am also excited for what splendid adventures await me upon arrival. Etta, my recently made companion, is also looking forward to our stay in the City of Lights. She is an orange tabby cat whose full name is Harriet Ulysses Glasgow; though admittedly, she is not a fan of her middle name as it was placed upon her due to the fact that her father desired a son and wished most dreadfully to give him the name “Ulysses.” Besides that, she is still tickled pink that her initials when put together make H.U.G.
However, seeing that we are going to France, Etta much prefers to be referred to by what she calls her true “French” name: Henriette Ulysse Glasgow. As you can probably tell, she is a cat of a certain breed…
Introductions aside, our emotions have been jumbled higgledy-piggledy by all of this new change! I’ve been studying French for six years, now going into my seventh while in France. Truthfully, it has always been somewhat embarrassing that I have never gone to the very place where the language I study is spoken, more so when most everyone else in my classes has gone once, if not several times! As a result, I’ve always questioned my skills, wondering whether or not I could actually do well in France… And so of course I took the most well thought-out route to answer this query: spend an entire year there all alone. Now, obviously I am joking about being on my own as I will have support through the school and with my fellow classmates. But it can still feel very isolating when I think about how independent I will have to be from now on. I suppose that’s why I am very glad to have Etta (erm, I mean “Henriette”) by my side. Any friendship- even that of a small stuffed animal- is thoroughly welcome at a time like this.
Speaking of friends and family, I think back to all of my own, from home and university alike. They all mean so much to me, and have helped in some way in my growth both personally and academically. I hope not to fail them, just as I hope not to fail my colleagues in the UIUC undergraduate linguistics organization as ambassador of the League of Linguists to France! It is truly an honor to represent our American branch to our French brothers and sisters.
How funny it is, that I call them brothers and sisters ere I even know them! I know not yet of their spirit, of their lives, nor of their hopes and dreams. But maybe it could even be the case that one day I find a gentleman of such sweet character that I find myself enamored by his entire being… (A boy can dream, no?) Although I may daydream, I must remember that France is a country much like the United States. It holds within its borders people of all walks of life, even those who may not wish the best for me. I would do best to remain cautious at all times, yet never forget the lessons I have learned from my Lord: if I wish to be treated one way, I must do so with others; as it was, is, and forever shall be. Everyone deserves respect, no matter who they are or what they believe. It is a truth I have learned time and time again through my lived experiences as a man of multiple intersecting identities and interests. Much like how I hope to learn more from the French, so too do I hope to teach something novel and unique. But just what that will be, I still do not know! It seems as though I will learn something about myself in the process, too!
Alas, it has not been an easy path so far! There were bumps in the road, that’s for sure: the study abroad application and acceptance, processing of necessary information and financial aid, legal paperwork… the list goes on. Even the visa application was a mountain and a half- particularly considering the reviews for the establishment itself were an average of 1.5/5.0 stars from 75 reviews. Nevertheless, that is all behind me, and tomorrow is when everything truly begins. I shiver with excitement… Perhaps terror… Or maybe another emotion entirely, inexplicable in its awe-inspiring stature… Just the same, Etta says to stop fretting and that everything will turn out splendidly. I suppose all we can do is wait and see…
Gabriel Alejandro González Alemán
Ambassador of the League of Linguists to France
Ambassadeur de la Ligue des linguistes en France