Danielle Kaye comes to SYA from Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood, CA. She is currently a junior and a Campus Reporter at SYA France.
As our bus speeds through the French countryside after the final school trip of the year, I glance out the window. A green blur fills my view. The wide fields, lonely but also inviting in their emptiness, blend together with the trees to create one single image, one color. I barely notice the variations in the landscape; the bus is moving too fast. As soon as I spot a dirt path winding through the distant hills or a group of small bushes swaying with the wind, it vanishes behind me, out of the window frame and gone forever.
Part of me longs to stop the bus, to stop time. But more than anything, spending nine months abroad has taught me that life always moves forward, no matter how hard we might try to keep it still. Gazing out the window, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the number of memories I’ve made in this country that has become my home. The thought of forgetting them frightens me. Will all of the moments fade away like the passing trees, only to gather dust on a shelf in the back of my mind?
The harsh reality is that not everything can be remembered. One year – especially a year filled with so many new people and new places – is made up of an infinite number of memories, some that fade and others that last. As much as I’d like to grasp each one and never let go, I know that such a task would be impossible. I try to convince myself that pictures and journal entries will somehow capture my experiences in their entirety, solidifying them into tangible objects. But the truth is that I have much less control than I like to think. All I can do is hope that the important memories, the people and places that impacted me in significant ways, will stay.
I remember the feeling of awe and satisfaction after finally understanding a French text following a discussion in French literature class. My teacher’s voice, compelling and passionate, still rings in my ears, and I still grasp every syllable as though it were magic.
I remember exploring Rennes for the first time alongside my new friends, the city’s streets mysterious and charming,
the last rays of the summer sun still casting a yellow glow on the tilted Breton houses. Together, we laughed at our failed attempts to communicate in French, a language then so foreign to our ears. Looking back, I can see how far we’ve come.
I remember walking along the beach on the coast of Brittany with my host family one Sunday afternoon, windblown hair in our faces. The realization that I now have a second family in France came over me like a wave and took me by surprise. Feeling at home in a foreign country is not an easy task to accomplish, but thanks to my French family, it’s one that I’ve been able to achieve.
Ultimately, the physical places one visits are memorable, but it’s the people in them that create the strongest memories. From my teachers to my friends to my host family, the people I’ve met this year have inspired me and opened my eyes to all that I still have to learn.
I am afraid of forgetting. But deep down I know that it’s an irrational fear, as the bonds I’ve formed in the past nine months will never fade away.