Friday, August 15, 2014

My Summer Internship- More than a Professional Experience

There are numerous advantages to participating in an internship opportunity. The experience allows most people to have an understanding of their studies in a practical sense, develops communication skills, and stimulates professional behavior and conduct. My internship at ESC Rennes, Les Admissibles, did all of this and so much more.

For two months, I was fully integrated with my French peers as well as international students from countries like Japan, Greece, Colombia, India, Mexico, and Spain. We were all responsible for accommodating and aiding incoming candidates of ESC Rennes. During this period, I got to use and improve my language skills, work with a diverse team of students, and develop long-term friendships.

I not only was able to be a part of the Desk Team of Admissibles whom welcomed and assisted Les Admissibles, I was also able to perform in the nightly production  of “Rennes En Live” written, performed, and directed  by a team of 30 Admisseurs (those of us facilitating Les Admissibles). This not only allowed my language skills to grow, but also helped me become comfortable speaking in front of literally hundreds of French students who only knew my nationality after they heard my accent.

The neatest part about Les Admissibles was that we, the students of ESC, ran the entire operation with minimal help from administration. There are countless people whom I would like to thank for giving me the opportunity to take part in a foreign internship but even more whom I am grateful for getting to know me, encouraging me, and touching my life forever.
Angie and I working hard at the Desk!

Learning how to make sushi! Thanks, Naoki!

My last night in Rennes with great people!

The advantages of interning are countless, and in today’s highly competitive business community, they are what differentiate the many students and graduates of this field. I am so thankful to be able to say that I acquired knowledge about business, soft skills, and team dynamics during this period. The best part of the experience, though, was creating friendships and relationships that span farther than oceans and continents. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Week-end à la plage

When I returned to Rennes after my vacation to England, it was time to gear up for the arrival of Les Admissibles. We needed to decorate the school with our beach themed decorations, organize our reception, and make welcome packs!

I had decided to take part in the show that the French students would put on for the candidates each night. I figured I would just be a pompom girl and help backstage but I was lucky enough to get a role in “G’Rennes Anatomy” a parody of Grey’s Anatomy. I would have to speak French for the role and after one train wreck rehearsal, I made sure to learn all of my text for the next day. Although I was super nervous, I did my best to keep a smile and stay in character.

After a couple of weeks of welcoming the candidates, we all had a weekend free to head to the beach in St. Malo. My friend Mary was kind enough to host us at her family’s vacation home there! We spent a day on the beach, soaking up sun and swimming in the sea. It was just what I needed!

That evening, we prepared a nice dinner and cocktails and enjoyed our little French cottage which was once a barn! The next day, we went to get authentic Bretagne Galette. We also got to ride through the city and take in the fresh sea air as well as get an amazing view of the coast!

I returned home refreshed and ready to tackle the final weeks of my internship. I can’t believe it’s already time to start packing!

ESC Friends

Beautiful Seaside View

David, Mary, and I

Posing in Greek Love shirt with my Greek friend, Anastasia!

Visit to the Old Country/ Rennes'union

After a few weeks of preparing for the Admissibles to arrive, I had a weekend off and was headed to England to visit Emma and Alex! Even though it was only a few days, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to catch up with my girls and discover a new country. I set off for the old country, 5 hours of trains then a ferry into Dover!

I was welcomed into the country by Emma and we immediately went into tourist mode. We walked through the charming streets of Canterbury. Emma shared stories of things she had done in different parts of the town and played tour guide throughout our walk. I loved the architecture and history of this little village! I even saw ancient Roman ruins that were thousands of years old!

I was tired after a long day of travel and it was almost dinner time so we headed home to Emma’s where I would meet her lovely family! I can’t describe how nice it was to be in a family home with luxuries and comforts us college students forget! I am so thankful that the Castledine’s are so warm and welcoming!
The next morning we headed out early to go to London where we would meet Alex who would arrive from Ireland and briefly see Marina who was headed to see some friends in another part of England. After a month apart, our reunion was blissful! We had many things to talk about, stories to share, and places to see.

