A Not So Happy 4th

If you want to experience the ultimate culture shock, then spending a holiday that is unanimously celebrated in your home country abroad is the way to do it.

This happened to me this year on the Fourth of July.

I can honestly say that I have never felt more homesick in my life. My family was at home preparing to grill out for dinner and then set off fireworks, and I was in my hotel room microwaving pizza for dinner and getting ready to do homework.

A lot of the American students were feeling particularly down that day, because no one here seemed to care that it was the 4th.

Classes still continued as usual. Shops and restaurants stayed open for business. There were no special deals at the supermarket for watermelon and hot dogs that day. And no fireworks shacks in sight.

There's a saying about never truly appreciating something until it's gone from your life. And I truly think that that is applicable here.

Missing out on the celebration of my country's independence really made me take a step back to realize importance of the day and how happy I was to be an American.

For example, America really believes in the freedom of the press, and as a journalist that is really important to me. The other day while I was out shooting an assignment for class at the train station we were stopped by a French officer. He told us that we could not film anymore because we did not have the proper "authorization." And that was just so weird to me, because if I had been in America, I would have told him to stop hassling me because I know that I am free to film in a public place. I tried to explain to the man in English that it was a public place, but then I realized he wouldn't understand, so I stopped. It was really scary. Even in America sometimes people look at you funny when you ask to take their picture until you explain what it's for, so I can imagine with my lack of French that they were even more hesitant since I had no way of explaining myself.

After experiencing that I intend to never take my freedom for granted again, especially the freedom of the press, after I return home in a couple of weeks.

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About the Program

Fifteen college students came from North America to Perpignan, France, in June 2011 to produce these videos and stories. To find out more, read a welcome letter from program director Rachele Kanigel, meet the program faculty and explore the 2010 website.