I’ve Never Felt More Alone than I do in France: Why That’s a Good Thing

By: Lauren Krueger

When I decided that I was going to move to Strasbourg, I immediately thought of all the things
that could go wrong. I was excited, sure, but my mind overflowed with questions. What if I
don’t make any friends? What if I can’t speak French as well as I think, and I can’t communicate
with anyone? What if I end up hating it, and I’m stuck in a city across the world, in a country
whose language I don’t speak? What if I’m alone?

After being here for a little over a month now, I can tell you, I have never felt more alone than I
do France.

And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

It all seemed hectic and fast when I arrived at the Chateau. Within the span of a few days,
eleven of us travelled across the world, moved into our rooms, introduced ourselves, and
whisked off to the Strasbourg City Center and Germany’s Kehl Shopping Center. I thought to
myself, my God, am I going to be this exhausted the whole time? But after the first week or so,
life slowed down, and suddenly all the time and energy I felt like I owed the world was my own
again. I could stroll into town down Rue Mélanie and buy some groceries at Auchan or stop to
grab a coffee and pastry at the local patisserie, all on my own. Suddenly, I was living a new life.

Photo owned by Kristine Waddell
Photo owned by Kristine Waddell

CEPA and our coordinators really did a great job of structuring our first few weeks to make it
easier for us to connect with other students. Despite this, we were all coming from our own
places of comfortability, whether it be with traveling, French culture, languages, mindsets and

At first, the novelty of a new place and new people fueled me to push through the fear. I was
alone, but everyone else was right there with me. But after I became a bit more comfortable,
that fearful doubt arose again: Now what? Have I done enough?

Soon after, the homesickness that I thought I was immune to set in. It settled in that same place
of insecurity, and I found myself missing the little things from home the most: driving a few
minutes to pick up an iced coffee, seeing friends from home, and greeting my dogs at the door.
(Actually, I miss everything about my dogs)

Feeling like this, I could have turned within and isolated myself. But I recalled a piece of advice
that a former classmate gave me: “When you start to feel homesick, find a place that reminds
you of home. It could be a park bench, or a café, or a store, or even your backyard. Once you
find it, go there when you want to feel just a little bit closer to home.” That advice sent me to
the City Square of Strasbourg, sitting on a park bench and drinking a Starbucks coffee while
watching the French dogs pass me by. It wasn’t much, but it made me feel that much closer to
home, and most of all, less alone.

Photo credit: Grego1402, this photo has not been altered
Photo credit: Grego1402

I won’t lie to you, being far away from your support systems is hard; it’s really hard. But it’s also
worth it. It teaches you about yourself and what you need: no matter how many people you’re
with, or how many friends you have, you are the only one who can do something for yourself.
After the group became more comfortable with each other, we realized that we were all just
people, and we were all nervous to be here. I’ve found that the best thing I could do while I’m
here is to be comfortable with myself. Having others around you, building friendships, will all
come. There isn’t a need to worry or put any pressure on it. Everyone goes through this process
differently. We are growing, learning, and experiencing at our own pace, together.

Although it’s only been a month, I know looking back that I’ll be thankful for it all. I can feel
myself making lifelong memories, building friendships, and learning skills that I can take back to
the United States with me. I know that regardless of how this experience goes, I will be so
happy that I came to Strasbourg either way. (Below is a picture of some of us having fun in

Photo owned by Lauren Krueger

For those who are considering studying abroad, I want you all to understand that you will feel
alone, you will be afraid, but that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing it. Since being here, I
` found that these anxieties and fears are incredibly common, so I’ve asked some other
students at the chateau about what they’ve learned and struggled with so far.

Madelyn Olvera is a 21-year-old political science student from Georgia State University who
says that she has learned so much about herself during this past month. “I learned how to be
alone and just worry about me. Back at home, I have to worry about everybody else. Over here,
my only issue I have is what I’m going to do that day. It’s so rewarding. Every now and then I do
get a little bit of sadness and homesickness, but overall, I’ve been really happy.”

Kristine Waddell, a 21-year-old English and international studies student from West Virginia
University, is getting used to the transportation systems in France, and urges people to save
money before coming abroad. “I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it (studying
abroad). I’m the farthest I’ve ever been from home, but I’ve learned that I’m okay without
people’s help. I struggled with transportation and getting around, so it’s harder to manage time
when it takes longer to get places. Money has also been an issue for me, and I recommend
anyone studying abroad to save money before coming here.”

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