We only had one full day in town and did everything we possibly could! We went to the palace, saw Big Ben and the London Eye, and ventured down toward the London Bridge and saw Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, then crossed the Millennium bridge and went onto St. Paul’s Cathedral. My favorite stop was for lunch (of course) at an amazing outdoor food market. There were so many vegetarian and vegan options and I was ecstatic! I finally decided on a lovely Indian mix with fresh brewed mint tea to drink. Later on, as it started to pour, we soon found a café to stay warm in and we caught up over cappuccinos.

Once the rain stopped, we headed back to the hostel and got ready for our night out. The girls introduced Wetherspoons to me. A chain of reasonably priced restaurants with great drinks and atmosphere spread around the UK. They had a veggie burger, so I was content. We spent the night over drink in the quirky little restaurant then headed out to a pub so that I could have the authentic English experience. The next day, we went to a street market and did a little browsing before heading to the train station.

I had a wonderful time with the girls and Emma’s family during my stay. It was extremely difficult to leave them but we knew it was more of a “see you later” rather than goodbye. Fortunately I will be seeing these two lovely ladies in Nice before I head back to the States!

London Eye

Reunion at Buckingham Palace 


Traditional Phone Booth Photo

My First Internship!

Isn’t it funny how we plan the unknown? Somehow when I left the States, I had the sense to decline buying a return ticket, to pay for rent through summer months, and to buy a bus/metro pass valid until June 30. I must have known that some amazing opportunity would come up and allow me to stay in France after courses ended. This opportunity happened to be a paid internship at my host university.

I was hired to be a member of an amazing team of 120 Admisseurs, or facilitators, for exams candidates of ESC Rennes would come to take. This job would require me to work in French with my peers and to treat my school as a business.  We would organize the entire event and aid the candidates during their visit at the school. This would be our opportunity to show students from around France, even Europe, how awesome our school is!

We would spend one month in preparation for the arrival of the candidates. We needed to visit different businesses and bargain for decorations, supplies, and treats all for our incoming Admissibles. I knew it would difficult to begin speaking French for about 75% of the day but it would become easier and easier as time passed, I was sure. We needed to undergo trainings, organize meetings, and become a team within the first few days.

I decided that my goal during this internship was to become more integrated with the French students, to improve my language skills, and to enjoy the rest of my time in Europe!

"Getting to know you" picnic

Family Rendez-vous in the City of Lights

It was finally the end of April, exams were finished and I was on my way to Paris to meet my family! I was so excited to play tour guide in Paris! It felt so bizarre to know that less than 3 years ago I discovered this magnificent city for the first time and now it was my 15th! This time, I knew the big sites and even some of the history behind them, I knew how to speak the language, and I knew I would really enjoy my visit since I was with my family (and was on their budget, just kidding)!

When I finally arrived at the apartment my parents were staying at, I was extremely anxious to see my little sister, Brooklyn. I had not seen her in almost an entire year and that was the most time we’d ever gone without seeing each other. There is nothing like seeing her, happy, in my favorite city! We made sure to get a picture together on our balcony with the Eiffel Tower behind!

The week was filled with tourism and I wanted to make sure my family had a good experience, not only in France but in Europe. We visited the l'Arc de Triumph, Champs Elysee, and walked to the Grande Palais and Concord, Pont Alexandre, and other great sites of Paris. My day was when it was Alison’s (my step mom) birthday! We dressed up and had lunch in the Eiffel Tower! We were also able to explore Versaille before the week closed.

We were able to meet some of my friends passing through Paris, Luana and Carolina from Brazil, and Alex from Ireland! Brooklyn absolutely adored each of them and followed them like a shadow. I was happy to be able to introduce my family to my friends and give them a glimpse my life in France. Brooklyn was keeping a journal of the week and each of her new friends featured in it!

