It’s 8:00 am and I wake up and get ready for the day. I make myself coffee and sit down for my first class at 8:30. My first class is Contemporary Art History, and it’s on Zoom. In class, we learn about an artistic movement called Nouveau Réalisme, which is basically the French version of Pop Art. I enjoy this class because we get to see lots of examples of different art. Something that I liked about the program I chose is that I would get to take classes in a variety of different subjects, and I took advantage of that by taking Contemporary Art History, which is a subject I knew nothing about prior to taking this class.
At 10:30, my class ends. I have about half an hour of free time before I head to the bus stop. Every Monday, my French language class is in-person. It’s my only in-person class of the semester. The walk from my apartment to the bus stop is short, only four minutes, and I wait for the bus. Commuting to class is actually not new for me; I was a commuter at Wofford, so I was accustomed to that. However, taking public transportation is very new. I’m a little ashamed to say that before coming to Rennes, I could count on one hand the number of times I had used public transportation. However, the public transportation here is very easy to use and to understand. The bus arrives. I swipe my metro card and sit down. I live in an apartment in a neighborhood just outside of the main part of the city, so the bus ride to the university is only about ten minutes. On the way there, I look out the window.
Once at the university, I walk to CIREFE, the center where I take my classes. CIREFE is the center at the University of Rennes 2 that is designated especially for people who are learning French as a second language. It has its own building on the university campus. All my classes are in French, but the professors know that French is not out first language, so the classes are designed with that in mind. In my French language class, we study verb tense agreement. At 12:45, class ends. I chat with some of my classmates in the hallway. Something interesting about CIREFE is that I have classes with all different kinds of people, not just traditional 18-22 year old college students like I did at Wofford. Some of my classmates are my age, but others are older. Some are professionals, parents, or even asylum seekers. They’re also all from different countries. In my cohort at the university, me and the other student in my program are the only two Americans. It’s interesting to get to interact with people from such different backgrounds and from so many different countries. At Wofford, I did not have this experience to the same extent.
Then, it’s time for lunch. For lunch, I either go to a café downtown or grab lunch to-go at the university cafeteria. The cafeteria food is much better in France than at home (sorry, Burwell), but today I go downtown with a friend from my program. (One thing I really appreciate about the French university system is that things tend to be much less expensive. Due to covid, the French government actually reduced the student lunch price to 1 euro). We take the metro to the café downtown, and the ride only takes about five minutes. I get a sandwich and a muffin for lunch.
After lunch, we head back to the library and do some homework. After that, I take the bus back and decide to go for a walk. My apartment has a park right behind it with lots of walking paths, so I like taking walks when the weather is nice.
After my walk, I head back to my apartment and make dinner. France has a 6pm national curfew, so I always have to be sure to be back by then. When I’m out in the evening, I have to be sure to get a bus or metro that will give me time to make it back before the curfew. That’s an experience about France that I will not miss! I’m hoping that it gets lifted soon.
In the evening, I talk to my friends and family at home, do any homework that I have left, and watch Netflix. There are only two students in my program this semester because enrollment was so low due to covid, but my friend from my program lives two apartments down from me, so often, she will either come to my apartment for a bit or I will go to hers.
Obviously, this is not what everyday is like for me. But, this is a fairly typical day of my life when classes are in session. A day in my life in Rennes is completely different than a day in my life at Wofford or at home in Spartanburg. It has been so interesting and valuable for me to experience a different way of living. I have gained a new found appreciation for public transportation, although I have to admit that I miss driving a little! I also walk a lot more here. The cities in France tend to be far more walkable. One thing that is especially different about this experience is that I actually live alone. That is definitely a new experience for me, and it is one that has been good in certain ways, but also that has aspects that I will not miss.
Because of covid, my experience has been different than most student’s study abroad experiences. It wasn’t exactly what I imagined when I originally decided to study abroad, but it has been worthwhile nonetheless.