30 June, 2012


I meant to write something a few days after I got back. I meant to write something a week after I got back. Neither of these things happened, so we’ll settle with writing something a month after I got back. 

I’ve been in the United States for a month, and it has gone by very quickly.

I had a lovely last 48 hours in France with an amazing night of drinks, debauchery, and goodbyes among friends in Aix and then some time in Paris. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better way to end things. I started to tear up a bit on my train from Aix to Paris thinking about everything and everyone I was leaving behind, but then I was quickly reminded of everything that happened the night before and I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. I probably looked like a crazy person, cackling to myself for three hours. Paris was lovely, as always. I love that city so much, and she was very kind to me during the final few hours we were together. Then all the sudden it was time to get to the airport, and a few hours and zero problems later, I was sneaking up behind my mom and sister in the waiting area at O’Hare airport. And then 24 hours after getting off a plane I was back at home with a house full of family and friends. Pure bliss.

People asked if I had reverse culture shock, and there was some. Even while my plane was landing, I was thrown off seeing all the yellow school buses on the road picking kids up from school and seeing baseball diamonds everywhere. People asked if I had trouble driving at first, and the answer is no, not really. I have an excellent memory and sense of direction, so I know how to get places. I didn’t drive in Europe, but in France they do drive on the right hand side of the road. Apparently most people don’t know that, but they do. It’s just the Brits that fuck it up. But moving on, a few days after I got back I was visiting my local library and saw a sign outside the door that read “No Firearms” and I seriously almost started crying. Wisconsin did a lot of things while I was gone, and one of them was the implementation of the conceal and carry gun law. You shouldn’t have to worry about guns when you’re going to the library. I’ve really just been getting overly emotional about all sorts of little things like that. Some of them warranted, some of them not (like seeing how much goat cheese and brie cost).

People asked if I missed France yet, and I didn’t know what to tell them. My response was that I wasn’t sure if I missed France, or if I missed being on vacation. I suppose having returned a month ago, I can conjure up a real answer now. I do miss France—but I’m very happy to be where I am. I miss my friends from Aix and I miss a good baguette, but other than that I’m doing quite well. It’s so nice to be around family and friends again and to be moving on with my life.

I’m now two weeks deep into campaign life, and loving it. I got myself an internship with the Democratic candidate running for Congress in my district. Unfortunately they can’t pay me, but I don’t blame them. I’ve never worked a campaign before (which is rare for someone of my talents/interests/age) and money is tight. So I’m spending my summer working out of one of the larger cities in this corner of the state about a half hour south of here, organizing on behalf of our candidate. It involves a lot of calling potential supporters and asking them for their vote in November, a yard to stick a sign in, and a few hours of their time to help keep this campaign moving. As the weeks go on it’ll get more exciting with different events, but right now we’re just trying to get all the pieces together.  I really love what I’m doing, and it’s incredibly satisfying. Even if I’m given the most boring task like entering data into a spreadsheet, I can think about WHY I’m doing it (to get Paul Ryan out of Washington and Rob Zerban in), and everything becomes exciting. It really seems like my work ethic, strong sense of loyalty, and desire to help my community is a combination of qualities perfect for campaigning.

So I suppose that’s a good summary. I’m still really happy, usually just as happy as I was in France. It’s great to be back in America, especially Wisconsin, and most especially home. I get to spend a lot of quality time with the canine and feline members of the family, who I missed quite a bit. It feels really good to be doing something different with my life. It’s really nice to meet some new people and really start a new chapter. I don’t know what the next few months are going to bring (other than a t-shirt tan and little free time), but I know It’s going to be great.

And so #FranceLife comes to an end, for the most part. Thank you to everyone who made it such a positive experience, be it support from the United States or France—I seriously appreciate it. And thank you as well to anyone who stalked this blog or my Facebook, I hope it was interesting.  And one final time, anyone who came into my life in the past year, my door will forever be open to you regardless of where I end up in life. Come visit.