The week was full of discoveries and family fun! I even managed to get a Skype interview from the Center for International Education at UNC and later found out that I was accepted for the Peer Advisor position for the coming year! It was truly a week of great things! By the end of the week, I was sad to see my family leave, especially knowing that I was going back to "different" Rennes since my friends had all gone back to their countries. Although this was difficult to take in, I was looking forward to beginning my internship at ESC Rennes and making new friends!Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said that “a mind that is stretched by a new experience may never go back to its old dimensions.” This quote not only encompasses the past year but also the future to come and I re-entered Rennes with this idea in mind.

I must thank my Dad and Alison for coming to visit me and for making the week amazing. Also, shout out for Brooklyn for being a rock star 5 year old and walking miles upon miles in Paris. I must also mention how much I admire my dad, an amputee, for walking those miles right along with us in one of the most Handicapable-unfriendly cities, and of course, Alison for being the the one who keeps us all together. I love you, guys!

I Love You mural in Montmartre

Enjoying French Pastries

"Picnic" Lunch in the Eiffel Tower
Barbe de Papa by our favorite site!

Friday, June 20, 2014

La Fin du Semestre

April was full of fun. The weather was beautiful, the semester was finishing up, and we discovered a lot of fun places.

Maren, a friend who was on exchange at ESC last semester came back for a mini reunion! We all picked up right where we left off and had a great time being together. We went for crepes, met friends for a night of dancing at Cubanacan, and drank cups of tea and caught up. I’m looking forward to seeing Maren when I return to the U.S (she moved to Mexico)!

The next week, we began studying for exams and decided to have a group study at Parc de Thabor. That week there was a performing arts exhibition called Mythos. Funky lamps and gypsy decoration adorned a large portion of the park, perfect for having picnics, studying, and lying in the sun. Our week was perfect!
In April I was also accepted into an internship held by ESC Rennes for Les Admissibles 2014. This opportunity would allow me to stay in France through July while working in French. I am so thankful for being hired and allowed to enjoy a few more months of life in Europe!

As we started exams and began wrapping up the semester, we began realizing that our time together was limited and people were getting ready to travel Europe or return to their home countries. We spent our free time meeting up and having dinner chez bresiliennes. Soon exams were closing and we had to fit in packing, closing accounts, on top of making sure to do our favorite things in Rennes. I said my final goodbyes when I left for Paris to meet my Dad, Alison, and Brooklyn. It was bittersweet!

Happy to have Maren back!

Mythos Festival

Final soiree!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My First Bungee Jump, Saut de Coeur!

It seems like I have been able to find a lot of what I have been looking for in these past months. J’ai les chances. It seems as though whenever any of us are looking for something interesting or fun, we are able to find it. It is all thanks to the rich community lives that French people know how to appreciate.

First, our little group was chatting about wanting to find something fun for the weekend. We then saw a poster for  a benefit supporting HIV awareness: a bungee jump! Saut de Coeur was being hosted by the IRO Association of ESC Rennes and  was our opportunity to jump from 60 meters off of the ground, equivalent to an 18 story building. We had found our weekend activity!

We all decided we were going to check it out. I was sure that I was going to do it! No problem, right? We arrived on the Saturday morning filled with butterflies and determination! The cool thing about conquering a fear is that it shows you a new side of yourself. I watched three of my friends go before me, and I finally realized as I watched all of them take the leap I realized how scared I was and I wasn’t so sure I could do it anymore. I felt my fear mounting as I looked at the beautiful skylines of Rennes from 200ft up, and after several seconds, I finally found the courage to simply let go. I felt like I was going in slow motion as I felt gravity pulling me down. I opened my eyes to see and now can always remember the peace I felt in those moments that I faced a fear I never knew I had. 

This was an exciting experience for the group of us had done together and made us bond even more. I am so happy I can look back on these random, quirky, and life changing experiences and remember the friendships built within the past year.
My jump!

Pre-Bungee Photo

Girls' Weekend in Brussels and Amsterdam

Spring semester I was a traveling all of the time! I just realized that in March alone, my presence was made in over 8 countries! Aren’t I lucky? I am unbelievably grateful! The voyage after going home was to head to Brussels, Belgium and Amsterdam, Netherlands. I traveled with my lovely Irish friend, Yvonne, and also got to spend a few days with my good friend, Malou from Fall semester (she’s Dutch!).

