It’s been a year since the coronavirus pandemic interrupted our programs and we are very fortunate and happy to be hosting participants again this spring! Our students arrived at Rennes’ airport on January 11, 2021. It felt like an historical moment for all of us!
Shortly after their arrival, we transferred our students to their single studio apartment in a residence located in the north-west of Rennes, just a mile away from Université Rennes 2. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, new protocols have been implemented and students had to self-isolate during the first week of the program, which allowed them to comfortably adjust to jetlag while attending online orientation meetings in the afternoon. At the end of the self-isolation period, students purchased their bus/metro pass to get around and become familiar with Rennes.
The following two weeks were busy as our participants attended the Preliminary Language and Culture course at a private Institute located in the historic center. While in general most instruction is delivered online these days, our students really appreciated the opportunity to take this course in person, each day, working in small groups with other non-CIEE students.
Day after day, our students became gradually more acquainted with their new environment (their neighborhood, the local food stores, the public transportation system) and settled in in Rennes. Of course, CIEE onsite staff led a city walking tour so our students could learn more about Rennes’ rich history.
With the help of our colleagues from the Franco American Institute in Rennes (the last remaining bi-national center in France), we were able to present some volunteer opportunities still available through the Institute, such as the discussion clubs (in French or in English) where students have been traditionally participating each semester. This year the conversation groups are delivered online and our students seem to be enjoying this opportunity to exchange in French with people from different ages and backgrounds.
During week two, students officially enrolled at Université Rennes 2 and soon after received their French Student ID Card, a proof of their status as a student registered in a higher education establishment in France. Not only does this allow students to have access to university services (Wi-Fi on campus, Health & Social services, sports, libraries, on-campus restaurants, printing), but it also allows them to benefit from student discounts.
Once enrolled at the host university, our students were able to register through the French social security system (national health insurance). Hence, they received their French social security number, which allows them to have access to medical services in France. As such, they can take Covid-19 tests free of charge.
Finally, during week three, our students registered onsite to their semester courses. During the pré-rentrée in-person meeting, they were able to meet some of their professors and other international students, and to sign up for some after-class in-person cultural workshops (music, theatre, singing, cinema, journalism) currently offered at CIREFE.
On February 1st, semester courses started. Generally speaking, an hybrid approach (online + in-person teaching) is implemented whenever possible at host institution. Currently, CIREFE courses are mostly delivered online, with a few courses held in person.
The first three weeks in Rennes were busy but everything went smoothly. As for now, our students are taking their academic work seriously, they have been respectful of their linguistic engagement, participating in workshops and some volunteer opportunities, making new friends, and enjoying their stay in Rennes while exploring some beautiful sites around Brittany.
We feel blessed to host such wonderful persons and to be able to carry on our missions!