Julia A. is currently a senior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Francis W. Parker School in Illinois.
As decisions were released a few weeks ago, I want to start by congratulating the SYA class of 2023! You have just embarked on a life changing adventure.
To guide you through the process a bit, and help aid your burning questions about the town you’ll be living in, I give you (mostly) everything I've learned about Rennes and things I wish I had known sooner.
Biggest advice I can give is don't have expectations. While I can, and will, go on and on about how much I adore SYA, every experience is different. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself or the program.
Before coming in September I stressed a lot about my capabilities in French. I worried about communicating with my host family and keeping up with the classes. While you will learn French quickly through the immersion program, I wish I had set time aside to study during the summer. If you can, try to set aside 15 minutes everyday to go over the basics and familiarize yourself with common phrases.
Everyone has different levels of French, so don't worry about being behind.
Your host family wants to spend time with you!! During the first few weeks I was afraid to spend time with my host family for fear of them judging my French. While you will get to learn who they are as you observe family interactions, they won’t really know you! Spend time with them and know they are here to support you. These relationships take time, so there's no rush.
The classes are supposed to be this difficult. The first real weeks of school were a great challenge for all of us, so don’t freak out when it feels like you're falling behind. The beauty of the French school system is that we have 6 weeks on and 2 weeks off of school– work hard play hard. Take it day by day and remember that while school may be overwhelming, at least you are in Rennes!
Once the sun began setting earlier and rising later, lots of students lost motivation. Being without family is hard, but being without sunshine is even harder. Remember to take time for yourself and practice self-care tactics that make you feel good! Don’t feel guilty for taking some extra time for yourself– finding the balance between mental health and host family time is essential.
Warm cafes are your best friend. Taking one day out of the week to study in a cafe with friends can help you stay on track and happy during the colder, seemingly longer days (my friends and I have a weekly cafe date after Experiential French class at L'Epicerie de Ginette). Explore downtown Rennes and the many cafes available.
Spend time outside! Parc du Thabor is right next to school, so try and do homework in the sun, take a coffee at the park’s outdoor cafe, go for a walk through the flowers, or take a stroll through downtown Rennes. There is so much to do and see before you leave, so try and experience it all! My friends and I have “go kayaking” and “go to a Stade Rennais soccer game” on our to-do list.
Practice being open minded, adventurous, friendly and positive as much as you can. YOU GOT THIS.
Here (in this audio clip), current students share their thoughts on what they wish they had known before coming to SYA:
Thank you Evy, Michaela, Nina, Annabelle, Nata, Kadija and Mollie!
- Campus Reporters
- SYA France