Brussels was a one day trip but Yvonne and I were able to see a lot of the city. Since the weather was rainy and gloomy, we decided to buy a 24 hour pass for the City Tours “hop on, hop off” bus which allowed us to see all of the major sites within Brussels. We even did some shopping and during the evening, we decided to head out and try some Belgian specialties to further enjoy our mini vacation. After an unforgettable night out, we packed up and caught our bus to Amsterdam.

This year I have also learned what it is like to travel on your own wallet instead of mom and dad’s. When we got to Amsterdam, Malou met us and we began our journey to the amazing hotel she was able to get us! This place was like a palace for us. The room was huge, the beds were comfy, and there was a bath tub! I was in heaven. We went and saw several sights that evening and enjoyed a nice dinner along the water. The next day we checked out an awesome street market and bought food for a picnic in the park. I love the atmosphere in Amsterdam, it is very relaxed, very beautiful, and easy to enjoy. Plus, the diversity of the inhabitants is entertaining as well as eye-opening.

This girls’ weekend was one of the most fun vacations I have had and I am so thankful to have friends that I can travel with and those from around the world that I can visit in their home countries. I have pieces of my heart scattered across the globe now!
Atomium Sculpture, Brussels
Yvonne, Malou, and I

Monday, June 9, 2014

USA in 2 Days

Throughout the months I have spent here with friends, there have been times each of us wished we had been a bit closer to home for one reason or another. One of these times was whenever a family member or friend had passed away and we felt the need to be around our relatives. I experienced this in mid-March when my Grandpa Tim passed away. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go home and remember him properly with my loved ones.

Grandpa Tim was such a character. He served the local police force for 30 years and touched many lives through the D.A.R.E program. He was a man of few words and loved to joke. Some of the best memories I have are centered around watching Westerns, sitting at coffee with his crazy friends, and playing cards at Grandma's every Sunday. When I found out about his passing, I immediately received support from all of my family, in the US as well as here in France. The support I got from all of my friends here was absolutely astounding. I had people approach me via Facebook, in the hall at school, and through text just to offer a kind word of support. Even with all of these lovely people by my side, I still felt the need to go home and be with my family, as most people feel in this situation. I got to go home for two days and was able to read the eulogy at Grandpa’s funeral, which was a huge honor. It was so wonderful to see my family, some friends, and the glorious mountains of Colorado. I also got to eat some Mexican food!

Although it felt wonderful to be in a familiar place, it felt distant and weird as well like being thrown back into my culture for such a short period of time would be. This allowed me to see a lot of cultural differences between the U.S and France. The usual things like eating habits and the types/qualities of food, dress, and overall lifestyle. The most interesting thing to observe was peoples’ reactions to me when they saw me. A lot of people that I have known for many years ignored me and pretended to not see me even if I was in clear sight. I was the one to approach them about 80% of the time. I have never experienced this in France. Even if I met a person once for five minutes, if I see them again, they are sure to greet me and I them.

This little glimpse back into my American life intrigues me and I am curious to see how my re-entry into the American culture will pan out. I am hopeful that a lot of the French cultural practices that I enjoy stay with me and that I am able to create a balance for myself. Perhaps even show others my perspective too!

In Memory of Timothy Pepin

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Prague and Budapest for Spring Break!

This year I decided that doing some traveling on Spring Break was in order! A group of us decided that Prague and Budapest would be two really interesting places to visit during our break from classes and life in France.

Prague was our first stop and we entered the city with high expectations that were definitely met. We spent the first night exploring a bit of the city center by foot and getting a feel for it. The next day, we decided to get a guided tour through the city. We started at the ancient Astrological Clock in the city center. The clock had several dials and four figurines symbolizing things like death and vanity and has been standing for over 600 years! All around us were gorgeous buildings from many different eras like Baroque, Gothic, Renaissance, and many more! It was clear that throughout all the invasions of Czech Republic, that the preservation of history was very important.

