Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing enough. When I come back to Wooster next semester, I’ll have two more months until my jury for my voice recital, so I’ve been focusing a lot on preparation for that, as well as my classes I’m taking here. Almost every weekend we go on excursions around Nantes, prepared by IES, but I haven’t traveled independently around or within France. I will be visiting my sister and her boyfriend in Niort for fall break the week after next, and will hopefully be traveling to Paris next month, but I find myself constantly asking the question that I think is at least a version of what we all ask ourselves, wherever we are in life: what else can I be doing to enrich my semester abroad? After a month, Nantes has definitely started to feel like home. But the problem with this feeling is the almost lazy sensation that also creeps up on you. We’re settled where we feel at home – which is great, don’t get me wrong. However, I know I’m going to miss living here after I leave it in two months, and I would like to part my temporary home with very little to (hopefully) no regrets.
I’m one of those people who worry even when there’s nothing to worry about. We had our first midterm (part one of two for French) yesterday, and I studied three hours in preparation. Three hours for a test that barely had anything to do with the subjects I studied – the two subjects that were our main focus for the past month. After I told my host mother this that night, she told me that many of her previous abroad students have mentioned the very same thing. So a little piece of advice, future abroadees: don’t stress. Yes, study abroad actually means study. Abroad. But even more importantly, it means socialize. Have fun. Eat. A lot. Travel. Find things that make you happy.
Since living here I think I have become more confident in my own skin. I don’t feel unsafe here, but as it’s my first time living in the heart of a busy city, rather than just visiting one for a couple weeks, I know that I need to give the impression that I’m not a generally shy, unconfident teenager. Yeah, it’s a bit of a façade, but it’s also an incredibly valuable learning experience: if you believe you’re more confident than you actually are, eventually you will be. For example, eighty percent of the time I’m on a very crowded bus, and one of the most frequented areas on the bus is the space right in front of the door, even when those inhabitants aren’t getting off at the next stop. So I have to loudly, assertively, say “Excusez-moi!” or “Pardon”. It gets old… That being said, I love the people here. I feel safe here, but of course I need to be on my guard, as in any city, but many of the people here are incredibly kind and patient, especially if I have no idea what they’re saying. There’s a difference between growing up, being taught by Americans, and actually speaking French to…you know, actual French people. Yesterday I asked for a “donut noisette”, and the vendor said “prailine”, but I heard “prémine”, so I kept repeating it, and he kept correcting me. Apparently it wasn’t a “noisette” donut, but a “praline” donut, so finally I just nodded “oui”, paid him, and went on my merry way.