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Laëtitia, France.

France is a diverse country of what we’re very proud. I myself come from a family that has diverse roots: my grandfather is Belgian, my grandmother is Sicilian. I was born in Paris, then we moved to another city and then to a village. It was a very small village in the middle of the forest. My parents had a bakery, but we were always called “the new ones”, because in this area, like in many rural areas, people live in one place for generations. Even now, when I come back there, I can still hear people calling us “new ones”, though my parents live there for 18 years! I left my family house after finishing high school. I was 18 and I left to study. I wanted to go and I did.

I come from a family, where a lot of people are hand workers. A lot of students I met came from more intellectual families. It took me a lot of time to catch up on the knowledge that they had and I didn’t. When I was studying I also had to work to support myself. I studied History and History of Art. I enjoyed my studies, but I knew that the kind of job I could get once I graduate was not for me. History was interesting, but I missed reality. When you are a student you are, in a way, “cut off from the world”. I didn't want to get trapped in this so I’ve decided to put off my studies. I wanted to “grow up” by seeing something else.

I knew I needed to learn English one way or another, so I’ve decided to go England. You learn a lot about yourself when you're far away from home, you don't know the language and you're in a world where you can count only on yourself! I had already felt lonely, but I’ve never felt as lonely and helpless as when I arrived in London. I don’t regret it, but it was hard. I knew I could always come back, but I grew up with the idea, that when you start something important, you should finish it. My plan was to learn English and I wouldn’t leave before I achieved it. I think that the time I’ve spend there made me grow up ten times quicker than my life before London. When you have to take a lousy job, your co-workers come from different worlds, face different situations, have different dreams, then you start realizing what “not judging” really means. I think I became a lot more tolerant and aware of various life situations.

London was too big for me. When you grow up in a small village (even if you hated it when you were young), sooner or later you realize that you weren't given any tools to know what it is like to live in a big city. I guess I would never be happy there, I felt lost. So, although I had a very good job (I was a personal assistant of a photographer) and earned a lot of money, I knew that it wasn’t for me. I decided to move on.

I decided to go for a long term voluntary service and found a project in Poland. In London I had met some Polish people and started to learn Polish a little bit. I came here for a year and decided to stay longer, to “dig deeper”. I feel that you cannot discover a culture just by travelling around.

I’m staying in Poznan for now. I’m learning Polish but I still don’t speak fluently. It’s true that it will always be exciting for me to feel completely lost and having to fight for everything. I’m addicted to being in a new situation and having to challenge myself every day. The side that makes live very difficult is the same side that makes it very exciting for me.

Lately I’ve also discovered, that after some time, when you're away from your country it’s very difficult to come back. You think that everything is the same there and that you will always feel “at home”, but it’s not true. Places change, people change. It is difficult to be a stranger in your own country, because people don’t understand why you feel lost when you should feel “back at home”.

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