My tastebuds and I were in for a rude awakening. A usually undisputed claim French food is considered the god of cuisines. Unchallenged and proud it comfortably sits atop many "best cuisines lists" and its offerings are a dream for many people. I was unbelievably excited about french food, being such a pastry fiend. This past week I have indulged in every known french food. From flaky croissants, kouign aman, snails, quiches and of course a never ending stream of butter, bread, and cheese. I came to a startling revelation on my Tro Breizh(more to come in a later post). French food, at least the food I've been eating isn't the most flavorful. While delicious, it mostly relies on rich fats to send pleasurable signals to the brain from the tastebuds. Yesterday, my friends and I were roaming around Quimper, France and we decided to get a quick bite at a Thai restaurant nearby. I ended up ordering Pad Thai avec fruits de mer(assorted seafood). While waiting we smelt the most amazing melody of scents filled with spices and citrus. I was literally salivating. When our food arrived, I looked at my plate and attacked it. It was like a revitalization of my tastebuds. A beautiful blend of spice, sweetness, and lemony tartness. Ever since I left the States I didn't even realize I've been missing the need for spices in my food. My mom, Saira is an amazing cook and very expertly knows how to make a meal where that balance of umami is found, a balanced blend of spicy, sour, sweet, and bitterness. I have been lacking umami in France. However, while this may seem very harsh to the French I am very much still in love with their food. It's delicious and famous for a reason. I'm not discounting their cuisine, I just realized that there is more to life than croissants, bread, butter, and cheese.
See you soon,
The First Week.
It’s been quite the journey. All the way from East Greenwich, Rhode Island to Rennes, France I’ve had a multitude of experiences. From inconvenient flight times, getting lost in the Charles de Gaulle Airport, meeting my host family and experiencing my first bout of homesickness it’s been eventful to say the least.
The day of my flight I was unbelievably excited and nervous to embark on the wildest joinery of my life yet. I was about to enter a country totally foreign to me with a different language. It was going to be interesting to say the least. Through awkward hello’s and questions through the flight and time spent in airport I started to get to know the generally nice class of SYA France 2018. When we landed in Paris we were all jet lag, tired, and confused. It ended up with half of the group, me included getting lost in the airport for a good hour. However, like any other problem we solved it with a lot of confused looks, franglais, and face timing the other half of the group on our spotty international data. We eventually boarded the bus and most of us knocked out immediately. We ended up stopping briefly at a very futuristic looking gas station and half asleep we all went in and had our first meal in France. For me, a pain au chocolat and a bottle of l’eau. We soon arrived in Rennes and entered our school for the first time, a converted mansion. That’s when the real butterflies hit, I was about to meet the people I would be living with for the next year.
When the RD(Resident Director) called my name I got up and got the first glance at my family in the flesh. My host mother and sister had come to pick me up and I honestly don’t even remember my initial thought. I stuttered a few words in French and my mother, Marie just smiled, understandingly hugged me and ushered me to the car. The house itself is extremely charming and I am absolutely in love with my small but trop mignon(very cute) room.
However, one of the things I was not ready for is how much the french conserve electricity. The houses feel perpetually cold to me and I’m always looking for a second sweater. It also rains. A lot. Constantly. There has not been a single day where it has not rained. The days start out pleasantly enough but sure enough a drizzle starts eventually. I have really started to regret my choice to not bring an umbrella. My host family even took me to their countryside home in Cap Fréhel. It was honestly one of the most beautiful place I have ever been.
However, Rennes is a place of immense beauty and I cannot wait to explore more of it once I have my footing. I get the odd bouts of homesickness when I see something that reminds me of American or after a phone call with my mother but I know that’s normal. My french is already getting better and I look forward to the daily dinners with the whole family where Marie makes delicious meals and I can practice my french in an informal situation. I am already adjusting to life in Rennes and I can’t wait to see what the next 8 and a half months bring.
As the day to leave approaches closer and closer(13 days now!) I've slowly being filled with a mixture of emotions. Excitement, nervousness, exhilaration, and a whole lot of fear I'm slowly questioning what kind of decision I had made. As I sit in my bed in the middle of the night, reading article after article about how hard living abroad is and thinking about how difficult of a time I'm going to have with my rudimentary french skills I decided that instead of spiraling into panic mode and stress eating seaweed snacks from TJ's(highly recommended by the way) I should probably take a deep breath and blog about it.
I received a letter from my host sister, a seemingly lovely girl and I can't wait to meet her. However, reading her very grammatically correct and complex french letter had me typing the words google translate in my search bar and painstakingly figuring out what exactly she wrote. I then realized I had to write back, and that whole experience really made me freak out. However, as I sit here typing I'm slowly reminding myself why I made this decision in the first place. Yes, it most probably will be unbelievably hard to acclimate myself to a new language, especially one that I've had trouble with in school(why didn't I pick Spain again?).
I've slowly been trying to get my mind in the right headspace for this new venture, and it's made me think about a lot of things. Mainly, about how much I'm going to miss all my family and friends, even my school. My brother, who is becoming a freshman in my high school this coming fall was telling me about how many people kept asking if I was his sister while he was at soccer preseason. For some reason, it made my heart ache in a way that i didn't realize it would. Missing out on a whole year of your high school is a big deal and I don't think I had even digested that fact. I teared up a little as I realized I would miss my little brothers' first year of high school and all the memories that come with it.
However, as I look at the pictures of Rennes, France I know that I'm about to do something not many people get the chance to ever do. I know I'll be living in a new country, eating croissants and spending days walking the cobblestone streets in the city I'm living in. I know that I'll be traveling around Europe, meeting new people and exploring new cultures. No matter how hard it may be, I am 100% positive that in the end it will be worth it, and I can't wait to take it on.
Until next time!
This is my first blog post about going to Rennes, France for a school year abroad. In all honesty, it hasn't even sunk in yet. I have less than a month to go and I have to start figuring out how I can possibly compact a year of living into one suitcase. I know. One suitcase for nine months. I find it hard to take one suitcase for three weeks much less a whole school year. As the day of my departure creeps closer and closer I am reminded more and more of the people I will miss, especially my family. My younger brother and I, who usually fight constantly have slowly started to dial down our cat fights in the face of me leaving soon. I know that this year will have plenty of ups and downs(hopefully more ups) and that it will be an awkward first month, trying to navigate my new family, school, language, and city but I know it'll be worth it. I can't wait to take on this journey and to bring you all with me. If anyone has spent time abroad either in high school or college, feel free to let me know any experiences or tips you have to share!
Lots of love,
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.