Letting Go

Claire W. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut.


If SYA has taught me anything, it’s that life doesn’t always go the way you want it. Not having known it, I spent what may be my last day in that old house in Rennes, a place I’ve called school for the last 6 months. 

One of my favorite phrases in French is “tant pis”, which translates to “too bad.” I didn’t know that it was used so often in the French vernacular until I arrived in Rennes. If I were to be talking about a bad grade, or an embarrassing incident at the dinner table, my host family would definitely use the phrase at least once. “Well, tant pis! There’s always going to be another test/time/bus.” I realized that this phrase carries quite a lot of meaning. It means it’s okay, let it go, but it also means don’t worry, you still have other chances to do it over. 

Living in France for a year during high school was never part of my life plan, and my decision to go was sudden and derailed quite a lot of expectations I had and others had for me. Coming to France, meant giving up the comfort of knowing what to do. It meant something completely new and uncertain. I’ve never been fond of uncertainty. I like to know exactly what I’m doing, when I’m doing it, and how. That all went out the door when I came to SYA. There is no handbook on how to get along with your host family. No detailed instruction of when to do your homework and when to go to sleep. Going to boarding school for the first two years of high school meant most of that was determined for me. 

SYA gave me the freedom to choose what was important for me. It allowed me to say “tant pis” to somethings that I deemed trivial and let me focus on what I enjoy doing. I was able to investigate the political culture, attend protests, and interview local people. All these experiences pushed me so far outside my comfort zone, it was hard not to be afraid. Afraid of embarrassing myself, afraid of sounding like a foreigner. I’ve stumbled more this year than I have ever had. It was hard living in a totally different country, being different from everyone else, but I’m glad that through all of this I’ve learned more about myself. I’ve learnt to let things go, to say “tant pis” to them, because they’re not that important to me in the long run. I’ve stopped burning myself out studying and stressing myself out about every single little assignment. I learnt to enjoy the experience of being in France and enjoy spending time with my host family, who’ve taught me more about France and French people than I ever could have in a book. This new environment allowed me to discover for myself my goals and priorities. 

My departure from the program was naturally full of uncertainty as well. Of course I’m upset that I did not get to finish my time there like I would’ve wanted, but I’m thankful for everything I went through and the amazing people I had the chance of meeting. So, while I’m saying goodbye to the place and the people that have helped me grow so much, I know I still have many opportunities like this one in the future.

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