Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Purpose Abroad

First things first:  I have to say a huge congratulations to my big brother and sister-in-law!!  Baby Sophie Rose was born Friday evening, and I am SO beyond excited to have a new baby niece!  She is absolutely beautiful!

Sophie Rose, 6 pounds 5 ounces, 20 inches

Now, let's focus on la Martinique.

My friend Courtney at La Fille Américaine posted a few weeks ago with some advice for future assistants.  One of her guidelines was to "Decide what you want to get out of the year abroad."

At first, this seems like it would be a fairly simple task.  Well, duh, I want to get the most out of my experience and change my life!  But what does that even mean to me, and how am I going to implement it?

In general, my goals for going to Martinique are as follows:
  1. Learn to just be me.  I want to go to Martinique with the goal to stay true to myself and not be influenced by other people around me or people at home.  This is my experience, and I want to be able to listen to what I truly want.  I want to learn to be myself without feeling that I need to justify my actions (or inactions).  
  2. Improve my writing.  Maintaining my blog is important to me.  I'd also like to find a way to include writing in my everyday life.  I think by writing more often, I will find ways to improve and figure out what direction I want my blog to go in.  Writing a book is also something to ponder...
  3. Live in the moment.  I used to always be a planner, and lately I've been trying to let that go.  I hope that by living in a foreign country for 7 months, I can learn to truly live one day at a time.  I hope to live a more laid-back and carefree lifestyle.  Living in the Caribbean will hopefully help with that, too...  
These are all great goals to keep in mind going to Martinique.  But aren't these just things I want to achieve in life in general?  I want to find a specific purpose for myself while I'm there.  How can I attain my goals?  What are my Martinique-specific goals?

Do I want to:
  • Improve my French?
  • Travel as much as possible?
  • Indulge in teaching?
I honestly don't know how to answer these questions.  Teaching is definitely not my top priority, but I don't know what is.  For a while, I had planned on just going to Martinique and just letting life take me wherever.  Now, I feel like if I don't have at least some idea of what I want to make out of this experience, it might just pass me by.  I definitely don't want to return home next summer feeling like I didn't accomplish what I wanted to.  

I guess that means I have about 3 months to figure out what I do want to accomplish.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Writing About Writing

    A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I was going to try to post in my blog once a week until I move to Martinique (and things get a bit more exciting).  But I didn't post last week because I had a lot going on, and quite honestly, I've been feeling very discouraged lately.

    I've always thought of myself as a strong writer.  The more I write, the more I realize that I want writing to be a big part of my life (even if it's just blogging for fun).  I really enjoy writing.  Even though I dreaded writing term papers in college, part of me would get such a thrill from producing a piece of work that I was proud of.

    Last week, I decided to look into freelance writing.  I need to try to get some extra cash, so why not try to earn money doing something that I love?  But when I started researching opportunities, I got overwhelmed.  Technically, I have no professional experience under my belt.  I wrote plenty of papers during college, but that was all academic work.  Just because I like writing and editing and I think I'm good at it doesn't mean that I have any proof.  How can I convince someone that they should hire me?  How do I make myself more marketable when I don't have any solid experience?

    I've always thought that job searching was extremely discouraging, and I hate how it makes me feel about myself.  I don't necessarily doubt my abilities.  But I doubt my qualifications.  How can I shake this feeling?  How do I get my foot in the door?

    Anyway, enough grumbling!

    Still no news on my work contract from Martinique.  I'm trying to be very patient, expecting that it probably won't come until late July or August.  I don't exactly mind waiting that long, but I am a bit concerned about getting it early enough to have plenty of time to get my visa (which I have to go to Chicago for).

    I've decided that once I find out what city I will be teaching in, I will start to research options for housing, but I don't think I want to commit to anything.  The idea of going to Martinique with no place to live is a little terrifying, but I don't want to sign a lease with a place until I've seen it and figured out how far away from my school it is.

    Even though so much about my contract is up in the air, the unknown is a little thrilling.  I secretly love the idea of just arriving there without an apartment.  I love that I have to figure everything out on my own.  I want to be thrown in a situation where not everything is handed to me on a silver platter.