Carly Danger

29 May, 2012

The Tale of a $5 Bill

On August 24th, 2011, my mother was saying goodbye to me at the security checkpoint in Chicago’s O’Hare airport. As a last minute gesture to help her daughter, she gave me a bunch of cash just in case. I assured her that I really didn’t need it and that the American dollar was a joke in Europe, but she persisted and I eventually gave up and accepted the money. I didn’t spend much of it, apart from purchasing a few last minute airport snacks to compliment the sandwiches I had packed for my long journey ahead. A few days later, some friends and I were going over to an exchange bureau to convert our traveler’s checks and American dollars into Euro to pay our apartment deposits and place the rest in our new French bank accounts. I thought I had collected all the last minute cash from my mother before going, but I was wrong. I had left one measly $5 bill in the bottom of my bag.

At first I laughed at how useless this bill was to me. There was no point in exchanging it now, because I’d only get between three and four euro for it when switching it. I hoped that I would at no point in the year be so desperate for such a small amount of money, and packed the American currency away in a small pocket of my purse. It sat there for quite a while, until one day after I had been in Europe for quite some time I opened up that small pocket to look for something and there he was, Abraham Lincoln, reminding me of where I came from. I thoroughly enjoyed this bill’s new purpose.

I never got terribly homesick over here, apart from a few incidents. But throughout the year, whenever I was down, bored, or just needed something to smile at, I’d pull out the bill and it would help quite a bit. So I decided that I would replicate this lovely tool when I go home, but the inverse. I now have a 5€ bill tucked into the same small pocket of my purse, and always will. This relatively small piece of blue and metallic paper has now become the physical embodiment of everything that these past nine months were. I’m going to miss Europe very much. I had the pleasure of meeting such amazingly intelligent, funny, and caring individuals who I never will forget. We might not see each other for a long time. We might not ever see each other ever again.  Either way, I’ll never forget about you and I’ll always carry your memory with me. And now that’s a literal statement.

And of course, I hope I’m never in such a place where I’m so desperate that I need to exchange this bill for American currency. Because it still won’t be worth that much in the scheme of things…and who knows if it’ll be worth anything at all for long.  ;)


22 May, 2012

10 days.

It's officially 10 days until I come home, so here are 10 things I'm very excited about:

1. Being reunited with family and friends. I haven't seen the most important people in my life in nine months. I've been doing some stretches and push-ups to prepare for all the hugging I'm going to do. Kidding. But seriously, I'm going to hug you in half. Just a heads up.

2. Being reunited with my animals. My cats don't understand Skype. I spoke French to my kitty the other day (because I know how to talk to cats in French) and she ran away. I'm legitimately afraid she won't remember me. And my dogs, I miss them lots. We'll go on lots of long walks and I'll take Buddy to Bradford Beach and it'll be super fun.

3. Being able to communicate with people via phone and not dealing with a seven hour time difference in general. My computer has two clocks running so I don't have to do math, but being closer to everything will be nice. Also so I can stay better in tune with the news cycle...because that's important to me.

4. Not having to think in such temporary terms when making a purchase. Here, I have to think "Do I want to bring this home? Do I have this at home?" when buying something. I'm looking forward to not being between places and just planting myself for a while.

5. Meeting my "new" car. My brother took our beloved Red Baron to Oklahoma for his internship, and I'm entering the real world as a college grad. In America, this means I need my own car. I explained the situation to my mom and step dad a few months ago just to give them a heads up, and they took care of me like they always do. I'm so grateful for that.

6. Rejoining American politics. I've missed them so much. It was really hard for me to go from sitting in the balcony of the House of Representatives watching Barney Frank make fun of Speaker Boehner for crying, to sitting in an internet-less apartment on the other side of the world. I'm super excited for campaign work. I've long been aware of the fact that my reentry to the States timed perfectly with when the 2012  cycle would be picking up, so this has always been the plan.

