To France and back…and back again!

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CIEE Rennes

CIEE Rennes

Salut tout le monde! I studied abroad in Rennes with CIEE in Fall 2019. It was my first time spending an extended period in France, and I was incredibly nervous. I did not feel confident in my French abilities when I arrived and was terrified at the prospect of speaking French all the time. I am happy to say that not only did my language abilities improve immensely while I was abroad but I could see the improvements even in the first week. Immersion did wonders for my ability to communicate in French; I was learning new vocabulary words every day (tip: keep a little notebook to write down new words you hear!). Also, the simple fact that I needed to use French daily made my confidence skyrocket because I realized I was more capable of expressing myself than I thought! The best part of my semester abroad was meeting an international group of friends; I met people in the CIEE program, in classes, at CIREFE soirées, and through other friends, and I ended up speaking only in French with some of my closest friends there. Forming deep relationships completely in my target language not only aided me immensely in my French learning but also provided me with concrete proof that I could in fact speak this language! 

Moving back to the United States at the end of my semester in France was quite sad for me because I had found a community and created an entire family for myself in Rennes. I missed everyone! The thing that helped the most for me was scheduling video calls with all of my people who were now far away. And I started to think about potentially trying to get back to France… 

In the Fall of 2020, I decided I was going to do whatever I could to move back to France, and it seemed that the best plan to do that was to apply to TAPIF: the Teaching Assistant Program in France. Applications were due in December, and I learned in the Spring that I had been accepted in Marseille, in the south of France!

Over the summer I did a lot of things to prepare to move to Europe and then at the end of September I hopped on a plane to France! For the past two months I have been getting used to living in a new city and teaching in a French classroom, and while it’s had some challenges it has been a wonderful experience. I teach classes in a middle school and a high school, working with students from 13 to 20 years old. I give lessons on American culture, lead classes to help students practice their speaking for their oral exams at the end of the year, and co-teach with the instructors I was paired with. My favorite part of the experience so far has been working with the students. They are full of enthusiasm and excited to practice their English with me, and it is a pleasure to get to know them one by one. I am also learning a lot more about French culture by getting a firsthand look at the French school system and interacting with French people every day. I have not studied education in school and am not yet sure if I want to become a teacher once I go back to the US, but that does not pose a problem to participation in this program, and I feel that I have a lot of pedagogical support from the leaders of the program and the teachers I work with.

In my free time, I explore Marseille, and I have travelled a bit in the surrounding area.

I also had the chance to go back and visit Rennes, where I reunited with my friends and host family there. It felt as though no time had passed in those relationships; it was wonderful.

Although I have seen a bit more of the country now and love each city I have visited, Rennes remains my favorite place in France! The program in Rennes was an indispensable experience for me because it gave me confidence and a facility in the French language. Without having done an immersion program like this one I never would have had the confidence to move abroad and work in France. My semester in Rennes was very special to me, and I would highly recommend the program to anyone else who wants to spend four months in a beautiful city and strengthen their language skills.

Helen Dodd
Graduate of Occidental College, Class of 2021
Studied in Rennes with CIEE in Fall 2019


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