Maxine A. is currently a junior at SYA France from Canterbury School (FL). Read more of her work throughout the year here.
My first month in Rennes has been something of a dream, wrapped in warm galettes and sparkling cider, bathed in the glow of new cities and excitement. I am in school, but I haven't noticed. My classes are challenging, but every morning when I leave my apartment for my bus, it's not AP Calculus that I find myself thinking of. Instead, I wonder of the adventures that await, experiences nestled into the cobblestoned side streets, waiting to be unraveled. For the most part, the learning done during a year abroad does not happen in the classroom. Rather, I find myself growing linguistically every time my host sister and I discuss American TV, or when my host parents teach me the difference between mouche and moustique over the dinner table.
I find the contrast in culture to be a refreshing change from my normal. In France, time becomes an afterthought. We eat dinner at nine o'clock and stay at the table for another hour and a half, enjoying each others' company and conversation. I find myself resisting the urge to glance at the clock every five minutes, pushing thoughts of my work to the back of my mind. Because of this, I find I am slowly becoming more relaxed, being forced to live in the moment and not fret if I don't end up getting my eight hours. Many pre-conceived ideas I've harbored toward certain things, I now realize, have been a product of my American-ness. Being able to let these go and meld into the ways of a new culture is, to me, a rare and eye-opening opportunity, especially to have in highschool.
With all of this, it feels almost impossible to be bored. There are opportunities to enrich my experience at every turn. I've started volunteering at the l'Institut Franco-Americain here, teaching English to the local middle-schoolers. Language has become something more to me, not only a way to communicate but also a marker of identity. My English sets me apart immediately, while my broken French forces shop-owners to ask me if I'm American. It is a struggle, but the most rewarding one I've experienced thus far. I look forward to the next seven months that await, knowing they will only bring more learning and growing as an individual.