With less than five months left of my exchange year, I was obliged to think about the next step. It wasn’t like I never thought about it before though. For the past five months many possibilities have passed through my mind.
As my French friends wanted, I did consider staying in France. However, that idea quickly became a no-no as I knew that my language ability would never be good enough. “But you speak French really well!” my classmates always say when I tell them that I couldn’t stay. Yet studying in a foreign country wasn’t just being able to speak fluently, I’m sure deep down everyone knew that. The language had to be a habit, preferably since a very young age. Though I am quite a fluent French speaker now, the literature side of this language was still extremely difficult for me. So why fight a battle that’s not yours?
While expressing to my friends and host family that I still prefer finishing my studies in my native languages, English and Chinese, some of them suggested English-French double curriculum schools, and which I did find one in the UK, but the school fee would probably drain out my college savings before I even went to college. Same with an international school in Eastern France that accepted students from all over the world and had a 96% of success on the BAC (Baccalaureate exam, the French equivalent of SATs), which was recommended to me by my exchange agency in Taiwan. Besides, they had completely different systems from what I was used to and switching examination systems two years before applying for college was too risky for me. I didn’t know what I could get out of it and I wasn’t willing to spend so much money to acquire just the prestige environment. Neither were my parents.
Returning to Taiwan is already a sure thing, I guess. As much as I prefer the school system here, it only seems reasonable that I retreat to safety zone to pass the exams, then fly out on my own again. I am not afraid to say that Taiwan probably has the worst education environment in the entire world, but as my mom constantly told me, the environment isn’t the most important thing. What matters is your attitude and how you make yourself strive no matter what surroundings you have.
I’m going to be a hundred percent truthful here – my attitude towards schoolwork hasn’t always been the best. Even if I do get enough motivation to push my grades up to the top section of the class, which has happened a few times (one hand is enough to count the times), my “celebratory” spirit takes over immediately and I start spoiling myself too much. “Yeah I’ll just do this tomorrow, have some fun in honor of the good marks you got”, I tell myself everyday. Tomorrow is always in the future and I end up doing nothing except piling up a bunch of undone work. Then my grades tumble in a free fall all the way to the bottom.
I’ve always wanted to be the kind of student who has good grades but knows how to have fun at the same time. I haven’t achieved that status yet, but I would like to try. Here in France I see my classmates who enjoy themselves a lot during the weekends but still put their efforts into schoolwork when they are supposed to. When I return to Taiwan, and when I think about my French friends, I hope their motivation reaches me and urges me to be like them.