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Living out the dream - Page 2

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.

It was nothing glamorous, that’s for sure. The school campus was made up of three old buildings – most likely part of an old estate, a small gravel parking lot, and a back yard. I really must emphasize the words “old” and “outdated.” While on one level the school was charming, many things were broken, falling apart, and in need of fresh painting. I still remember walking into the ladies’ dormitory hall for the first time. To the right of the bedrooms was a common dining area, and on the kitchen table was a large plastic yellow sunflower tablecloth straight from the 70’s. The hall was basic and drab, although some had attempted to make the place cheerier by tacking magazine pictures of chocolate delicacies to the kitchen walls. Right next to the kitchen were the two showers and one toilet that the girls all shared. I guess you can imagine that it was a bit to get used to, but that night, as I lay on the top bunk in one of the school’s many shared bedrooms, I was the most excited I’d been in a long time. It was really happening. My dream of living in France was coming to pass.

A few months later, I boarded a plane and made my way back to Paris (Yes, I was able to borrow the $8,000 from someone. That’s a story in and of itself.). There are a lot of other stories I could tell about my ten-month adventure, about the transitions I went through, the way my French improved, bit by bit, making me realize a love for languages. I met a lot of wonderfully caring people and made some really good friends. Most of all, though, the thing that stands out in my mind is that one of my dreams actually became a reality, and when it did, it changed my life. I was the person who always talked about doing something, but never did it. Now I dare to hope that even more of my dreams can come true.

(Return from Living the Dream to writings from guests)

 

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