7. Being able to go buy milk wearing whatever I want. I never leave my apartment without wearing something cute, a bit of makeup, and more often than not, a scarf. Don't get me wrong, I like looking good all the time. I just want the option to be there for me to wear sweatpants and a t-shirt.

8. Being able to think about a bigger picture. I'm not working to pay for the next semester, get through a summer class, or dread becoming an RA again in a few weeks. This is my life now. I'm looking for experience to carefully build a budding political resume and pay my bills.

9. Having my shoes back. Sorry, this is a bit shallow...but I really love my shoes. I have too many of them. Europe hated my "giant" feet and wouldn't sell me anything in a store. It taught me to live a bit more simply which is nice, but the thought of going home to so many options is really exciting for me.

10. Not having people judge me every time I open my mouth based on pronunciation. I have made a great amount of progress with my French this year, but it's always so much better when I'm speaking with other students or friends my age than it is if I'm speaking with a stranger or a clerk somewhere. This country has definitely gone from laughing at me to laughing with me, which is cute. I came to that conclusion on my spring break trip and if that's all that happens--I'm okay with it.


15 May, 2012


I’m probably done with college. I say probably because there’s a bit of a bureaucratic process that needs to be gone though before it’s official, and I’m just trying to cover my ass in the event that something goes wrong down the line. But I don’t want to talk about why things are complicated. I want to talk about how happy and proud of myself I am right now. 

I (probably) finished my Bachelors of Arts degree in International Politics-US Foreign Policy and a minor in French in four years flat. I finished 95% of the credit requirements in three years at UW-Milwaukee, leaving myself an entire year at a political science university in France to come up with six, relatively flexible credits to take back to finish out everything for good. I gave up having a social life, sanity, and free time for most of the past four years working by two jobs every summer and winter break in order to be able to fill in financial gaps left by the government not caring about a middle class white female like myself. I worked 4am-12:30pm at Target full time and then (most days) would go home to take a nap, and then work as a hostess at a local restaurant at night. And then repeat. For the past two years at UWM, I worked in the dorms as an RA as the most effective means of covering my living expenses in order to preserve my credit and save taking out private loans for my ultimate goal of studying abroad for a year. Though I have positive memories and relationships as a result of it, this also ate up a tremendous amount of time and sanity and I’m happy it’s over. I’m so happy all of that is over.

Though I will never be done learning, I’m so happy that I’m not going to be living semester to semester trying to cover the next tuition bill. I worked hard, got myself an internship on Capitol Hill in Washington (to which I will forever be grateful for my sister for letting me live on her couch and to Congresswoman Gwen Moore+staff for taking me under their wing) and started myself on a proper track professionally. And now I’m leaving France (ps I just lived in France for nine months—that’s insane to think about) and I have stuff lined up for when I get home. I’m going to be working my ass off for one, probably two, underdog campaigns because I believe in what they’re fighting for. I’m going to network the shit out of the Wisconsin political scene, and if for some reason that doesn’t get me anywhere…I’ve already got a backup plan (but I won’t talk about that just yet).

So I guess this is just a huge pat on the back. I did it. I worked hard, and I did it. And I’m super excited to see where I end up because of it. We’ve already uncorked a bit of champagne, and it’s going to continue until the early hours of the morning. Some people have asked if I get to walk at some sort of graduation ceremony, and the answer is no. But I don’t really care, that’s not what’s important to me. I’m going to be borrowing a friend’s graduation get-up when I get back, take a bunch of pictures around UWM’s campus just to pretend it happened like normal, and then I had this moment at the Eiffel Tower a few weeks ago…


A huge congratulations goes out to all other friends graduating this weekend, we’ll celebrate when I get back. Also, a huge thank you to everyone who’s been such an important part of my life the past four years and kept me sane during the tough times—you know who you are.

