How to Fully Enjoy a Year in France

Layla C. is currently a senior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Nazareth Area High School in Pennsylvania. 

Preparation time: 3 months in USA
Cook Time: 9 months in France
Serves: 50-60 students


-          1 open mind

-          2 heaps of courage

-          1 soft heart

-          A willingness to learn

-          1 bunch of close friends

-          1 truly amazing host family

-          A love of adventure

-          An incredible opportunity


Step 1:

Don’t expect things to come easily. When you arrive, everything—from getting to school to talking about your day with your host family—will seem difficult. It’ll be a complete shock and your brain will be tired and overexcited. Just remember to take deep breaths, remind yourself that nothing comes easily, and focus on learning as much French as possible while still taking time to enjoy Rennes and the amazing people you’ll meet.

Step 2:

Try your best to spend time with your host family. The people that you live with are your ticket to understanding French culture and learning French. They are there to help you adjust and to learn more about you and your culture. So, don’t treat them like a hotel. Try to go on outings with them and ask them as many questions as possible. Be vocal at dinnertime (even if your French is perfect yet). Make sure to recognize everything that they do for you and thank them as often as possible.

Step 3:

Work hard, but not too hard. SYA is an academically challenging school and it’s important to try your best school. However, you have to remember that you’re in France for a limited time and that exploring the culture and having fun are just as important as getting good grades. So don’t stress too much and allow yourself to be ever so slightly irresponsible.

Step 4:

Don’t be afraid to distance yourself a little bit from your life at home. It’s natural to want to contact your friends daily and keep yourself up to date on the latest drama at your home school, but try to resist the temptation and enjoy the people and experiences that are right in front of you. Remember, to make the most of your new life, you need to temporarily let go of your old one.

Step 5:

Be prepared to make mistakes. Whether you make fatal error of saying “de le” or incorrectly conjugate the plus que parfait on your French test, you’re going to make mistakes. It’s as simple as that. You will sometimes feel stupid or make ridiculous errors, but you have to remember that it’s all part of the process and that fluency cannot be achieved without a few missteps on the way.

Step 6:

Be open to new experiences. Go on independent travels. Talk to French students in the cafeteria. Try French delicacies and delicious cheeses. Attempt to use French slang. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone because the only way to truly advantage of everything that this experience has to offer is to be open and willing to try different things.

If you follow this recipe, you should end up with a pretty amazing year that is low on regret. I know that there is no way to make this experience perfect, and every person will go through it a different way. However, if you’re lucky, these tips may help you enjoy this experience in France almost as much as I did.

I wish you the best of luck in the coming year, and I can only hope that I have somehow managed to help you down the right path.


  • Campus Reporters
  • SYA France