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imgres-1Well, the race is finally coming to an end : the ground flattening out, the rocks and holes and stumbling blocks becoming fewer. The end is in sight. And yet I can’t help the occasional (okay regular) glance behind me, to see all that I have accomplished. The course I traveled (I like to think) so successfully. The hills I climbed, the friends I made and the difficulties I overcame. I may have stumbled a few times, but I did not fall, and I did not give up.

It has been a wonderful year. I am proud of what I have accomplished with my students, and also with myself. Moving to and living alone in another country is never easy. There were bumps, there were things that I could have done better, different routes I may take were I to run the race again, but overall it was a success. I feel stronger for it.

It has been sad saying goodbye to my students. Many of them don’t understand why I am leaving when they still have another six weeks of school themselves. They tell me that I should just ask the principal, le directeur will let me stay! They don’t understand that it’s not my decision, not the teacher’s, not even the principal’s choice. I can’t explain that there are so many more factors that must be considered (don’t we sometimes wish we could all see problems and solutions as easily as children!) They ask me if I will be coming back next year and I have to dodge the question, not wanting to make any promises, although I want to be able to tell them that they will see me again. That if they want me, even if I am not an assistant I would love to come back and visit.

From my very first week teaching here.

From my very first week teaching here, taken by the principal of one of my schools.

The truth is even I do not yet know yet what I am doing next year. There are so many options I have lined up, possibilities to explore. What will my next race be? What do I even want it to be? I’m not sure I know myself.

It’s hard, I’ve found over the past year or so, to always know what the next step is. We spend thirteen years in school. Another four years or so in University. While life as a student may change slightly from year to year as we age and mature, as we are given more independence and responsibilities, the basis remains the same. You go to class, you do your schoolwork, write your essays, study for your tests. You have one objective : pass your classes so you can take the next one on the list. One goal : get that diploma. And that drives much of your life. The race is easy. You know where the stumbling blocks are already. After fifteen years, you know how to succeed, or at least make it through, this race. Surprises may come, unexpected events for better or worse, but you have a map and know how to reach the finish line. Others who have run the race before can tell you where it will be hard and when easy. Give you the shortcuts that are safe, and warn you away from others that might make your route longer and more treacherous.

I remember this time last year, as I was preparing for the last of my university finals – preparing for graduation – that I realized I no longer had that map. I would still have my friends and family to support me, but they could not longer show me the best route. It was up to me to choose my own race and find my own path. It was a strange idea to get used to. One I am still getting used to as another year is coming to an end, another race. It is time for me to choose the next one. I’m not completely sure what it will be yet, but I know they will support me no matter which one I choose.

I do know this: much as I love and miss the States, I also love France. Someday, within the next couple years, I will go back to the States. I will probably go back to school. Get a Masters degree, a law degree, something (I’ve already tried French University during my study abroad year and it’s not on the top of my list of races I want to repeat). For the next year, though, I think I’d like to enjoy more time in France, or in Europe at the least. Maybe I’m putting off joining the “real world”, getting a real job, moving forward in my life. But I’m still young, and able to try those harder races, so I’m going to enjoy them while I can.

I have had a wonderful year. My students were great, my schools amazing, and the teachers I worked with so supportive. I will miss them all so much. I have learned so much by being able to work with them all, and I hope it was just as beneficial and wonderful of a learning experience for all of them as well. I feel so lucky to have spent another great year with such amazing people and to have gotten to celebrate the end of such a fantastic year as well as my birthday at the same time. Thank you as well to all of the friends who helped me through all those tough times this year, helped to steady me when I stumbled and celebrated with me when I reached another checkpoint. We have all spent such an amazing year together and shared so many great experiences. We have all grown in so many ways and I know I will count you among some of my best, lifelong friends. I am happy to see such fantastic people added to that list.

22311_714780139915_2690845318695702021_nSo here is to becoming another year older, another year finished, and to whatever the next year has to hold for us all.

Do you have any special ways of celebrating birthdays or turning points in your life?

Even more importantly perhaps, know of any job/visa opportunities for a young, friendly, responsible American wanting to stay in France (or Europe in general!)