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Living out the Dream
Sarahs' Story
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Living out the Dream

I took French in high school.  I would have taken Spanish, but my mom had always wanted to learn French, and since she was my teacher (I was home schooled.), she suggested that we order the French curriculum and learn together.  Little did I know that this one decision would play such a huge role in my life many years later.

I enjoyed learning French, and decided to continue taking classes in college.  My professor knew five languages, but French seemed to be the one he was most excited about.  He had spent time living in France, and repeatedly encouraged his students to do the same.  Once a week, there was a “French Table” in the college dining room, where anyone could sit down with their tray and be involved in French conversation while they ate lunch.  Whenever I sat with the “French crowd,” I mostly just listened.  Although I was never very conversational, my teacher encouraged me by saying that I had a really good accent.  I think it was his encouragement and contagious enthusiasm that started me dreaming about moving to France myself one day.  I started telling people that I was hoping to do just that – to move someplace where I could be immersed in the language and become more fluent in French.

After college I got a job working as an administrative assistant for an international mission organization.  The office environment was very supportive; I learned a lot and really enjoyed being around people from so many different countries.  Once in a while, we had a visitor come through who worked in a French-speaking country, and this was especially interesting for me.

Four years went by.  One night I was talking to one of my co-workers, who had also become a good friend.  I was talking about the same thing I’d been talking about for years, that I wanted to move to a French-speaking country where I could immerse myself in the language.  It had become a line that I repeated over and over again.  Sure, it was a dream of mine, but it was a dream that I kept in the back of my mind along with, “Someday I’d like to take dancing lessons and become a beautiful dancer.” and “Someday I’d like to take voice lessons and become an accomplished singer.”  They were all dreams that I’d pursued to some extent, but never fully realized.  That night, however, as my friend and I were talking, she said a few simple words that brought my dream of French fluency out from the back of my mind.  Her sentence was something to the effect of, “You know, you could actually do what you’ve been talking about doing.”  Sometimes all it takes is a little confident push.  I knew she was right.  So, I started researching ways that I could realize this dream I’d been talking about for so long.  Now I must admit, I can be quite the procrastinator, so you could say it was because of that, or you could say it was simply not the right timing, but whatever the case, two more years went by before something finally happened, and when it did, it was thanks to a friend of a friend of a friend.

There are a number of ways one can legally move to another country.  Some colleges offer exchange programs, and a student can attend an overseas university for a semester.  There are also internship opportunities to be had.  Those options didn’t work for me since I had already been out of college for a few years.  Then there are the organizations that will place you into some kind of program in a foreign country, but those organizations don’t work for free, and after room and board are included in the cost, it can become quite expensive.  Seeing as how I didn’t have any money, that was also a no-go.  I decided to send out an email to all my co-workers.  Because I worked for an international organization, my hope was that someone would have a lead I could follow up on.  Low and behold, that’s exactly what happened!  One response I received was an email from the administrator of a small international Bible school located about 20 minutes from central Paris.  There was one position available as a volunteer at the school.  I would work for 20 hours a week in exchange for room and board, as well as the opportunity to take a few classes.  There was one thing, however, that I would need in order to be a legal long-term visitor in France, and that was a student visa.  Now, while it is true that a student visa is probably one of the easier visas to acquire, there was one small catch.  The French government wanted proof that I was financially independent and wouldn’t be taking advantage of their welfare system, so to get a student visa, I had to have $800 in my bank account for every month I would be staying in the country.  Since I wanted to stay for 10 months, that equaled out to a total of $8,000.  As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have any money, and I was rather at a loss thinking of someone I could borrow that much cash from.

I made plans to visit the school.  Now you may be wondering how I could afford a plane ticket to Paris when I didn’t have any money.  Well, that’s another story I won’t go into now, but I did have a plane ticket that I needed to use, so a few weeks after receiving that first email, I flew to Paris and found my way to the Bible school.

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