Pack, Plan, and Panic: Preparing to Study Abroad in Nantes

Suzan Frierson
August 29, 2016


The time has come to pack for my semester abroad in Nantes. This is the thing I’ve been looking forward to the least, because it’s stressful and I always manage to forget something. But now that I can count down the days till my departure on one hand, it’s something I have to think about, so here are my three packing rules:

1) You don’t need every single piece of clothing you own. Check the weather for where you’ll be living (Nantes typically stays in the 70s in the fall). Bring a safety item of clothing or two in case something weird happens or you travel to a different climate, but mostly you’re going to find weather you expect. Laundry is also a thing, so I’m only going to bring about two weeks’ worth of clothes (which isn’t very much, for me, but I know that will be enough).

2) Leave room for souvenirs. This one I know from bitter experience—at the end of a month in Cambodia, there was no way I was fitting all of my keepsakes in the suitcase I originally brought. Everything was so cheap there I could afford a second suitcase, but that was lucky. The things you bring back are more meaningful than the ones you take with you, so leave space.

3) You're not going to the planet Mars. (Unless that is where you’re going, then disregard this.) You’ll have access to markets, drugstores, and clothing stores. If you’re desperate, there will be a solution. You don’t need to pack all the shampoo and toiletries you can find—just bring a little to start off, then you can buy some more when you need them.

So now that I have the packing stuff out of the way, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Suzan, and I’m a junior at the University of Redlands in Southern California. I’m majoring in Creative Writing, something I rarely admit because a) I don’t want to be judged for having an artistic major, b) because I don’t want anyone to ask me what I plan to do with said artistic major, and c) because family reunion is a lot more fun if I tell various relatives I’m majoring in English, Psychology, or French (depending on my mood). French is my minor, and I’ve been studying it ever since my first year of high school. Studying abroad is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I first achieved that goal in May 2015 when I took a month-long travel course in Cambodia. My high school French class narrowed my study abroad focus, partially because I became fascinated with the language and culture and also because everyone was incredibly self-conscious about speaking French, myself included. So how to get around speaking a language no one around you really speaks? Go somewhere where it would be weird if you weren’t speaking it!

I got my housing placement a few weeks ago, which was over-the-moon exciting. Having an address and the name of my host family makes everything seem more real—I’m going to France, these will be my people, I’ll wake up there every morning. In France!!! Then I got an email from my host saying that her house is on the river and has a garden and...drumroll please…a trampoline! I am going to like it in Nantes, oh yes I am.

Despite my excitement, there are things I’m worried about. I mean, I will be worried about them soon. I’m currently in the euphoric pre-travel stage, not the packing stress or last-minute wait-is-this-really-happening-what-have-I-forgotten-this-time crisis mode, but I know I will get to both of those places. I’m going to be anxious about the total French immersion. It’s impossible not to be; I’m incredibly aware of those times in class where I’ve struggled for words and felt like an idiot fumbling around in the dark as I stammer out a confused, mangled sentence that I hope means what I think it does. I’m also a shy, quiet person, even when the language in question is English, so I tend to worry about making friends—and getting my host family to like me. (Please, please like me!)

There’s also a lot of stuff I want to do over my semester abroad, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to. I tend to have a rule of thumb about trips: if I don’t meet all my goals the first time around, that gives me an excuse to go back. Still, there are some “musts” for my semester:

1. Get keychains from every city I visit. I know it’s tacky and touristy, but I didn’t get any while I was in Cambodia, and you have no idea how much it frustrates me to know I have gaps in my collection!
2. Parlez français. Beaucoup. And get much, much better at it!

3. Sneak outside my comfort zone. That’s the key to most memorable experiences—do one or two things you never thought you could find a way to do or be good at.

4. Make at least one trip out of the country.

5. Find my mom a bag of the Italian candies she likes.

I should probably start packing now…that’s another thing! Pack at least a day or two in advance so you have time to remember everything you forgot. I’m really excited about France, but I’m starting to feel a little nervous now. Next time I post, it will be from Nantes. See you then!

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Suzan Frierson

<p>Hi! My name is Suzan Frierson and I&#39;m a junior at the University of Redlands. I&#39;m a Creative Writing major and French minor, and the language inspired me to study abroad in Nantes. I love traveling, writing, and going on adventures.</p>

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