Stung by a Jellyfish… in France?

Micah Doctolero
December 17, 2021

Oh my gosh! Qu-est-ce qui s’est passé? The title of this blog sort of gives away what happened, but here’s the story for anyone who doesn’t know that méduses do (in fact) exist in the Golfe du Morbihan. Dear future Nantes students…you’ve been warned by this blog.

Every year, the Nantes IES Abroad program takes the students on a weekend retreat to l’Île aux Moins before the beginning of the semester for some quality bonding time before classes begin. This year, due to COVID, we couldn’t do any overnight trips because sleeping together or something? (As if we weren’t already spending every morning and evening together in the bus for the mini-excursions which relplaced the overnight one…but who knows?) After waking up at 6:00 a.m. to leave my house by 7:00 a.m. to get to the IES Abroad center before 8:00 a.m., everyone (32ish students plus staff) piled in the bus. At IES Abroad Nantes, there’s only one rule...“en français s’il vous plaît.” As any first-weeker would do, everyone followed the talking in French rule to the T. To the pain of any French speaker, the bus ride was nothing more than a cacophony of unconjugated French and American accents that lasted for the entirety of the 2-hour journey. Getting to know other people, but in another language, is a funny experience. You think you know someone until you talk to them in English and figure out that you’ve either 1) Misunderstood everything they said or 2) Never known anything real about them. The extent of conversations were “Ça va?” (You good?) and “Il fait chaud aujourd’hui” (It’s hot today). Other than the weather and where everyone went to school back home, I don’t think I had learned much else about anyone. Also, hand motions were inseparable from properly communicating with each other. Honestly, thinking back, no one would have understood me without the help of hand motions. Everyone was talking to everyone, kind of like freshman year of college…The classic get-to-know-you conversations were non-stop from the bus to the boat.

We were lucky to have a whole boat tour of the Golfe de Morbihan to ourselves. Throughout the tour, the captain was explaining things to us (obviously I didn’t understand anything because I can’t even begin to say what he was talking about). The (bad) quality of the speaker system, mixed with the sound of the waves, didn’t help my weak understanding of French. Regardless of whether or not I learned anything about the Golfe de Morbihan, the tour was a fun experience…from reenacting the classic Titanic scene with one of the Kyles (there were two Kyles both from Gettysburg) to taking hundreds (if not thousands) of pictures with near strangers. Even though only one week had gone by, I definitely had been missing the beach, so spending the day sailing between islands was a good break from what would become my new city environment. After disembarking, everyone rented bikes from one of the shops on l’Île aux Moins and started exploring the island in French fashion… cruiser bikes with baguette sandwiches and a salad in the basket rolling through high grass fields along the ocean. I honestly can’t even remember everyone who was with me, because people sort of came and left from my group during the day. From memory, there was Kyle (H.), Tillman, Nery, RJ, Tommye, Uliana, Jenny, Sophia, and the Wafford girls (Clare et Juliana) joined us later. After parking the bikes between two of the pine-like trees that lined the trail to the beach, the boys arranged some logs around a rock to serve as a picnic table for our sack lunches of jambon buerre (sandwiches). This classic French sandwich is literally ham, butter, and a baguette…but mon dieu these bad boys slap. Stomachs full with carbs and hearts full with happiness, we trekked down to the beach below where we had had lunch. For a pretty secluded beach, there were plenty of French people milling here and there, swimming back and forth to the boats out by the bouys (unfortunately no nudies here). Even from where we were eating lunch, we could see how clear the water was, but standing right in front of the crystal clear water was too tempting to at least go for a quick swim… but man, they never warned us about how cold the water would be! I mean, I’d end up surfing in even colder water a week later, but compared to California, the ocean was definitely colder. Anyways, adjusting to the water temperature was an adjustment for everyone. After some coaxing and peer-pressure, everyone got in the water (except Jenny who was filming us on her drone). There were some patches of sea grass where we were swimming but not much else (other than a couple of small sail boats anchored close to the shore). I was alternating between breast stroke and freestyle because I’m not the strongest swimmer (even though I regularly do other water activities like surfing). Mid-breast stroke, there was a sudden tingling sensation underneath my arm as I was treading above some sea grass…instantly (and irrationally) assuming that anything and everything that touches me is a shark, I quickly swam back to shore. Clare and Juliana had just arrived, joining our group on the beach. We were standing in a circle socializing when the then tingling underneath my arm was now a burning sensation. I asked Jenny if she sawed anything there (because the angle was too far for me to see anything without a mirror), and as soon as I lifted my arm, everyone saw the red-purple rash developing. Trying to quickly minimize that stinging, everyone was trying everything to help me…someone gave me hand sanitizer (definitely made the pain worse), another person suggested the essential oil from my backpack, and then someone gave me their aquaphor. The pain started to slowly go away after applying the ointment. Everyone, including myself, couldn’t figure out what had happened to cause the rash. After some research, someone learned that jellyfish are common in the waters around l’Île aux Moins, so I was most likely stung by one while I was treading water above the sea grass. The jellyfish sting is definitely going to be a core memory from study abroad, especially because there is a semi-permanent scar, even to this day (of writing this blog). 

After the drama at the beach, there was about an hour left to explore the rest of paths around l’Île aux Moins before we had to head back to the boat. I definitely found some good friends because Kyle carried my backpack and someone else took my towel so there wouldn’t be anything rubbing against my rash. Considering the heat of the day and the fact that we biked up some gnarly climbs, I couldn’t have been more thankful and happy about the friends I had made during study abroad. Anyways, we biked to the far end of the island and took some photos that embody the French stereotypes (check out the pictures).

Micah Doctolero

<p>My name is Micah Doctolero and I'm studying in Nantes, France during the Fall 2021 semester. I'm a first-generation college student studying French and Management Information Systems (MIS) at Santa Clara University. Exploring the outdoors, whether the beach or the mountains is one of my favorite pastimes back home in California. I'm a 20-year old with a knack for discovering new places and meeting new people!</p>

Home University:
Santa Clara University
Santa Barbara, CA
French Language
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