Where to Belong

Gretchen M. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Illinois.

I returned to Rennes the other night from Paris under a very stubborn impression that those past two weeks of February break would not be my last in the city. I laughed at myself throughout my break as I wrote poems on a locked page of my notes app that contained the sentiment every Parisian native cringes to hear. 

“I feel at home here.”

 How many people have written the same self-determining words about “their” place I'm not sure, but I do know it's enough for the sentiment to feel beyond cliché. I would hear seniors in my Chicago highschool’s senior lounge going on and on about college back in 8th grade. I would hear the ones who had gone on college tours over President’s Day weekend or the long February break talking about intuition and I would laugh with my friends about the ridiculous idea of guts and feelings. As 8th graders who had hardly started their application processes, our collective focuses lay with the aspects of college and the future we could control and comprehend as well as how we would best brand ourselves to get into Harvard, Yale, or Princeton.

 I applied initially for SYA with my resume on my mind, interested of course in the experience and the opportunity but generally returning to the thoughts of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. I poured countless hours into my application, determined that an acceptance or denial would predicate the outcome for my college admissions three years later as well. I had grazed through old blog posts, the daily life pages, curriculum information, and SYA’s Youtube channel but it wasn’t until March 4th, after my application’s submission, and the day before my fate was to be released to me, that I realized that gut feelings were powerful. I spent around three hours looking at pictures, alumni testimonies, and administrative statements, and with every minute I felt like I already belonged. I had fallen in love with SYA throughout my application process but what seems even more poetic is that this approaching month will mark that love's one year anniversary. 

I believe in gut instincts and intuition even more with every day, with each cherished moment I have spent with friends I feel I have known since preschool, with each new priceless experience or educational opportunity, with each moment spent with my host family, and with each new realization of how much I have grown. I have gelled into a community of not only like-minded and committed students but individuals with experiences and personalities I don’t believe I will ever be able to recreate.

Over our time this past break traveling independently and with the school in Paris we had the opportunity to discover the city like locals. Bucket list items were checked off this trip: the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, the Pantheon, the Musée D’Orsay, and many others. Additionally, from the scheduled activities I had the opportunity to walk almost everywhere, and of course the intensely-parisian metro was available for use, but my roommate and I decided that it just felt right and easy to walk. I discovered the beauty of the city–its flaws, of course, were not disregarded–through self-navigation and with each step that feeling of belonging crept closer and closer, never less than two steps behind me. 

I returned to Rennes knowing where I could belong. Paris is just one point on the list of places where I can see my future unfolding, but as a student, daughter, and friend who can’t stand to stay in one place, knowing that I could see myself belonging somewhere feels nice.


  • Campus Reporters
  • SYA France
Ha Sido un Placer

In her final blog, Camus Reporter Meredith M. reflects on the letter she wrote to herself at the beginning of her year abroad.

The Revolving Door

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

Time Travel

Melinda D. reflects on her final weeks abroad and how she and her peers have changed at SYA Spain.

Arrivederci Roma

Campus reporter Camila F. writes about saying goodbye to Rome and shares the music that defined her year abroad.

Thank You

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