Lost and Found in Rennes

Linda L. is currently a junior at SYA France and a Campus Storyteller. She comes to SYA from St. Mark's School.

A narrow alley in Rennes is pictured with a blue sky and white clouds

A group of high school students, some jet lagged, some confused, stood in front of Place Bretagne, each holding a big map in their hands, looking like a flock of sheep who lost their shepherd, eyeing left and right for someone to come and pull them out of this dream. 

Frankly, with my minimal level of French, I couldn’t understand much of the instructions given anyways. My panic started the second the teacher went around with a bag, politely robbing away my phone from my hands. I managed to look composed, but internally I had a million questions running through my head. We were alone in the middle of an unfamiliar bustling city, with nothing but a paper map in our hands. We were expected to answer a sheet of questions I had trouble even comprehending, all on our first official day of School Year Abroad in France. 

As my new friend and I tread the streets, tackling the questions about the city one by one, inevitably we

would get lost. Without an automatic translator or google maps, circumstances push us to ask strangers on the street with our broken and unnatural French. Prior to coming to France, I have heard enough horrifying stories of the hate French people have towards Americans, so when asked to talk to strangers in France, I held doubts and worries in my heart. However, to my surprise all of them, as long as they had time to spare, kindly helped us to the best of their extent. Again and again, after a confused session of heart-poundings and frustrated looks, the city helped us find our way. 

As the wave of panic started to calm, excitement emerged. Exhaustion and jet lag clouded my arrival day so heavily I did not realize or remember the beauty of this intricate city. Every few steps the partner I had just learned the name of and I would exclaim over the sights that we would walk into. Historical churches towering over the streets, streaked by hundreds of years of rain and dusk, spectating the thousands of pedestrians that pass by everyday for decades. Streets were covered by gray and maroon stone tiles, polished by the steps taken upon it. Vintage stores, cafes, book stores and boutiques lined the streets, each intricately decorated with unique characteristics, each sitting at a place in the heart of one of the 20 thousand people that reside in this rainy town. As if time forgot to weather this little corner of the world, everywhere I turn there are people sitting in cafés, reading the newspaper, wearing a vintage scarf and tiny glasses, radiating an effortless grace as if they walked out straight out of a cliché European movie from the last decade. 

As someone who still has difficulties telling her left from her right, I was so proud of myself for finding my way around Rennes and back to school with just a paper map.

Started off as a nightmare, this adventure ended up turning my dreams into reality. Within a mere couple hours, I had a better understanding of the streets of Rennes than I did with my own neighborhood back home. More importantly, in the windows of the cafés, in the puddles by the street, in the covers of street lamps I saw my life for the next year, and a new little ray of sun shines through every time I remember. 

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In her final blog, Campus reporter Isabelle M. describes her year abroad in France as a revolving door.

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Thank You

Julia A. expresses her gratitude to her host family, friends, and parents for her time at SYA France.