Belle et Rebelle: Reflections On a Year Abroad


This post was contributed by Kate Grigorakou.

Three years ago, I took this leap of faith for myself to go and study abroad. I said ‘’Kate, shut up and go’’. (Pun intended)
For a 27-year-old Greek girl, this was a big leap of faith. Having your average knowledge of French, with a few degrees, but never actually used the French language, yes this was a big leap of faith. And there’s more. The studies were in the field of Law, which basically for me was just a continuation of my field, but not really my cup of tea, or should I say my glass of champagne!
Having travelled abroad a lot, it wasn’t really the traveling that scared me. In fact, it was the decision to move in a different country, not knowing anybody, and basically the idea that you start your life again from point zero. At least that was what the little voice in my head was telling me.

So the day came, I took a bus from my hometown, boarded on the plane, arrived in Nantes, took another bus and arrived in La Rochelle. The gem of the South of France. The moment I set my foot in ”la belle et rebelle”, as they call it I immediately fell in love. I fell in love with everything, as cliche as this may sound. Of course I had my concerns and stress moments, but I tried to keep it together.

I can say in all honesty, that is was probably the biggest, scariest, happiest, life-changing, challenging experience of my life. I made friends for life, from different corners of the world, from Brazil to Macau and in between. I fell in love like crazy and got hurt deeply. I got to experience what was like to live in a place where no one actually knows your name. And let me tell you, it was the most free I have ever felt. I still find myself seeking that freedom now that I am back home. That’s why whenever I can I try to go back, even if its just for a couple of days. During that year I became more of myself if that makes sense. It was like this trip was meant to happen, to help me see my life in a different way and help me discover things that were missing from my life.
I got to experience what it was like to live in a place where no one actually knows your name.
Restarting your studies, abroad, at the age of 27 is not an easy decision to make. Nevertheless, I did it and came out of it alive. The truth is I failed in my Masters. I decided I didn’t want or need to finish it. And that was like a salvation in a way, because I was getting out of something I didn’t really want in the first place. Instead, I realize the thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The thing that fulfilled me in ways I have never dreamt of. Photography. The thing about France that was different from Greece is that when you go to  university , they give you a list of different actives to choose from, as part of the education. I found my passion from extra ‘’cours’’ of analog photography.
Yes, film photography.
I actually know how to load, unload film, develop it in the dark room and actually print it manually. Cut to today, where I am a professional photographer with my degree in the art of photography.
When I look back at that  year of my life, I feel a ton of emotions. Some of them bad, but most of them great and unforgettable. I really grew  as a person. I gained this amazing confidence that was like ‘’OK world, bring it, I’m ready’’.
I had this completely change of mindset. More sure of myself, more independent, more secure, more open-minded, more grateful. But, let’s not forget all the bad moments. You miss your family, your cat, your friends, your house, the everyday life and tons of other things. And the crazy thing is, it always hits you when you least expect it. To be honest, I had my fair amount of times of crying in my bed, having my panic attacks, my financial insecurities, my making new friends all over again insecurities, my ‘I don’t want to get out of bed to go to class’’ moments.  Tears running down my face after a long call with my friends back home. But hey, at least  I got to cry in style in a poetic way in front of the Atlantic Ocean.
The truth is that, despite all the difficulties and the moments I wanted to book a flight back home, all the knowledge and pure happiness I got to experience, I wouldn’t change it for the world. If I could turn back time, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
So, friends, don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to try anything new. Whether it is an experience, a job, a trip, a relationship, anything.
The only thing you will understand for sure is yourself.

Meet Kate. Born and raised in Greece, but wanderluster from a very young age. Working as a freelance photographer at the moment and currently finishing my masters in cultural administration. My ultimate dream is to travel the world and have no regrets. Keep up with Kate on IG. 

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