1.) Dates: It would have been very useful to have a list with dates for all our midterms and final exams sent to us either during orientation or before we arrived. We are told to make travel plans before arriving, but as final exams are over a week long and cannot be made up, I know it would have made planning a little easier and less stressful for many to have had all our dates beforehand. That being said, explore when you can. I haven’t felt a huge urge to leave Nantes during my time here, partly because I’ve traveled around France and will be coming back to Oxford for a month before next semester starts. But if you are returning to the states immediately after the semester ends, take advantage of being abroad.
2.) Budget, and set aside money for traveling without the stress: first of all, I’m being hypocritical, because I always stress out about money. But what’s the point in working and saving money if we can’t use it on fun adventures and..you know..food?
3.) Don’t rely on your expectations: let things happen; don’t be upset if not everything you planned don’t work out. You’re living in a new country! That’s amazing. I decided to study abroad, primarily to become more fluent in French. Living in France (abroad) doesn’t only mean being out every day and exploring (although that is one great thing about it), but it also just means living every day in another country, and taking everything in at your own pace: the food, the culture/language, your surroundings…
4.) If you want to exercise, try out SUAPS (Sports at the University of Nantes). I should have signed up early, but I kept putting it off until it wasn't worth it. I find myself eating so much good food here and not exercising nearly enough, so I've resorted to exercising on my own, which is fine, but if I had involved myself in a sport at the university, I definitely would have gotten to know more students.
All in all, I don’t have many regrets, apart from not going out more in the evening - I’m not a huge fan of bars or big groups. However, I’ve quite enjoyed having intimate dinners – at least once a week – and movie nights with IES Abroad friends. If you’re happy, then go with it. Don't get bogged down in what you think you should be doing. I’ve had weeks where I’ve been completely stressed out of my mind, especially in anticipation for the work I am coming back to. But this semester has been a wonderful break. I very much appreciate IES Abroad’s schedule that allows us to have more than enough time to ourselves.
Unfortunately there are some things we cannot prepare for, such as the terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris this weekend. This weekend was the first time I felt a major pang of homesickness, and also felt just plain sick. I came home, exhausted, after eating out with some friends to an empty house, preparing to relax. Not fifteen minutes after I got home did my phone start blowing up: first BBC News, then Facebook posts, and then sporadic text messages. At that moment I felt so alone and distant from everyone. I had planned on going to Paris next weekend with my friend (which we have cancelled), but I can't imagine being there now. You never know what’s going to happen, or where.
Everyone is trying to be strong. Each interviewee on the news says they need to take a stand and show that they’re not scared, by just living their life - even eating outside restaurants. Even though I am a couple hours away from Paris, I’ve had stress dreams and difficulty sleeping because attacks like this and everywhere else are unforeseeable. Peoples’ worlds are turned upside down, in a blink of an eye, and all of France has been affected. These awful experiences tear us down but they also bring us all together, which is a heart-warming thing to see: the minute of silence the Monday after the events, all the families and friends gathered around rows and rows of flowers and cards at the locations where the three shootings occurred, and all the support not just in France, but around the world. And of course France is not the only country suffering. However, I think that living very close to an attack opens our eyes even more to sufferings around the world. That’s not to say I felt any less worse for everyone else before the attacks in France, but I feel very close to this country – emotionally and now, geographically. France has always been a big part of my life, and to see it and its people suffering breaks my heart.
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<p>Bonjour! I'm Laura Schneider, a junior at the cozy College of Wooster, majoring in vocal performance and minoring in French. Apart from immersing myself in these two fields, I enjoy baking - while occasionally tweaking recipes, riding my bike, reading (especially outside), and playing (and watching) tennis. I lived in Bath, England with my parents my sophomore year of high school, and am so thrilled to be abroad on my own this time! After college, I am hoping to further my studies in performance somewhere in Chicago!</p>