I think I speak for a lot of young people my age when I say that the idea of going to Europe certainly outweighs the preparation for actually going there. Packing my bags, eating Christmas dinner, then packing some more, I still haven’t fully comprehended that I’ll be on the opposite end of the world in only a short week. There’s so much to prepare for, both mentally and materialistically.

 I’m about to embark on a fifteen-day trip to Noisy-le-Roi, France, a sister city of Albion that is located about twenty minutes by train outside of Paris. While there, myself and four other student-teachers will be participating in the local schools, comparing and contrasting the approaches to learning between two different nations. In terms of teaching and learning, I’ll be absorbing the educational culture that French teachers and youth experience on a daily basis, meanwhile bringing my own culture to the classroom as well. Needless to say, it’s certainly going to be a memorable experience for a twenty-year-old who has never left the country before.

 When I was a bit younger, I always had my head in the clouds about going to Europe for weeks on end, escaping all of the disasters that seemed to be erupting in our own backyard.  I wanted to venture to new places, get lost in translation, and meet people who had experienced things that I had never heard or imagined. To this very day I still want all of that, however, I have a better idea as to what to expect; I’m exposing myself to a whole new world of learning and understanding how people from another part in the world grow from their education and their surroundings. By the time I return, I’m sure I’ll have made some connections.

 I’ve recently contacted my host family, the Gauthes. Their eldest daughter, Anne-Sophie, has responded to my e-mail and has assured me that she and her family is eagerly awaiting our arrival. I feel that living with an entirely different family for two weeks will be the most intriguing part of this experience. I’ll be living in another room, sharing a bathroom with new “siblings”, and will be eating dinner at a different table and at a later time than what I’m used to. It should be a time for adjustment and slight humiliation, but it should also be a time for soaking up cultural similarities and differences.

 This is an opportunity for all of us to experience something new and unfamiliar. It’s a path that has set us up for success in the future, to grow as both future educators and as never-ending learners. But perhaps beyond all else, this is the point where I leave preconceived notions behind at the airport and start living my life through a new set of eyes.