During November, I was fortunate to welcome both my parents and two of my friends, who are also fellow Hoyas studying abroad this semester, to Lyon! Though not intentionally planned this way, they came within the same 3 week time span, so I got a nice dose of home and familiarity, as well as the opportunity to refine my tour guiding skills. We walked until our feet hurt, enjoyed each other’s company, and of course, ate well.
What struck me most about their visit was how well I have come to know Lyon, and yet, how much new I learned about the city, it’s history, and it’s traditions while exploring with them. As I now have less than a month left here (pause for shock), I think their visit also made me realize just how quickly a semester goes by, particularly when I feel like I have the time to enjoy it. When planning out our food-centered days, paramount to me and to Lyon, I reflected on my own first experiences visiting all the classic Lyonnaise spots, from the Cathedrale de la Fourviere overlooking the city, to the beautiful riverbanks where I love walking and hanging out. It seems like yesterday that I came here and explored myself…except back then I was sweating and now we are bundled up for the cold. Walking them along my route to school, by my favorite coffee shops, and even by my gym (humble brag), I also realized how much better I can navigate – maps and language wise – after just over 3 months. On a daily basis, as I attempt to speak French, sometimes it feels like I have made no progress, as I am constantly reminded of all that I don’t know. Following in classes feels challenging at times and outside of school, my confidence in speaking really varies by day. However, having visitors who don’t know French, and thus relied on me to be a translator of sorts, I realized that while I definitely still have a lot to learn, I have also improved massively in my knowledge and understanding of the language since being here. It’s starting to hit me that I won’t have the challenge/excitement of speaking French everyday once I return to the U.S., and I can genuinely say I’ll miss it more than I ever imagined I would.
Overall, getting to show off my abroad “home” really solidified for me just how special Lyon is in the realm of French and European cities. It’s manageable size-wise but not too small; it’s centrally located to be accessible to Paris and Marseille, as well as other neighboring cities/countries; and most of all, it boasts some of the best food in France and the world, yet is still affordable and attainable for college students! To avoid the risk of sounding like I work for the Lyonnaise Chamber of Commerce, I’ll just say that I personally don’t think I could’ve picked a better place to study abroad, and I am extremely grateful that I have just over two weeks left to soak it all in before the semester ends. It certainly makes the approaching doom of finals feel less scary when I have a Christmas Market literally 3 minutes from my house, festive lights up and down my street and neighborhood, and a place that feels like a second home to continue exploring like a tourist.