I am a student at West Virginia University. I am a student at the Université de Nantes. I have a bank account in America. I have a bank account in France. I need to apply for housing in Morgantown. I have a dorm in Nantes. I speak in English. I speak in French.
I have two lives.
I thought that living one life was pretty tough in America, but trying to balance both lives? It’s a nearly impossible task that leaves me running from problem to problem. Take this example: I was informed that my federal loans were due because I was no longer a student at West Virginia University.
Wait? What? When did I drop out of school?
I couldn’t remember dropping out of school, so I had my father contact financial aid and the Office of International Programs to get the problem fixed. I am, once again, a student. It was a minor administrative error, but it had major consequences and, if my father hadn’t helped me, the situation could have been very bad. I am unprepared to pay back my student loans at this time! I don’t have a job in France.
But then, here in France, my American check still won’t clear at the bank. They said it would take two to three weeks. That was several weeks ago. I keep going in and it’s clear that the bank workers are just as confused as I am. I don’t have any money, as I have yet to receive my stipend. I receive a stipend because I have to pay for housing and food – I am also paying for housing and food at WVU (this is why I have a stipend, because I shouldn’t have to pay for housing and food if I already paid for another international student at WVU). It’s complicated. Trust me.
For the record, I believe that the name “study abroad” is utterly deceptive. The name “study abroad” evokes an image of studying in a dorm room and happily going to class. While I am studying, I am only in class for eighteen hours a week. The rest of my time? I am in administrative offices or sleeping or eating. I do have fun, as you can see in my other blog posts, but I am constantly focusing on a problem – whether it is at WVU or here in Nantes. Therefore, I propose that the name “study abroad” be changed to “living abroad.” I am truly living abroad. I have to pay into social security and I have to pay insurance. I will need to go to the immigration offices and have a medical exam. And that’s only a small percentage of what I need to do…all for five months abroad.
I am living two lives, but my problem is that I am just one person. How can I possibly keep track of two busy lives? Well, luckily for me, I have people back in America who are helping me. Professors, advisors, and other faculty members at WVU keep me up to date with e-mails and are more than willing to help me with issues that arise. My father keeps a watchful eye on my accounts and keeps me from panicking. Everything has a solution. The solution, however, might not be easy to achieve. And, of course, my friends, mentors, former teachers, family (basically, you), are all extremely supportive and understanding.
Is it possible to juggle two lives? Of course it is. Is it easy? Nope. But I’m trying. I know that all of this will be worth it. Here’s a little story of why I believe that it works out in the end:
At the beginning of the summer, I packed my USB drive for the following fall semester at WVU. I had a great summer and, at the end, I packed all of my things to go back to school. But where was my USB drive? I searched everywhere. I panicked. I thought I lost it…and I was leaving the next day. But then I remembered. Everything I do, I do to make my life easier in the future. I am constantly thinking ahead. So, I asked myself, “What would Kellene have done to make things easier for you?”
“Well, she would have already packed it.”
And, sure enough, in the smallest hidden compartment of my book bag, my USB drive was there.
Right now, I’m trying to think ahead and make things easier for the future me. There will be panic (as usual), but then I will remember. I did all of that to make things better. And, then, at the end of the day, I will be really grateful I did it.