What I'll Remember

Georgia N. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from The Lovett School in Georgia.

Coming home so abruptly in a moment where the entire world seems upside down, it’s difficult at first to feel anything but shock. Packing bags, saying goodbyes, and taking my daily C2 bus line for the last time, everything felt surreal, and looking back on all that’s happened these past few weeks, I am only just beginning to process it now. In lieu of mourning an experience cut short, though, I’d rather take a moment to record the all that I will remember and am lucky to have had, even despite the bitter end.

Though there are a million moments—way too many to write out in a single good-bye article—I think it’s the little ones that I will hold onto the tightest. Firstly, I’ll remember the orange glow of the streetlamp out my window; in my first weeks, unable to sleep for worry and jetlag, I would take comfort in looking out on its gentle, constant light, and as the year progressed this lamp reminded me how familiar this place had become.

I’ll remember an afternoon in early September when I first began to feel comfortable. It was the kind of beautiful day when you can feel the sunlight sinking into your skin, and my host brother and I sat on the edge of the patio to watch the neighborhood cat, Jackie Chan. The cat climbed up a neighbor’s tree, onto a roof, and disappeared. On the wooden patio, smelling wet grass and earth, I spoke haltingly in broken French as we discussed all sorts of nothing. We talked about Alvin and the Chipmunks, cat people, and a shared dream to visit Montreal, and I felt a happiness and gratitude just as warming as the sun.

I’ll remember a night with friends at our favorite thrift store, Soleil Noir. It was their anniversary of being open for however-many years, and so threw a five-euro concert in the small room that usually held vintage bags and accessories. The lights were yellow and purple, and the room smelled like worn leather; too many people crammed together to hear the half-music-half-screaming of a female punk trio and then a slightly more melodic DJ. The theme of the night was 70s, and as such many came dressed in flare pants and jewel tones, us included. I’ll remember dancing with my friends, laughing with them, and never wanting the night to end.

At school, I can still see a friend wiping out on the slick wooden patio outside la salle sept, the battle every day in French Lit between those who wanted windows open and those who wanted them closed, and the soft sounds of the piano room during free period. I won’t forget the salad at Jean-Macé—usually severely under or over-dressed, but absolutely delicious on the lucky days when the dressing was just right—or the pastries on the annual Christmas lunch.

Despite the inconveniences of living in the suburbs, I came to be incredibly fond of Saint-Gregoire (a roughly 35 minute bus ride north of Rennes); I loved the morning commute and listening to my music, the quiet of the streets, and the way you could see the stars because of limited light pollution. I loved going for runs by the canal and walking to my friends’ houses after school or on the weekends. I loved the sense of community the SYA Saint-Gregoire kids had, all of us bonding over our removed little commune.

There are so many moments I’ll miss, but more than any feeling of sadness or regret, I just feel grateful. Maybe I’ll always wonder what else I would have done having stayed these last few months, but nonetheless I’ve gotten more out of these past seven than I’d ever expected; I can’t regret choosing this experience, even cut short. And, even though I’m not there now, I know that I’ll always have a home in Rennes waiting for me if I can ever go back, and I know I’m better for the limited time I spent there.

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