We even visited a “haunted” church where a mummified arm hangs as a warning to any thieves thinking of taking the churches treasures! Our tour guide was extremely accommodating and even took us to one of his favorite local pubs for lunch. My friends had goulash, pork, or beef, and I enjoyed the only vegetarian option: a garlic-y potato pancake! We explored more of the city the following day including the castle where we watched the changing of guards. We also made our mark on John Lennon’s wall, in a part of the city that seems to be hidden.
Authentic Czech Lunch!

The next stop was Budapest where we stayed in a neat hostel with a very relaxed atmosphere! We went to a hummus bar for dinner (I was on cloud nine) and then went to a bar in old city ruins! The bar was really large and old and the quirky atmosphere allowed us to take a little rest from the constant tourist site seeing. We only had one day after that to explore the two cities (Buda and Pest) and we sure made the most of it. We climbed high to see great views, we visited a large market, and we visited another castle. Near there we found an old Hospital Bunker that was top secret until 2008. It was neat to tour the only hospital ever designed to survive a nuclear war!
Exploring Budapest

We finished off our trip in the baths of Budapest and relaxed our aching feet! Although it was a lovely trip, we were tired out from all of the exploring and were thankful to get back to Rennes.

What unexpected treasures have you found in cities you have explored?

My Mom and Chris Come to Visit!

My study abroad experience has been incredible and I have been so fortunate to make such close friends that can be considered family. I must say, though, that after seven months of not seeing any of my family members in person, I was ecstatic to see my mom and her boyfriend Chris when they came to visit me!

I felt so excited to give them a tour of my life in France and show them how wonderful it is here. We were able to see a lot of interesting parts of Rennes, including the Mairie (town hall) where we were given a private tour! We also got to explore Mont St. Michel, which I have posted about before. We had a picnic with a gorgeous view of the Abbey in the background and cute sheep in the forefront.

My favorite part of their stay was journeying to the beaches of Normandy and visiting American Memorial and Cemetery.  The museum and grounds were so well done and an excellent tribute to those who gave their lives for a more peaceful world. Going through the museum, you could read a war timeline as well as learn about the everyday items soldiers used and personal stories from certain families. The Cemetery was also very well presented, looking out over the sea.

After an emotional tour, we took a walk down to Omaha beach and reflected on what we had just reexamined. The impact this experience had on me highlights the idea that all of us are citizens of the world and we rely on each other. A lot can be learned from history and the individual stories of our ancestors.

My parents and I enjoyed being reunited and taking in so much history together. A weekend was too short but I know they enjoyed the remainder of their Eurotrip!

Mont St. Michel

American Memorial and CemeteryNormandy American Memorial

Les Chateaux de la Loire

There are so many interesting discoveries you can make on day trips. I had the opportunity to go on a school tour to Les Chateaux de la Loire, about 3 hours away from Rennes. Not only did I get to look through an ancient castle where kings have lived, but I also got to explore Leonardo Da Vinci’s last home and see his tomb!

The first stop was Chateau D’Amboise, a large and gorgeous castle with grounds of neatly groomed gardens and a lovely view of the river. On the grounds of the Chateau is a small chapel with ornate detail inside. Besides the amazing architecture lies one of the most famous artists in history, Leonardo Da Vinci! It was in this small town where the genius spent his last few years.

Before we discovered the story of Da Vinci’s last years, we had a tour through the Chateau D'Amboise.Tapestries dating back to the 1600s adorned the walls and authentic décor helped us understand what life for a king might have been like. It was interesting to find out that the Kings would travel from chateau to chateau in order to keep an eye on politics throughout the land. Every month or so, the entire convoy of the Royal Family and their servants would pack up everything within the castle and cart it to the next destination, a trip that often took 10 days!

