“I just pressed send, and my fingers were shaking,” Freya said to me during our virtual teen yoga course on “The Practice” for YOGA + Life. “Pressed sent to what?” I asked. Freya continued to share: “I applied to this summer program in France, and I have hardly even left my own house in two years. What was I thinking?”
What were they thinking? A teenager living in the COVID era in Massachusetts who had attended online school for almost two years decided to travel to France for a summer school program.
Rachel Glowacki: What motivated you to submit this application to attend summer school in France?
Freya: About a month before school ended, my parents started nagging me about summer and what I was going to do. My sibling is super into football right now, so he already had things planned. My parents kept “nagging” me about doing something, and I kept shooting everything down. My father found the program while I was on page five of Google searching. It was two days past the application due date, but he sat me down and said, “Write this.” Truly, I only filled out the application, because I did not think I would be accepted. A few weeks later, I got an email from the program director. “Hello Freya! A spot in the [redacted] program has opened up. You have 24 hours to give us a yes or no and send in your deposit. Hope to see you there.” I did think about it, yes, but not critically. I said yes, because I thought I had to.
Freya at the Louvre
RG: As someone who has been pretty much homebound for almost two years due to COVID, what are your feelings about going to a local store, never mind another country?
Freya: I have always been a pretty reclusive person. When I was in elementary school, I would often stay inside during recess to do homework or read a book. In 2021, I learned to enjoy my own company. I love being alone; I do not like being lonely. I get anxious when I do have to do “simple” things like ordering food, but I’ve learned to live with it. Really what I want more than anything is to have thoughtful discussions with people.
RG: What mind struggles have you have had to sort through to prepare for your trip to France?
Freya: I did not think about it as being a real thing. I had a day where I freaked out; I couldn’t stop crying thinking I made a terrible mistake after I said yes. I thought about it, and I realized I didn’t have to think about it. So, I didn’t. No preparation necessary. There was never a moment of, “Oh gosh, that just happened.” I live here now. I just lived it until it was over.
RG: What was your summer program and host family experience like?
Freya: I had a very different experience than a lot of the people in my program. Of the people I talked to, me and my roommate were the only people placed in an old house. When I say “old house,” I don’t mean older American houses. My friend and I slept in an attic. Not an unfinished or dingy attic, but an old attic. There was no air conditioning in the house, so I got very comfortable around my roommate. My host mom was our only technical host family, but the whole time we were there she had lots of other people staying with us. She runs a refugee aid program in Annecy, so she took a lot of people from a lot of places into her home. She is a wonderful and interesting person, and I think if I were “normal,” we might have been closer.
RG: What moments will stay in your heart and mind forever and why?
Freya: Besides getting hit by a car, when I carefully looked both ways crossing the street, there was a night where one of my host mom’s friends was staying with her. There was also an American college student who was visiting that night. Somehow, the five of us decided to play a game of Telestrations. Telestrations is a game that is very dependent on words, and every nuance of a sentence counts. We decided to play the game in French, even though the majority of us were native English speakers. I was so nervous. Grammar on the spot is not my strong suit, and my French vocabulary is also pretty limited. I think this might have just been the most fun night of my life. I could have never imagined I would be laughing so hard with two very religious and 60-plus-year old French people who knew nothing about me. I think that night taught me a lot about connection.
The meaning of bravery/bravoure is having the courage and fortitude to do things beyond our thinking and rational minds. When we step out of our comfort zone(s), we learn. Freya didn’t have to think; they just did. Traveling to foreign places either inside the mind or outside the country teaches us the universal language of laughter and connection. It just takes an act of bravery to travel there.
Photo by Bruno Abatti.
Rachel Glowacki is a yoga teacher, writer and thought leader in the kids yoga field. She specializes in mindful movement for all ages and abilities and has been teaching since 1999. She’s an award-winning author of the Kids Yogaverse storybook apps. Rachel hopes that one day mindful movement will be taught regularly in schools just like math and science! She believes that a calm brain is a learning brain and a healthy body is a happy body, principles she shares with her students young and old. Rachel lives with her husband and two sons in Edwards, CO.