Saying goodbye is never easy. Last weekend, as the semester came to a close—and my endurance dwindled from the mental strain of final exams—I had to say goodbye to many of the friends that I made over the last several months. The exchange students had one final soirée at David’s villa where we merrily celebrated our time and confessed how we care for each other. Sometimes with tears in our eyes, we pushed our friendship together in squishy embraces and laughed at the fond memories. I will miss Chinese Food Thursdays with Marcos, my Brazilian friend, after OB class every week. And I’ll think about climbing to top of the Arc de Triomphe with Erica and barely making it to the top without dying of laughter. I won’t forget how falling off the club stage while dancing with Michelle. And as Brian ships off to Rome and Laurent continues his studies in Montreal, I’ll miss my three-man sailing crew. I’ll remember photo-bombing with Trina, the Mormon with violet hair, eating foie gras with Sami and Ambre, and fraternizing with the many Skemians who became my chums (you know who you are!).
For my final goodbye, I went to Eliza’s apartment on Sunday morning. My flight to Vienna was at the same time as her flight to Philadelphia, so we planned to travel to the airport together. Before leaving France, we dropped our luggage in her flat for a moment and grabbed some pastries down the street. As we were coming back from our breakfast snack, Eliza clung to her pockets, wide-eyed, and realized that she had left her keys inside the locked apartment. Two and a half hours before we were leaving the country for winter break… Our poor suitcases sat abandoned inside the confines of her apartment, and her disobedient keys rested on the kitchen counter.
“Holy shit,” Eliza panted, “what are we gonna do? I can’t even get inside the building.” Frantically, we began buzzing at random until a half-naked and heavy-eyed guido buzzed us into the building. We sprinted up the stairs, hoping that Eliza, the ditzy freshman that she is, had also forgotten to lock the front door… still locked. Pulling a James Bond, I tried to be slick and pry the door open with my student ID. That didn’t work, so I started digging a whole in the door with my keys. When I got really desperate, I just banged really hard against the door, awaking the neighbors and leaving me bruised. We called several friends who laughed at us for our stupidity, and finally we called an emergency locksmith in very broken French.
The “locksmith” showed up 50 minutes later with a Nascar jacket and a motorcycle helmet. Why was this guy showing up to work on a Sunday morning with no tools, no badge, dressed like a race-car driver? He walked into the building with a sheet of thin plastic—like the kind that X-rays are printed on—slid it up the doorway and unlocked Eliza’s door effortlessly. We proceeded to rejoice, quickly called a cab, and promptly threw our suitcases down three flights of stairs. When we made it into the cab, we had to shell out a hefty fee for the taxi ride (as did Eliza for the locksmith’s services), but finally we made it and hobbled to the finish.
When we finally arrived to the airport, we started cracking up Eliza’s impeccable timing. It went from distressing to entertaining in a matter of minutes. Eliza looked like she a midget being swallowed by her bags. We pulled the oversized baggage by their straps across like Snookie pulls Guidettes by their scalps. I complimented Eliza on pulling a true freshman move, but then texted her to get home safely. Indeed, it was an experience I wasn’t expecting, but one that I certainly won’t forget. Getting locked out will be just another one of my fond memories of the fall semester exchange students. Next semester’s exchange kids have some big shoes to fill. I’ll miss them a lot, but as my wise friend, Nashir, always says, “It’s never goodbye, just good journey.”