A Birthday in Rennes

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.

I turned 17 last month, celebrating my special day with my friends and host family. This was a day filled with food, love, and laughter-one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. 

First off, through all the excitement for the day, I forgot to eat breakfast! Thanks to my friend Anna, who knows me all too well, my first meal as a 17-year-old was a pain au chocolat from the bakery next to her house. As I chowed down on my favorite pastry in the world during math class, I realized what a perfect start this was to a birthday celebrated in France. During my classes I had two renditions of Happy Birthday sang to me in French. I also received some very nice candy bars from my advisor. A very sweet morning. 

For lunch my friends and I had planned to make a home-cooked feast to celebrate. After school, we headed back to my host family’s house, where we cooked away in the kitchen. We had worked out a delicious menu for the party: fresh spring rolls with a peanut sauce made from scratch for entrees, followed by potato legume pancakes and an avocado smoked salmon salad.  My host sister doubted our ability to eat everything, but we proved her very wrong. We even finished the surprise dessert my host mom had prepared for us, her famous apple crumble with walnuts. Being in France, really awakened our appreciation for good food, but also our appreciation for preparing the food ourselves. I know cooking with my friends and making a giant mess will be one of the many things I will remember from this year. 

Even after all this, the celebrations weren’t over. For dinner, my host family surprised me with a giant Raclette grill, which is basically just melted cheese poured over charcuterie and potatoes. What could possibly be better than that? I also received many wonderful gifts from them. Including, a French comic book, a crepe cookbook, and a pair of socks with fried eggs on them. My host sister thinks it’s absolutely hilarious that I eat an egg for breakfast everyday, and she thought these socks would be perfect for me. Just as I thought dinner was over, the lights in the dining room went off and my host mom carried in four chocolate fondants with 17 candles on them. I blew out the candles all at once, and made a wish. A strict rule in the house is that when it’s your birthday, you’re not allowed to help with cleanup, so after dinner I sat with host dad flipping through old photo albums as he showed me pictures of all the birthdays they’ve celebrated over the years. 

Sitting in my bed, I thought of how different this birthday was. I was surrounded by friends I had only just met a few months ago and a family that wasn’t my own, but the overwhelming amount of love and care from these wonderful people was the same as what I have received for 17 years from my friends and family back home. 

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