The lessons I will take away from my abroad experience in Rennes go much further than the classroom. I have dreamed of my semester abroad for years; the opportunity to live in a foreign country with a family with different customs to my own allowing me to be fully submersed myself in the French culture sounded like a truly exhilarating challenge. I use the word “challenge” very literally, but with no negative context. This semester has presented a new challenge every single day, but I would not have had it any other way. Although my abroad experience might have been different from my friends studying in different countries, under different circumstances, I am positive that the impact of my time in France has had a greater impact on my character, confidence, and overall life than many others.
I was anxiety stricken the last few months leading up to my fall semester abroad. Not only because of my impending departure date which would mean saying goodbye to my friends, family, and all other things I found comfort in, but also because of the challenges my visa process presented. I HIGHLY recommend staying on top of this process, reading every document provided by the CIEE office, and reaching out if you have any questions at all. Despite this difficulty, my short-stay visa arrived just a mere three days before I was to leave the US for four months. Although that challenge was resolved, I now had to face my next, and much greater, source of anxiety; departing for France, meeting the other students in my program, and meeting the host family I had been exchanging messages with the past few months. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about all along. I have been so lucky with the group of students in my program, meeting some of my best friends and getting to experience this semester with other students who appreciate it just as much as I do has been amazing. My host family has been more than welcoming, inviting me to their vacation home in Cape Fréhel, introducing me to their family, and just making me feel taken care of in this foreign place. The final challenge I faced was starting my courses at CIREFE. Not entirely confident in my French, I was nervous I was not going to be able to keep up with the other students. But, the program directors and professors try very hard to make sure you are placed in a level that is adequate for your skill level, but will also be challenging.
After overcoming these initial challenges, that looking back now seem so trivial, I was ready to fully take advantage of my life here in Rennes. Apart from a few google image searches and a glance at the Wikipedia page, I seriously had no knowledge of what to expect. The city of Rennes has offered so many more exciting experiences than I ever could have imagined. With a variety of restaurants with different cuisines, museums, and a bustling night life; it has been the perfect place to spend the past three months. I probably should not say this…but I have had such a great in this city and this program that this semester has felt like a super long vacation ! I feel as though I have grown up in such a short span of time and I am so grateful for this experience.
Hobart & William Smith College