Beyond the Bubble: Real Life

By May Mansour, The Dartmouth Staff | 10/14/15 7:50am

This is my second installment of Beyond the Bubble so naturally I'm feeling pressured to change things up for my readership (which currently consists of my editors, my sister and my estranged cousin whose Facebook profile pic is a slug with a thought bubble that reads "I didn't choose the slug life, the slug life chose me").

So in the spirit of change, today I am coming to you live (not really) from an incredibly uncomfortable salon chair in eastern Paris. It's a Tuesday afternoon, it's raining and I am nervous at the thought of how much work I have to do tonight. I'm not perched beneath the Eiffel Tower reading 19th-century poetry. I'm not buying out haute couture boutiques on Rue St. Honoré. I'm not breaking bread with a mustachioed Renaissance man. I'm getting a haircut — a very ordinary haircut — in an ordinary salon in an ordinary part of town.
There are incredibly high expectations set for my term abroad — my friends expect me to rage every second of every day, my professors expect me to prioritize my studies and my mom expects me to do everything in my power not to die. The reality is that these three standards are mutually exclusive. No matter how hard I try — and trust me, I'm trying very hard — my experience will never live up to the ever-interesting, ever-filtered and ever-"candid" photographs of the 15France Facebook albums.

This is not Eat, Pray, Love. I am not a tourist. I am not on vacation. I am living real life — I have to clean my room, do my laundry, go grocery shopping and pay my phone bill. I go to school, I study for hours and most of the time I don't get nearly as much sleep as I need. I experience occasional bouts of sadness, and there are days when I yearn for my friends and Homecoming and Lou's and reliable internet connection.

Don't get me wrong, this is the opportunity of a lifetime — I get to spend my Wednesday nights studying at the Louvre, I get to drink my morning coffee in the Luxembourg Gardens and I get to plan spontaneous trips to London. I am doing amazing things and traveling to amazing places. But life and responsibilities don't come to a screeching halt because I'm living abroad, and every day for me is not a life-changing adventure. Some days I can't believe my luck and some days I feel sad and fat. And that's okay. That's how it's supposed to be. That's life anywhere and everywhere, and that's the study abroad experience we ought to be sharing.

May Mansour, The Dartmouth Staff