I had traveled abroad before but only for about a month at a time, usually during the summer, so actually living in another country was something very unfamiliar to me. Nonetheless, living in Rennes has been surprisingly pleasant and it is a place to which you can quickly adapt. Of course, my time here has not been without some bumps or challenges to get through, but even with that said, it has been a wonderful experience full of fun and crazy memories and stories.
I honestly feel like I was blessed with the host family I was assigned to. The family is more than kind and patient while I adjusted to the language and culture and just a new way of living, they also make me feel like I am truly a part of the family unit. They offered me a place where I could feel safe and comfortable, truly a home away from home. I also must admit that their adorable French Bulldog, Lipton, was a true joy and helped when I was missing my own dog back in New York.
I have always lived, and even gone to college, in upstate New York and it was quite an adventure and a risk to leave behind my family and everything familiar to me in New York. It seemed truly insane to me to just get on a plane to go spend a semester in another country and an entirely unknown place and way of life. When I was parting with my parents at the airport, struggling to hold back tears, as I took the first steps of my new adventure, I never could have imagined how many crazy and incredible experiences I would go through. It is almost unfathomable to see how much I have grown and changed just in the past few months.
There was one little moment in time that drastically altered the trajectory of the coming weeks of my time abroad, and I never would have been able to plan or prepare for it. It was just three weeks into the semester, on the very last day of our preprogram classes. I was excited for classes to really be starting at the Rennes 2 campus and to finally be able to settle in, find a routine, and explore the area that I would be spending four months in. We were just descending the stairs to the metro, about to head over to the university for lunch, and I was looking to the right to see if the metro had arrived yet…and all of a sudden I was laying on the ground at the bottom of the stairs. I am not a particularly clumsy person, but I somehow missed a step and fell, landing on my left ankle with all of my weight and pressure from the fall.
Now this was just one moment of many, both good and bad, that I have gone through in my time in Europe, but it altered my time in Rennes quite a bit. I then had to learn how to use the crutches that are commonly used here, which I had never touched before. I had to figure out how to navigate public transportation with an injured ankle and two crutches. I often relied on friends to help me hold my bag or even a crutch while I pay or do something that I need my hands for. On one excursion to Cornouaille, I even had a little team of friends that helped me get to the different locations on the large expanse of land by pushing me up long hills in a wheelchair.
(My friend Kate pushing me in a wheelchair in front of le Château de Trévarez) (Sept 30, 2018)
Although getting injured threw quite a wrench into things, I refused to let it hold me back from visiting Europe and spending time traveling with my friends. Everyone was extremely thoughtful and caring in making sure I didn’t feel excluded or left behind on this trips, and frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
(Sitting by the beaches of Normandy) (Oct 13, 2018)
It has definitely been an experience I will hold close to my heart for the rest of my life and has brought me so much closer to so many of my, now, good friends. To think that I saw so many of these people as strangers on that first day, meeting at the airport in Paris, these are memories and friendships that are irreplaceable.
(Victory photo taken during the gorgeous Cornouaille excursion upon making it up a very long and steep hill on my crutches). (Sept 29, 2018)
It is clear to see that my experience may have not been the typical experience due to my accident, but it is important to take whatever happens in your time here and make the best of it. It’s not that I never had a rough day or a moment when I was feeling down, but I remembered how lucky I am to be able to have the opportunity to even be studying abroad here. I figured it would be silly of me to not, at least try, to have a positive outlook and to take in every moment for what it is. In my opinion, it is crucial to understand that this experience is filled with so many ups and downs, but as you go through your time here, there will be more and more positive moments and friendships that outweigh the moments of feeling low. Day to day, I didn’t feel like I was learning or growing as much as I should be or that I was doing enough. But now, even just a couple months in, I am able to see just how much I’ve grown and how far I’ve come since leaving my bubble of safety and comfort in central New York.
St. Lawrence University