Hugs, kisses, and see you all in 16 days <3

14 May, 2012

The universe has smiled upon me.

Well, I officially have only one exam left, and I am just beyond thrilled. As a reminder, though I know I have explained it before, exams at my university are weird. You show up to a classroom at the time provided for you, and you literally pick a subject out of a hat. Like...there are slips of paper in a beret. That literally happened to me. Sometimes you can pick two topics, and then keep whichever one you know better. These topics can be overall themes carried throughout the course, a specific event or policy, or some sort of comparison between two topics. The point is, anything discussed during the entire course is up for grabs. So you have your topic, you prepare your information for 10 or 15 minutes, speak for about 10 minutes, and then do a brief Q&A with the professor to hit on aspects you missed or an entirely different topic. If this didn't go without saying, it's in French. And if that's not scary enough for you, this is your only grade for the entire semester. All or nothing. 

So the reason I'm just so thrilled right now, is that today was my last exam in this format. (Tomorrow I have an exam where I select my topic ahead of time and it's also in English...but that's a strange class I won't expand upon.) For all of the exams I had both this semester and last, there were a significant amount of things that I could have randomly selected that I would have been unable to talk about. There was just so much information, and I'm terrible at studying and always have been. The things that I know, I know really well already. If it didn't sneak into my brain throughout the semester, there's no way it's getting in there now. But by some miracle of the universe, I always selected a topic that I could speak about quite well. Seriously, I have no idea how that happened. The odds were against me. All I know is that I'm happy it worked out that way because it didn't have to.


13 May, 2012

I love the internet.

I don't know how people would have studied abroad in the dark times, pre internet. Only having boats/planes/telephones to send information back and forth across the ocean seems too archaic. I know the thought of leaving all friends and family behind for nine months is scary to some people, but it wasn't especially difficult in my opinion (once I finally got a stable internet connection). Of course it wasn't an ideal situation and I have missed everyone terribly, but easy communication is still possible. I might not understand the internet....

...but I'm forever indebted to its black magic for making my life this year easier.

I bring this up right now because from time to time, like just now, I hop onto Google Maps and take a "streetview" tour of my favorite places back home. It does wonders for homesickness. In 19 days, I'll be back in Wisconsin. I'm going to fling open the car door, run into the house, hug any human family members that are home, find my cat and hope she remembers me, and then wrestle with some dogs. And then repeat...several times. I'm really excited to come home, so much so that I think I might just be screaming the entire drive from O'Hare to my house (Sorry in advance Mom+Andrea) . But when I turn around the corner and see this (minus cars/trees that are no longer there), I'm probably going to lose my shit.

PS I'm still loving France lots and having so much fun and sun and complicated feelings that I don't want to explain now. I'll save that for another post.


11 May, 2012

A picture is worth 1,000 words

I was walking past one of the more popular parks in town a few weeks back, and noticed how the people casually scattered across the grass resembled the famous Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jette by Georges Seurat (as made famous by this scene).  Some of my friends and I had already been throwing around the idea of doing an end of the year event just for us year long students, and I decided this might be a fun group photo if just our smaller group got together and recreated the famous tableau. And today was that day. 

So we had a lovely picnic among friends, and then started staging this piece of performance art. This involved me holding up someone’s smart phone with the image of this painting as a point of reference, and dragging each person one by one to their mark and telling them how to stand. We even had a few props to go with the painting. Meanwhile, there are dozens of other people in the park minding their own business while this large group of Americans is doing who knows what. It was pretty funny. And this masterpiece is what we ended up with:


This evening was also the end of the year meal put on by my program. It was the last time we’d all be in the same place, and that was strange. I know once I leave this country there are some people I’ll never see again. For some of them, that’s okay. For others, it’s a sad reality. People can try and try to stay in touch and life just happens. I got to know pretty well most of the people who were here for the year and a couple people who came just for the semester, and I know we’ll all go on to do great things. And of course…

...we’ll always have Aix.