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Zander Willoughby

  • C’est fini.

    by Zander Willoughby | May 24, 2017

    Well, the day has come; I’ve taken my last exam, the plan ticket is bought, and the suitcase is almost packed. Almost 9 months have passed, 262 days since I left the states, touching down in Strasbourg 374,824.7 minutes before writing this sentence. I left under Obama to Hollande, now I’ll leave Macron to Trump. The vicarious living of the reply all gone wrong and the great power outage of ’17 via social media is over.

    I remember my first conversation in French in France. I met my host mother at the train station. Managing to stumble through the “Je m’appelle Zander,” the first of many awkward and terrifying interactions in French over the first few months. We left the station together to head to her house:

    “On va prendre le tram?” She said. Literally, 5 words… “Should we take the tram?” “Non” I said, thinking she’d asked my if I’ve ever taken the tram in Strasbourg.

    “Il n’y a pas un autre choix” She laughed “That’s our only choice.”

    And that, my friends, is how this whole thing started. My hands shook the first 4 months whenever I spoke with a stranger. Especially buying lunch everyday, I’m honestly surprised I never dropped my money. If I had a euro for every time someone gave up on my French and asked me what  I wanted in English, I could’ve done the European capital tour like a lot of study abroad students do. My host father likes to do this thing where he, instead of admitting to people how much better my French has gotten, explains my level of French at the beginning as being progressively worse. I’m proud to say that I’m now up to, “He couldn’t even make a whole sentence!”

    Though it would take years more practice to feel fully comfortable in French, it’s amazing to think of the progress a year abroad does. As a quick recap, I spent the first semester at the Institut international d’études française focusing only on French language and the second semester at the Institut d’études politiques de Strasbourg also known as Sciences Po Strasbourg studying political science at one of the top political institutions in France. In September, homework assignments were “Write at least 150 words about what friendship is” and it was pretty rough to put that together, the History of International Relations since 1945 exam this week was a three-hour dissertation on the evolution of the use of military force and international law as pertaining to the US invasion of Iraq; it’s been a long year.

    It’s been both a long 374,911.6 minutes and yet a quick 9 months. It’s been a lifetime in the blink of an eye; pre-Comey letter and post-Comey memo. In such a consequential time for the European Union and liberal democracy, I’ve had the honour to be in Europe during the Austrian, Dutch, Italian (referendum), and French elections. French level aside, that has been an amazing experience itself.

    In the end, it has definitely been a transformative experience. Did I “find myself?” Maybe not. Am I going to start buying wall decorations with world maps that say Travel ? Nope. Do I feel the need to  constantly  pull  out  French  phrases  to  say  things  that  could  easily  be  said  with  English ones?

    Probably not. Am I going to complain about American wine, bread, and cheese for the rest of my life because it’s just not the same as in France? Only about the cheese.

    C'est fini


    Zander E. Willoughby ’18 is a Political Science & French major & Peace Studies minor, and a former Multicultural Affairs Programmer, Student Senate Vice-President, Model U.N. Secretary-General and more. He is currently studying in Strasbourg, France at the Institut d'Études Politiques at Université de Strasbourg. His future plans include working in International Relations or International Law, hopefully within the U.N. system.