Nantes: I’m Not Sure What You Are, But I Love You!

Katie Nodjimbadem
September 20, 2013

Today as I was flipping through my planner in search of a password I’d jotted down a few months ago, I came across a reminder I’d written to myself to finish my study abroad application. It’s incredible to think that just six months ago, study abroad was just a fantasy. It was something I couldn’t picture beyond stories from friends and the glossy pages of study abroad viewbooks.  Now it’s the end of my first week of classes and I’m realizing how comfortable I’ve become with living the French life.  But more specifically the Nantais life.

Nantes is a peculiar French city.  It’s marked by all the signature French institutions – architecture, bread, cheese – but it also posesses a certain “je ne sais quoi.” In a short speech I gave at La Mairie de Nantes (an amusing story for another time) I said that of all the cities I’ve visited in France, Nantes is my favorite.  I love Nantes because I can’t really categorize it.  As someone who struggles with identity issues, I appreciate encountering others or in this case, a city, whose identity is muddled.

One of my favorite places in Nantes – and it’s just a five minute walk from my house!

Nantes’ reign as the former capital of Brittany is evident throughout the city. From galettes and cider to wooden houses from a different era, Nantes’ historical roots run deep into Brittany, even if it does fall under the Pays de la Loire region on the administrative map of France. We experienced a taste of the true Brittany during our weekend orientation trip to a port city called Vannes and it’s surrounding area. It was a weekend brimming with awkwardness, broken French and eventual bonding.  I truly appreciated the time to explore the region and learn more about my classmates in a stress-free environment – especially after completing a placement exam just a few hours before.


A group of IES students enjoy the sun, the sea and sandwiches during off-site orientation.

New friends enjoy beautiful weather in Brittany.

While Nantes does have that cider-y flavor of Brittany, there’s something special about it that people around the world have noted. “Time” magazine named it ‘the most liveable city in Europe’ in 2004 and this year it reigns as the European Green Capital.  Nantes is a city that cherishes it’s history but isn’t afraid to step out of the box.

An exhibit in Nantes’ “centre ville” in honor of it’s Green Capital status.

I can’t wait to discover how the city’s identity as a significant historical site interact with it’s innovative character.  It looks like I need to write myself a new reminder: explore!



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Katie Nodjimbadem

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Katie Nodjimbadem is a junior at Northwestern University majoring in journalism and planning to minor in French. She enjoys writing about diversity and culture for North by Northwestern magazine and loves interacting with prospective students as a campus tour guide. Katie bleeds purple and loves to cheer on her fellow wildcats at varsity sporting events. As the daughter of two Francophone parents, she desires to improve her French to better understand her heritage and strengthen her ties with her extended family.</span></p>

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