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. View more of her work throughout the year here.
Bustling cafes. Beautiful architecture. Rainy weather. Crooked streets. The smell of baking croissants. The murmur of voices. The rumbling of cars. The steady tap of my feet on the cobblestone sidewalks. The cool morning breeze. Every morning I wake up to the hazy grayish light of Brittany. Every day I walk out into the humming city of Rennes.
For the last two months, I have been living in a completely new reality. After deciding to spend my entire senior year in France, I found myself in a world that was just about as different from rural Pennsylvania as it gets. I traded corn fields and diners for cathedrals and crepes. I traded a house in the suburbs for an apartment in the center of the city. I traded a large public high school of 1600 students for a small class of less than 60.
So far, this has been a surreal experience. It still baffles me that I have ended up so far from the place that I call home. It still amazes me every time I taste the simple perfection of a warm buttered baguette. I have been here for two months, and yet everything still has a slight feeling of newness and wonder. Especially the city of Rennes.
When I first decided to come to France and began to tell my friends and family, I noticed an odd recurring phenomenon. Almost every single person believed that I would be spending a year in Paris, as if it were the only notable city in France. When I corrected them and said that I would actually be spending the next nine months in Rennes, people had no clue where it was.
Then again, when I first encountered the location of SYA France, I too had no idea what to expect. I knew from my research that it was in Brittany and that it had a lot of college students, but little else. However, when I first stepped off the bus after the long journey that took me to France, catching my first real glimpse of Rennes, I realized just how perfectly the school was located.
At a glance, Rennes is exactly what you would expect from a French city. Nearly every building looks like a piece of artwork, with beautiful facades and intricate balconies. There are cafes and creperies around every corner and, of course, everything is in French.
However, after spending a month here, I realize that Rennes is so much more than that. It has a thriving commercial center, tons of opportunities for different activities and restaurants from almost every culture. There are also many gorgeous parks spread out around the city. There's the famous Parc du Thabor a few blocks away from schoolas well as multiple smaller parks where you can bring a baguette, a deck of cards and a few friends to create the perfect afternoon.
So even though I'm not living in the heart of Paris, I get to experience true French life in a vibrant city. I traded my life in rural Pennsylvania for a life in Rennes. And so far, I haven't regretted it for a second.