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My Term in Rennes

By Elizabeth Foster('04)

Liz Foster

If someone had told me ten years ago that I would be spending four months in France, I’m not sure I would have believed it. And still, now that I’ve been living in Rennes for two months, I can hardly believe it’s happening. But the city of Rennes is wonderful. I love everything about it and I’m having the time of my life. Of course, I’m taking classes but it’s the whole experience of living in another country and learning to speak fluent French that is the best learning experience.

When I first decided to study abroad, I assumed I would go to Paris. But after looking at the programs Hope had to offer, I decided to go to Rennes, which is about 2 hours west of Paris by train. The program here benefits my goals as a French major, as all of my classes are taught in French by French professors. Rennes is a university town- out of a quarter million people, 60,000 are students. And because Rennes is hardly a touristy place, I can get a real feel for French culture, more so than if I had studied in Paris.

My biggest fear before coming to live in France for four months was the language barrier. While I had taken many French classes, it’s hard to be fully prepared for the real thing. It’s one thing to speak French in an hour-long class three or four times a week. But it’s something completely different to be forced to speak, listen to and comprehend French all day, everyday. However, as hard as it was, and sometimes still is, being totally immersed in the language works wonders.

I live with a host family in Rennes. By far, it’s the best way to go. My host mom does not speak any English so I’m forced to speak French if I want to talk to her. My goal in studying abroad was to really improve my language skills. While classes teach me the rules, actually carrying on real conversations in French is what helps me improve the most. Living with a host family is one of the best decisions I’ve made when coming here. It’s a great way to get an up close and personal look at the French way of life.

I take classes at the center for foreign students, which is a part of Rennes II, Université de Haute Bretagne. My classes are focused on French language and culture. Instead of being in class with native French students where I’m sure I would be lost, I take classes with other students who speak French as a second language. Therefore the professors take the time to explain concepts of the language so we all understand.

By far, my favorite thing about studying abroad is taking time to travel. As a student, it’s surprisingly cheap. And with the amazing transportation system in France, my friends and I thought nothing of taking a weekend to go to Nice or Paris. The TGV goes just about everywhere in France and gets us there very quickly.

Without a doubt, I love studying abroad. Everyday is a new adventure. It’s such a great experience to live in another culture. Not only does it help me appreciate foreign cultures and learn to speak French very well, but also it gives me a new appreciation for my own culture in the United States. I’ll always remember this once in a lifetime experience because while I’m only here for four months, the memories will last me a lifetime.