Finding the time to sit down to write this blog was almost impossible. As in, it took me a week to even write down the first sentence, and after I wrote the first sentence, I didn’t have time to write a second one until right now, days later. Seriously, the typing of the word “impossible” in the first sentence occurred days before the typing of the word “as” in the second sentence. Perhaps this tangent in unnecessary, but I hope it portrays the amount of busyness that has consumed this first week in Nantes.
There is so much to say, so I guess I’ll start from the beginning: the flight. Honestly, it went pretty smoothly (suspicious packages that shut down the whole terminal for a few hours aside), and for that I’m grateful. Did I almost miss my train? Yes. But did I? No, and in my book that’s all that matters. Speaking of flying, I’m sure you’re aware that you have to wear masks on planes. Well, going into departure day, I was a bit concerned about having to wear a mask for so long—all of the traveling put together added up to about 20-plus hours of continual mask wearing. But I was pleasantly and strangely surprised by how much it did not bother me. I can’t explain why, maybe my mind was just elsewhere, but it was genuinely not a concern for me.
Anyway, as I’m writing about mask-wearing I’m boring myself so I’m moving on now to the good stuff: Nantes. Nantes! From the moment I stepped into the Atlanta airport until now, life has been racing by at a nonstop pace. It has now been over a week since I got here, and I can’t quite put into words how life-changing it has already been.
A question that I’ve gotten a lot since being here is what my favorite part of the experience has been. That question seems so simple, but every time I am asked it, I respond with an “I don’t know”. I always feel bad for responding that way, but it’s the truth—I don’t know. But it’s not because there’s been nothing I’ve enjoyed, it’s the opposite—there’s too many things.
I mean, how can I choose what my favorite part of being here is when each street is brimming with people, markets, sandwicheries, boulangeries, and more? Each alleyway has charm and history. No space is wasted and yet every shop and restaurant feel lovely and comforting. There are so many things that make it difficult to choose my favorite thing, but here’s only a few.
The food. The food is to die for (if you don’t have bread with your meal, you’re doing something quite wrong) and is a wonderful, important, and meaningful part of life here. Mealtimes have become my favorite time because they signal a time for fellowship with people I thoroughly enjoy.
The people. The people in Nantes are helpful (and almost always try to speak English to me after my first “bonjour” which is pretty embarrassing) and many times simply hilarious (like this man who had his puppy in his coffee shop).
The students. The other students with IES Abroad are simply the most generous and selfless people I’ve ever met, always ready to lend a helping hand. There’s a visceral spirit of “we’re all in this together” and it shows in every action and conversation. I think that nothing quite bonds you with people like being thrown into a situation in which you have to stick together in order to get through it. Not to mention the fact that all of the students here have the same spirit of adventure and passion for life—everyone is always down to explore.
[Also, quick sidenote, I had a real fear that I wouldn’t make friends here or that I wouldn’t get along with the people in the program. I was so wrong about that! This experience really gives you the means to bond with the other students, and that’s something I’m so thankful for. These people have absolutely made my experience so far!]
The scenery. It is breathtaking around this side of France with gorgeous beaches just an hour away, awe-inducing castles whose walls all tell a story, old cobblestone roads with wonderful coastal breezes, and cozy streets just begging for you to ride a bike down them. Everywhere you turn, history can be found, and you can almost feel the generations of people that have walked the same charming paths.
My host family. They are so kind, and while that word may seem generic, that’s the best way I can describe them. They have let me into their home during a tumultuous and uncertain time in the world, and they’ve done so with open arms and unending patience. I think that no matter where you are, it’s important to be able to have a place where you can retreat to and feel safe and heard (even if it’s communicated by stumbling through a sentence in French), but especially when you are in a foreign country. My host family has been just that place for me—kind, encouraging, funny, energetic, and so, so patient, and I owe a huge part of my wonderful experience so far to them.
So, yes, my answer to what my favorite part of France is so far is “I don’t know”, because personally I find that decision completely impossible to make. No experience has been so new, so exciting, or so different from my every-day life in South Carolina than being here this past week, and I genuinely would not change a minute of it. Classes start next week, and a more scheduled life will begin, but I will always remember these first two weeks of my experience here as something life-changing and awe-inspiring. I’ve been consistently reminded of how blessed I am to be here, and for that I am forever grateful.
So, thank you for reading, and “au revoir” until next time, people!
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<p>Hey! My name is Clare Hogan and I'm a senior at Wofford College. I'm majoring in Psychology and French, with a minor in English. I hope to become a counseling psychologist one day, which is why I majored in Psychology. At school, I'm in a sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and I love to participate in various events with that, such as dances, philanthropy events, and more! I adore reading and writing (hence the minor), hiking, playing tennis, and all things relating to dogs. Also, a fun fact about me is that I sneeze every time I eat chocolate (which is quite often)!</p>