Stepping onto a New Stage

Annika J. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Lakeside School in Washington.

It’s surreal to think that only a month ago I left my family, my school, my city, and my life to come to Rennes.  It feels more like it’s been years because everything moves so quickly here - classes, friend groups, host family connections - and, while it may seem difficult to keep up, I’ve come to embrace this fast-paced lifestyle. It has forced me to step outside of my comfort zone, take risks, and quickly adjust to my new environment. Recently, I took a big risk and dove deep into local community life, literally stepping onto the Rennes stage, and in hindsight, I’m so glad I did. 

In coming to SYA France, I was aware of the extracurricular requirement: every full-year student must join one out-of-school activity. For the first two weeks, I just shrugged it off and thought I could get to it later, once I had begun to become more accustomed to my new lifestyle. As September neared an end I realized that I needed to start searching for something to do with my time. 

As an actress, I hoped to find a theater program - I imagined a role in a musical with all French lyrics or maybe even a French translation of a Shakespearean classic. Let’s just say I was disappointed to find that most French theater programs last roughly three years - a bit longer than I had been anticipating staying in Rennes. So, it was back to square one - more searching and more brainstorming.

The next day, I walked into the extracurricular activities coordinator’s office hoping to get some more useful advice. I didn’t know what to do in Rennes, I was lost in a swarm of possibilities but none of them were right. Luckily, he had a perfect suggestion for me. Auditions for the choral ensemble of the Conservatory of Rennes were taking place that very night and there happened to be a spot available for me. I practically sprang out of my chair, bouncing up and down from excitement - I believed I had finally found something to do in Rennes. 

The audition went very well - I, along with two other friends who auditioned, all were accepted into the choir and within the next hour made our way to our first rehearsal. The conductor only spoke in French, making it slightly difficult to follow the music so I turned to a French singer seated next to me. My one small musical question led us to a great conversation about her school and family and my experience so far in Rennes. I was glad to have made a French friend so quickly into my choir experience.

After only two rehearsals, we speedily dove into our first concert. Practically shaking with nerves, I decided to rehearse my most challenging song with my new French friend. As she had performed with this choir many times before, she reassured me that it would all be okay and that the concert would be an amazing experience. Unsurprisingly, she was right. As soon as I stepped out on stage, all of my nerves disappeared and I sang my part to the best of my abilities. I made a few mistakes but I was so proud of myself for jumping deep into a brand new activity and meeting new people so quickly into the experience. 

After the show, I was greeted by a few of my friends and the SYA France resident director in the lobby. They were all so proud of me for performing and involving myself in a concert so soon! I couldn’t have been happier to see their supportive faces and words of encouragement after doing something I never thought I would be doing a month into my stay. Overwhelmed with support and exhausted from adrenaline, I took my metro home and immediately fell asleep. 

My choir adventure is just one example of the fast-paced routine I’ve grown accustomed to in Rennes. Diving into new experiences at lighting speed has helped me be more open to taking risks. While it may be scary to adapt and try new things, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of my experience thus far. I’m not sure what the next risk I’ll embark on will be but I can’t wait to spend my next eight months embarking on as many new adventures as I possibly can.

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