After exploring the chateau and ground we went to a small restaurant, Au Coeur Vaillant, for the best French meal I have had! I can still remember the delicious potato and cheese casserole! With full tummies, we set off for Leonardo Da Vinci’s last house. The house was very neat to see but the models of his inventions were the best part! Not only were there small models of the inventions set up within the house, there were a few of the inventions made to scale on the grounds of the petit chateau! The most noteworthy was the medieval tank that you could get inside!

There are so many things to discover if you take the time to look around. What are your favorite day trip spots?
Da Vinci's Tank

Chataeu D'Amboise

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pom Pom Girls 4L Trophy

It is absolutely unbelievable how many wonderful opportunities this year has presented. I have been able to meet so many wonderful people, see gorgeous places, and create memories that will last forever. One of the coolest opportunities I have received this semester is becoming a part of the ESC Rennes Pom Pom Girl team! It is such a privilege to spend time with these wonderful girls and really try to integrate myself with them.

Our first performance was south of Rennes for the 4L Trophy previllage. The 4L Trophy is a fundraiser in which students from ESC journey across the Moroccan desert to deliver school supplies to children in need. To understand more about 4L, visit

We spent the day at the kick off and got to perform three times. It was so much fun to speak with all of the French students, play games with them, and indulge in my love for dance. I have danced my entire life and had started to really miss it after not being able to do anything during the fall semester! I love the way the Pom Pom Girls handle themselves and act as a team. It is so much different from my previous experiences and I feel truly blessed to be a member of such an amazing group of girls.

I feel like this opportunity is allowing me to get a more authentic experience of what it is like to be a French student and has popped the “Erasmus bubble” that many foreign exchange students experience. Merci beaucoup les filles!
Dance with your heart!

Bordeaux avec les Filles

As I am studying in France, I want to become familiar with the country and its different regions. Several weeks ago, a few of my friends and I decided to have a cultural weekend in Bordeaux. Five of us girls went to indulge in wine and beautiful country side.

We left on Friday and took the train to Bordeaux which is a 5 hour trip. We bought yummy snacks, met a cat on the train, and prepared ourselves for a great weekend together. Once we arrived, we found our way to the youth hostel to get ready for a girls’ night out. I love how Europe treats their younger citizens; there are discounts for almost every museum, hostels designed for young people, and different reductions for transportation all for being a student. This differs greatly from the U.S. where you can hardly ask for your free student drink at Chipotle without getting dirty looks.

Bordeaux was absolutely gorgeous even in the winter. The first night, we went out on the town and enjoyed a nice meal at a restaurant our friends had recommended. There were three things on the menu and all were meat based so I got to eat fries, salad, and plenty of red wine (a Bordeaux of course). After a long day of traveling and a nice meal together, we returned to the hostel to rest up for the next day.

Saturday, we enjoyed walking around the city and seeing a few sites in the morning before going on a wine tour. With history all around us, it wasn’t hard to find interesting sites and points of interest. After a quick lunch, we hurried to the office of tourism to head off on our wine tour! We drove through beautiful French countryside, journeyed into the Medoc region, and saw fields upon fields of vineyards and a few chateaus as well. The first winery we stopped at, Chateau Kirwan, was a gorgeous estate with well-kept grounds and plenty of scenery to take in and enjoy. We learned how the wine was made and stored and got to try two different wines. One was a younger, fruity wine and the other was more mature and had a richer taste. To learn more about Kirwan wines and how they are produced, visit

The second winery we visited had a lot of history. It was built by monks in the 16th century and who decided to settle in France and make wine. The wine is still made in the same building that the monks made it and there are laws protecting the building and the land used in the production. We got to try two wines here as well, one red and one white. The white, interestingly enough, is not allowed to be called Bordeaux even though it is produced in this area. All Bordeaux wine is red and the other types of wine fall under a different name and classification.

