April 23, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge
I experienced a ‘tricolore’ cocktail of emotions
Upon arrival in France I experienced a ‘tricolore’ cocktail of emotions. First was excitement; this was it, the start of my long-anticipated year abroad, the goal which got me through all those tedious hours of revising for second year exams. Then I felt daunted and overwhelmed by the realisation that the exotic dream of spending a whole year abroad, which had been two years in the pipeline, was now reality. It’s funny how during those two years, I rarely thought about the initial few weeks and the essentials which would have to be sorted upon arrival – and speaking in English was not an option. And finally, a dash of solitude was thrown into the mixer of emotions. Despite being accompanied by my parents, who kindly stayed for a few days to help me start the ball rolling in the search for accommodation, buying a French phone contract and generally attempting to organise a new French-based life, I was suddenly hit by the recognition that I knew no-one in this city. Admittedly, I was well aware that I had friends spread out, not only all over France, but the whole world, all of whom were in a similar situation to me. Nevertheless, it came as a somewhat delayed shock to the system that Rennes was not Lenton.
Once I got past this initial emotional storm, I decided that my only option was to get on with it and make the most of every opportunity, and that’s what I am still doing today. Rennes is the beautiful capital city of Brittany, and I feel extremely lucky to have been placed here. There is so much to see and a plethora of weekly, cultural events to attend. Almost everyone I have met has been friendly and helpful. The other language assistants based in the Académie de Rennes, who I met at our training day, are outgoing, open and friendly and we are all remarkably like-minded. My school is also great. Lessons are interesting as I have the opportunity to see language learning from a different point of view. On occasion, I’ve been thrown in at the deep end, improving my improvisation skills no end. The teachers are mostly warm and welcoming and the students are, in general, delightfully enthusiastic which makes working in a school even more enjoyable and rewarding!
Long gone are those early days of feeling alone and overwhelmed. Now I feel at home in a metropolitan French-speaking city which is welcoming to all and I look at every obstacle as a challenge with the aim to take from it, the opportunity to practice and improve my French, and gain invaluable life skills and experience.
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