The Holidays Approaching

Stella M. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Saint Mary's Hall in Texas. 

It is currently December 10th, only two weeks remaining until Christmas vacation. Looking back on the past month of November, the words “homesick, irreplaceable bonds, and turning point” come to mind. We were all told in the beginning of the year that the week of Thanksgiving is generally one of the most difficult times of the year. Upon hearing this, I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t see how this could be true. Yes, my friends and family back home will be on break and I will be in school, but it’s just one week.” Well, to put it bluntly, I was wrong. It was probably the toughest week for me thus far in SYA. However, it served as a necessary reminder that change is inevitable, and in order for me to gain the most out of the short months here in France, I have to cherish every moment.  Time is already passing too quickly!

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is the day when you are surrounded by family, friends, food, and an outpouring of love and appreciation. I longed for this exact kind of atmosphere in Rennes, and I began to have a bit of a pessimistic outlook on the life here that I had adored up until then. It was the day when I woke myself up from this brief trance of negativity that I stumbled upon the true beauty of my life here in Rennes.

November 25th- the Sunday after Thanksgiving: I come downstairs and walk into the kitchen, a bit confused by the early preparation of lunch at 10:00 in the morning. I see my host parents making an elaborate Thanksgiving meal. We had briefly discussed having a Thanksgiving meal, however, I assumed that it might not work out due to everyone’s busy schedules. This incredibly kind gesture meant the world to me. While there was no turkey, we had a roasted chicken with various sides of sweet potatoes, roasted figs, and mushrooms. My host mom and I made a delicious pumpkin pie, and as it turned out, much to my surprise, she already had a recipe! All six of us gathered around the large, wooden table, and I proposed that we all share what we are each thankful for, a long-lasting tradition in my family. Hearing what everyone had to say, and sharing my own thanks, embedded a genuine sense of gratefulness – or “thanksgiving” inside of me. I come home to an amazing second family every single day, have some the best new friends in the world, and have the chance to be immersed in an entirely different culture, learning new things at both unexpected and expected times, in and out of the classroom.

Yes, it is not always easy living abroad, but what I have learned so far is that every single challenge or adversity I face has truly made me grow as an individual. At first, my instinct was to resist change as a result of simply being fearful. I have come to realize that I can accept it, embrace it, and run with it. I will always remember the day that we gathered around that table, a perfect mix of old and new. 

This past week was Hanukkah. It seemed bizarre to me that it was practically non-existent here in Rennes, as the Jewish community is not very prominent. My friends and I eagerly decided to take some gelt and a few dreidels down to a local café in Centre-Ville, and while sipping on our coffees, we played the entertaining game of dreidel. We made our own traditions that day, and I can’t wait to make countless more in our remaining months in France.

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