    I am so excited to welcome a little more adventure in my life.  

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    My Love Affair With Books

    I keep complaining about how I have nothing to do to prepare for Martinique.  That's not entirely true: I have to save money.  Lots of it.  Even though I have been living at home for the past year and a half, I honestly don't have much money saved up.

    I've been getting better at telling myself not to buy more clothes I don't need and not to go out to eat as much.  But there is one thing that I can't get myself to stop buying.


    Yes, I realize I could rent them from the library.  I do that, too.  But the library doesn't have all of the books I want to read.  And there are some books that I just want to own.  I try to buy them cheap and used, but so far, I haven't been able to stop buying them altogether.

    My recent purchases:

    French Women Don't Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano
    This is the only recent purchase that I've actually read so far.  This book compares French and American cultures surrounding food.  The author has some great advice and insight on why French women (and men) don't get fat.  There are some amazing recipes included, too.  Honestly, I can't get enough of this book.

    The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
    I just received this in the mail today and was SO excited.  It's one woman's story of her "Happiness Project," where she spent one year dedicating her time and energy finding things that made her truly happy.  I have heard so many wonderful things about this book, and I can't wait to start it.

    The Art of Non-Conformity, Chris Guillebeau
    I was also very excited to receive this book today!  I've just discovered Chris Guillebeau's blog The Art of Non-Conformity and decided to buy his book right away.  Just reading the title of this book makes me feel inspired!


    The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine, Rudolph Chelminski
    I was recommended this book by one of my French professors, and I can't wait to read it.  It's the story of  a Michelin three-star rated French chef who committed suicide from the pressures brought on by his career.

    ALL of these books were less than $10 each.  Most of them I bought from which is my favorite site to buy used books online.  They are SUPER cheap even after shipping costs, and the selection is pretty impressive.

    Have you read any of these books?  Do you have any suggestions of similar books that I should check out?  Please share! 

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Now I'm Ready

    Even though I have received some information about my contract, it still doesn't feel real to me.  I don't know where exactly I'll be located, I don't have a ticket, and I don't have anything specific that I can do right now to prepare.  Every time I tell someone about my future plans, they always ask me if I'm excited.  Well, yes, of course.  But there's more to it than that.

    As I said in my first post, I was a little hesitant to apply for the program.  As a French major, it seemed like the "thing to do" after graduation, but I wasn't in a place in my life back then that I could commit to anything.  Now, I am ready for an experience that will be life-altering.  

    In a Facebook group for 2011-2012 Assistants in France, I read comments that at times make me feel insecure.  Several assistants comment on how excited they are to teach and to use their French, even thinking of lesson plans already.  It makes sense, since this program is mostly aimed at people with the desire to go into education.  But that's not me.  I don't want to teach, and that is the least appealing part of this program to me.  I have never been a big fan of kids, and I have no idea how I'll be in a classroom.  I'm anxious to have to use my French because I'm so out of practice and I've always been very insecure about my speaking skills.

    These were the main reasons that I wasn't previously wanting to commit to the program.  They say that once you apply, you are basically committing yourself, and I wasn't comfortable with making that sort of commitment if I wasn't 100% into it.

    Then I realized, I will never be 100% into it.  I will never wake up one morning without any doubts or insecurities.  But last summer, I did realize that my life wasn't going where I wanted it to.  I needed to do something that would push me out of my comfort zone.  After reading my friend Courtney's blog about her experience as an assistant in Paris, I finally made the decision to do the assistantship, even if I wasn't absolutely positive about it.  

    Now, I am more than ready for this experience.  I still don't want to teach, and I don't love the idea of working with little kids.  But that's why I think I should.  I wrote in my application that I wanted to be in a position that I could learn from the students and help them with something that will benefit them in their lives (learning another language).  I am depending on these little Martinicans to open my eyes and change my life in a fabulous way.  

    Just replace this woman's face with mine...

    Maybe to some people this doesn't sound like a great reason to be an English assistant.  But I am going into this with an open mind, ready for anything to be thrown my way.  My heart is in it for the right reasons, and I know that it will be an amazing experience in so many ways.  

    If you want to read my short essay included in my application, please click here.