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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away
Notes from Abroad: Jennifer in France
Jennifer Valdes Del Valle ’21, a double major in International Relations and French, is studying with the ISEP program at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Rennes in France
Off to a great, very French, start
My study abroad in France started off great. The moment I landed I could not contain my excitement. Even when I heard that the public transportation workers were on strike, delaying my train almost 8 hours, my heart was still full of joy knowing my adventure was about to start. I was welcomed in Rennes by a friend who I met a year earlier; she was studying abroad in Lake Forest College and thanks to her experience, I dared to go study abroad too. My host institution, Sciences Po, organized a very welcoming introduction week for us. I was marveled to see the school building and its very elegant architecture. I was also impressed by the professors, who were very knowledgeable, and their lectures blew my mind. The learning atmosphere in Sciences Po was a constant stimulus that encouraged me to be more curious about my major. It was very empowering to be in this constant exposure to academia because it reassured my passion for my major. I always wondered if I picked the right path in my life and experiences like these confirm I was right.
At the beginning of this experience, I was worried about the social aspect. I was afraid I would not make any friend and that language would be a barrier. To my surprise, everyone in the program was very open and friendly. I did not feel shy anymore and I even got to celebrate my 22nd birthday with them. It was a very special occasion. Everyone became close friends and helped each other with the transition to France. We often chose to speak in French rather than in English. Even though I felt shy to practice, my friends were a safe space where I could freely speak in French and be corrected if needed.
Exploring Rennes was my favorite activity. The city is very colorful, and its architecture is very particular. The most characteristic landscape of Rennes are little wooden houses with white stripes; such houses are slightly tilted given that they are hundreds of years old. It is interesting how this arrangement gives a nuance of aesthetic, and it does not seem disruptive to the architecture at all.
My favorite place in Rennes without doubt is the Saturday market. Every Saturday morning, farmers, florists and cooks set up stands in the main street to sell all sorts of products. It was very colorful and full of life. One could find the freshest veggies and fruits for very cheap, even cheaper than regular supermarkets. The flowers and plants sold in the market were also very beautiful and added a special color to the nuances of the market. There were also food stands, offering the tastiest street crepes and other French dishes. It was also the ideal place to find freshly fished seafood and good quality cheese. I really enjoyed shopping there, not only because of the fresh fruits I found but also because it was a very French experience.