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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Jennifer in France

Jennifer Valdes Del Valle riding a carousel
April 23, 2020

International Studies and French double major, Jennifer Valdes Del Valle ’21, is studying with the ISEP program at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Rennes France.

A bittersweet ending.

I have been in Rennes for two and a half months, and I have been very happy here. I love the subjects I am taking; I have finally understood the French schooling system and although adapting was a bit challenging, I am getting there. My friends and I love exploring the city, especially the food. French cuisine has more to offer than I ever imagined and sharing different dishes with my friends has become our favorite bonding activity. Moreover, I am impressed at how much my French skills have progressed; I am no longer shy to speak directly to the French people, I can also understand them better now.

However, the COVID-19 has caused some of the exchange students to worry. A couple of my classmates have already decided to return home, even if there is no national alert yet. The uncertainty has made me reflect a lot on this experience. I try to embrace every day and enjoy it to the fullest with my friends, because we don’t know if we will be sent home any day soon. I can’t imagine leaving Rennes after falling in love with the city; I have a functional routine, I really enjoy my studies and I would love to stay and travel. All of these would have to be left behind if the virus became a more serious threat.

The day I was afraid of came sooner than I ever imagined. President Macron declared national emergency on live TV due to the virus. We were given a 24-hour time frame to pack our things and leave the country before its borders officially closed. It was a very hectic experience. First, I had to book plane tickets and availability was very limited as airports were closing. Then I quickly packed my belongings, but only the necessary. I had no time to say goodbye to my friends and before I knew, I was already on my way to the airport. I was shocked to see so many people in despair; there was a lot of panic because countries were closing its borders and left thousands of people stuck with nowhere to go.

It was a very emotional trip. I reflected a lot on my study abroad experience; it ended up being very short and yet, it was very life changing. I am certainly thankful to have had this opportunity regardless of how it ended. This trip gave me the motivation I needed to become a better student, to explore new opportunities and to always push forward.

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