I think that everybody dreads their first birthday without any close friends or family, I know I did. I have met so many people here but I never thought that I would find people who I could drag out for a night on the town to celebrate someone they hardly knew, me.
A few days before my birthday, I decided I needed to break out of the close circle of friends I had established and network. That’s what I’m here for, right? I began to say hi to every acquaintance and make an effort to have a conversation when it was convenient. Luckily, all of the people here are very friendly and want to make new friends as well! I was glad to meet a large group of people and spend a little time with them the days leading up to my 20th!
I must say, my birthday was swell! I rang it in with friends over a cup of tea at midnight and they sang me Happy Birthday! The next morning, I went with a friend to buy my carte jeune (a student reduction card for the trains), a 50 euro investment that just happened to be only 40 euros that day due to a promotion. Lucky, right? After a long day, I decided to treat myself to a six inch from Subway. I ordered my usual vegetarian sandwich and the employee offered me the ‘steak vegetarian’ to which I gave a confused ‘no’ . It finally occurred to me, and not to late thankfully, that they serve soy “steak” patties at the Subways here! I couldn’t turn down the soy supplement that I have tirelessly searched for in super markets! It’s the little things, really. This was only the beginning of my amazing birthday abroad.
In the evening, I met with a group of eight for my birthday dinner. We all decided on a cute little Italian restaurant in le centre-ville, Italia Trattoria. I ate a delicious pizza with an egg on top! Also, I got a glass of wine, crème brulee, and a café-noir. Thanks for picking up my tab, Mom! At dinner, my new friends gave me a birthday card signed by them all and toasted me. After dinner, the group dispersed and some of us headed to a flat party (a flat is an apartment). I was so excited when I found out there were a lot of French people at the party. After a while, I began speaking French and didn’t stop until the morning. People from all different countries sang me their native birthday songs too! I am so grateful to all of the friends who made my birthday something special.
The weekend ended with me meeting up with a French girl that I met last semester at UNC, Pauline! She also studies at ESC Rennes but is currently doing an internship in Paris so this was the first time we got to really meet. I was so glad to be able to finally talk with her and share our experiences abroad and compare them.
I must say that studying abroad has been life changing. I feel like I find myself more and more everyday.