When I first landed in Talloires, a small and quaint village in the French Alps, I remember feeling equally anxious and excited about studying abroad for the first time. I was ready to dive head first into French culture and cuisine, but also into the beautiful landscape offered by the lush mountains and turquoise water of Lake Annecy. In many ways, my summer there felt like going on a trampoline, jumping into an adventure I can’t forget.
In the same way that I did not know any French, my eleven-year-old host sister, Lucy, did not know any English. I remember the first time I met my host mother and sister, and how as I was going in for the polite handshake, they automatically leaned in to kiss both of my cheeks. It would become one of many French customs that would take some getting used to but eventually grow on me.
I remember my host sister, Lucy, shyly standing behind her mother and blurting out a simple “Hi” with her strong accent. For the first week, she avoided coming into my room but as I started to join in on family dinners and spend more time in the living room, she would motion for me to play video games with her.
Even though we could not speak in each other’s tongue, we found a way to communicate. Whether it was making exaggerated sounds and motions, drawing out what we wanted to say, or even using google translate on an iPad, we found a way to bond and have fun. Even though I couldn’t understand her, body language, hand gesture, and the universal language of laughter is familiar to all of us
During one of the sunny afternoons in July, Lucy tugged at my arm and motioned for me to follow her into the yard. In front of us was a colossal black trampoline that my host father had finally set up for us. Lucy had brought some of her friends over and they were already jumping on the backyard trampoline outside.
Growing up in an apartment in NYC my whole life, I admittedly had never gone on a trampoline before and thus, was hesitant to join them. I felt self-conscious about being an adult and jumping on a good-quality trampoline alongside kids but before I knew it, Lucy was already dragging my hand to the step ladder leading to the trampoline. And so, I slowly step onto it and felt the warm fabric from the beating sun.
I bounced a little bit and then higher, and higher until I landed on my back, holding hands with Lucy and laughing with her. In that moment, I felt blissfully content. I was reminded that inside every adult is still a child and that there exists a simple joy in the least expected places. That summer in Talloires felt exactly like going on a trampoline, where you didn’t quite know what to expect but took the first jump and learned to let go a little bit, so that you could truly enjoy the moment.
My study abroad in France gave me many new experiences. It was the first time I had ever travelled to Europe and the first time I had to live with people who did not share the same language as me. It was the first time I went paragliding over the French Alps and hiked to a church on a mountain top. It was the first time I went skinny dipping with the neighbors and the first time I made meringue with my host sister. At the end of the day, I was immensely grateful for the rich cultural immersion.
I was also immensely proud to say that I took the plunge, and found the courage to try new things whenever I could. Like bouncing on a trampoline, I learned that life is full of surprises because you never quite know how high of a jump you’ll get. Sometimes, you jump high enough to make flips and turns but other times, you bounce just enough to feel blissfully content in that moment.