Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Alex in France!

A quick note before starting: last week my phone broke and I lost all the photos I had taken up until that point. The only ones I still have are ones I sent to other people beforehand that they were able to send back to me, but this is a tiny percentage of what I took. Thus, I do not have any pictures with my honors dragon now, but I promise he is with me and, as far as I can tell, is having a good time in France.
A picture of Parc du Thabor located in Rennes

 A picture taken in Rennes most well-known art museum, the Musée des Beaux Arts de Rennes

Bonjour à tous! My name is Alex Williams and I am a senior geography major with a music minor, currently studying at the University of Rennes 2 in Rennes, France for the fall 2019 semester. While the experience thus far has been extremely positive, I did have my initial hesitations before and when arriving. Before coming to Rennes, I had never been outside of North America before in my life, nor had I ever been in a country where the primary language was not English. Although I did know a little French from taking classes in high school and university, it did not help ease my mind much knowing that I would be in the midst of native speakers who would probably know I was not a native speaker the second I opened my mouth. Nevertheless, I was also eager to be able to experience a new country and become familiar with a culture different from my own.
When I first arrived to Rennes 2, I was fresh off of an 8-hour plane ride and a 2-hour train ride, and in my exhaustion, I was unable to find the residence building in which I was to make my home for the next 4 months. In my desperation, I worked up the courage to ask a French student if he knew where I might be able to find the building I was meant to be in. Right away any notion of French people being rude or snobby (which is a stereotype I had heard of before coming) was immediately disproven for me. Not only did the student show me on a map where my building was, but he also offered to help carry my bags on the way there. As a first impression, this made me feel a lot better, however once I was alone in my room I couldn’t help but feel a little homesick already for my friends, family, and (perhaps most importantly) bed back home.
In class with two of my international friends, Kaito from Japan (who is holding the camera) and Neza from Afghanistan (who is in the middle)

A picture taken in Paris of the Seine with the Eiffel Tower in the background

Regardless, I pressed onward with my journey, and as time went by and I began to settle into life in France. At first, even little things like ordering at a restaurant could be a bit nerve wracking, and I’d often have French people who knew English switch to speaking English after they quickly realized my skills were not the best. However, I was exposed to the language and culture more, I slowly found my confidence building, and now I am able to maintain communication in French in most any situation I find myself in.
While being exposed to French culture has been great and I have been able to eat bread to my heart's content, perhaps the best thing about being here has been the people I have met. On top of meeting native French people who have taught me some of the French way of life, I have also met many international students as well. I have gotten to know people from all over the world, ranging from Ghana to Japan to Italy to Brazil and so on. Due to this, I have been able to learn about little things about all sorts of cultures that are foreign to me, not just that of France. With the international friends, I have made I have also been able to find people with which to share the experience of living in a whole new country, and it has easily been one of the best things about studying abroad.
In my time in Rennes so far, I have been able to become familiar with many things about France, ranging from their cuisine to the way the university system works. However, I still feel I have a lot to experience before returning home, and I hope that in the 5 weeks I have remaining here, I can squeeze in as much as I can. Regardless, this experience has already solidified itself as being one of the most memorable in my life, and I am eager to see what the last stretch has in store.
Au revoir!

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