Unusual Thursdays

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.


For the past three months, we have had some very interesting fieldwork Thursdays here in Rennes. Every week is something different; there are no classes at school on these days, but there’s always an activity that relates to something we’re learning and allows us to explore the city and its culture. 

There have been many fieldwork experiences that require us to use our imagination and creativity. For example, we visited a museum full of fantastical creatures, attended a film festival in town, and voted as part of the jury, then at school we wrote our own scary stories. We also had a fieldwork activity where we searched around the city looking for street art, then we made our own artwork at school and presented it to the class in French. 

There have also been fieldwork experiences that required us to speak with strangers. It was very challenging in the beginning of the year to speak to people in the street in French. The first week of orientation, we were asked to go on a scavenger hunt throughout the city without our phones, just a map and our notebooks. We had to ask strangers for directions and answers to our questions. I remember being extremely flustered when asking even simple things, like the time of day. However, it has become easier to approach the Rennaise. Last month, we watched a movie on the Dreyfus Affair, and interviewed different people about their opinions and wrote our own articles about how the affair impacted this city. 

We’ve also had some extremely special fieldwork excursions that I never could have imagined happening. Last month, we visited an environmental museum for our science class, and in the afternoon made our own cider! Cider is a Bretagne speciality, and now we are observing the fermentation process every week in class to see how the juice will become cider. 

My favorite experience so far was last week’s greve fieldwork. December 5th was National Strike Day in France, and we got to witness the massive protests firsthand. In the morning, we observed the protestors from afar, and eventually saw some of them get violent. We listened to their chants and noted all the different banners with their demands. In the afternoon, we made our own banners with issues that we cared about, using word plays and the imperative tense that we have been studying. 

These past Thursdays at SYA I have learned things about France that I never could have in a classroom! I’m excited to see what the new year will bring. 

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