I’m a homebody. I’ve always been super close with my family and friends back at home, and the furthest I’ve ever gone from them is college, which is only at 45-minute drive with traffic. Home means the world to me, so the thought of me ever studying abroad was almost laughable. If you had asked my parents this time last year whether or not they thought I would ever spend 4 months on the other side of the world, they probably would’ve laughed in your face.
But on August 26, 2018, you bet I was on a plane, heading to France, where I would spend the entire fall semester—no family, no friends, no boyfriend. And my only thought? What did I get myself into!? I’m not ready for this! I want to go back home. I kept telling myself to relax, as tons of other students have studied abroad before me and spending a France was nothing to be upset about. In fact, I should be celebrating, I’m going to FRANCE!
As the semester began in Rennes, I found myself in the honeymoon phase they always tell you will happen in the first few weeks of studying abroad. I was taking pictures at every corner and was in absolute awe of the history around me. No, it didn’t exactly feel like home yet, but Rennes was SO cool! Who cares if it’s not home, my semester abroad is practically a 4-month vacation!
My host family was also THE cutest family in the world and although it was still all new, I couldn’t have been more excited to eventually call this my home. I lived with my host mom and my 11-year-old host sister (as well as their bunny), and I knew from the start that my host sister in particular was going to resemble something of a real little sister by the end of the program. Rennes wasn’t home yet, but the keyword there is ‘yet’.
Fast forward to mid-October, and things had completely flipped around. I was ready to go home. I learned that my host mom was a very honest and direct woman (like many people in Brittany), and that directness mixed with how sensitive I am felt like I was combining oil and water. Being the picky eater that I am, I was struggling a bit with the food options, which stressed me out to no end. I missed home more than EVER.
The countdown to go home was on. This wasn’t my REAL home, and all I wanted was to see my family. I wanted to curl up under my heated blanket. I wanted my dog. I REALLY wanted a cup of hot apple cider. I wanted to watch Halloween movies. Was this all too much to ask?
Fast forward again, but this time, to mid-November. Why was I ever upset here, again? I don’t even remember. My host family and I were really getting close—snuggling with my host sister and watching a movie every Friday night was something I always looked forward to. As far as food goes, I found specific restaurants in the city center that I liked and discovered some classic Britannic menu items that I loved and could find just about anywhere. Pizza also became my best friend, which was fine by me. I was really starting to fall into a routine, which is exactly what I needed to make this place really feel like home. And my friends here! Oh my god, my friends here. Each and every one of my friends in this program made my experience incredible, THEY were my home here, or at least what really made Rennes feel like home.
And so here I am now.
There are 9 days left in the program, and as thrilled as I am to see my family, my boyfriend and all of my friends, it doesn’t feel as exciting as I probably would’ve expected it of be when I was on the plane, or back in October. It feels really bittersweet, where as exciting as going home is, I’m leaving my home here too. In a week, I have to leave my host family, all of the friends I’ve made throughout the semester, all of the small little cafés I’ve spent my evenings in, drinking hot chocolate and doing my homework. It’s so easy to take this experience for granted, wanting your ‘real’ home back, when your real home was been exactly where you were the entire time. I’m going to miss Rennes very single minute from the second I get on that plane, without a doubt, and can’t wait to tell my loved ones at home about the new home I found in little old Rennes this semester.