We returned to the city of Bordeaux and did a bit more sight-seeing and walked along the river before we returned to the hostel to prepare a picnic dinner in our room. Sunday, we ventured to the Notre Dame and the public park where we played on the playground and wandered around. The rain began to pour so we decided to get some lunch before heading to the train station. It was a short trip, but we definitely made the most of our time and really enjoyed ourselves! 
Chateau Kirwan

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Reims and Paris

After spending five days in Strasbourg, I packed up and set off for Reims in the Champagne region of France! I am lucky enough to have a friend, Tiphaine, who lives in Reims and was able to spend time with her and her friends and family! The first night in town, Tiphaine introduced me to her many great friends. Everyone was so welcoming and patient with me when I spoke French and that was a relief. I was so happy that I could spend time with a group of French people, like I’ve always wanted. This especially means Tiphaine as she is leaving for China very soon for her semester abroad!

 After learning that I was not doing anything for New Year’s Eve, she invited me to stay with her and her friends in Paris! I was so excited and immediately accepted the invite. The next day, Tiphaine and her family showed me around Reims, shared a hot chocolate with me, and invited me home for dinner. I got to enjoy the luxuries of a home: decorations, a Christmas tree, television, homemade food, and family! Tiphaine even taught me how to make a crêpe!

The next afternoon, we set out for Paris where we would meet Alice,another friend of ours from school, and Laurie with whom we would stay. When we arrived I found a Starbucks and took full advantage. After some walking and grocery shopping, we got to Laurie’s and talked for the night (I mostly listened). On New Year’s Eve Day, Tiphaine, Alice, and I discovered Pont de l'Archevêché where people lock locks together to symbolize their love. Bff’s Alice and Tiphaine locked a pink one! We also went to see La Louvre’s pyramid and we climbed L’ard de Triumph! What a lovely day in Paris.

That night, we prepared for the other guests and I experienced a very French holiday, like I have always wanted. The repas for the evening included fois gras, salmon, and magret de canard. I, of course, ate quinoa atop toast which isn't very French but a worthy vegetarian substitute for me. We shared champagne and I listened, or at least tried, to all of the wonderful French conversations going on. As midnight approached and we counted down in French, I realized just how special this experience was.

Before I left the next day, I got to see my beloved Eiffel Tower with my friends. Starting 2014 in Paris was incredible! I am so thankful to have friends like Tiphaine and Alice and I will be forever grateful for the wonderful experience these girls and our friends gave me! I hope to see them both again in the near future and hope that their time abroad gives them the time of their life like mine has. Have fun and enjoy your time in Norway, Alice and China, Tiphaine! Bisous!

The crêpe I created

Alice and I at Pont de l'Archevêché

Tiphaine and I on top of L'Arc de Triumph

Repas NYE

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Noël à Strasbourg!

Upon my arrival, I surprised myself by how fearlessly I handled things. Ever since I’ve come to France, I have gone and done. No thinking, no nervousness, I just go and enjoy life. I met Philippe and he welcomed me and offered me plenty of advice on what to do and where to go. The apartment is nestled just outside of la centre-ville and has a gorgeous view of the Notre Dame.  After he explained different things about the apartment, he left to finish his Christmas shopping and I went to explore.

I decided to start first at the Notre Dame. Christmas markets lined the streets and millions of people were out enjoying the holiday décor and festivities. It is absolutely amazing how many people travel here for Christmas (2 million). I heard French, German, English, and many other unidentifiable languages. I entered the cathedral and enjoyed a little program put on by local children and lit a prayer candle. I enjoyed seeing the nativity, tapestries, and Napolean figurines displayed at the church. After, I decided to people watch and have the traditional vin chaud! Mmm.

 After speaking with a few locals
who were very welcoming and friendly, I went to a traditional Alsacienne restaurant called a Win Stub and had the only thing a vegetarian could have: soup a l’oignon et une salade avec fromage Alsacienne. I had a cozy little table to myself and really enjoyed the meals.It was the perfect atmosphere for the season and it paired nicely with my Christmas beer.

I easily found my way back to the apartment where Philippe had prepared a degustation of wine. I got to try a Pinot Noir from the region as well as a sweet white wine. It was nice to speak with a native about his culture and the history of Strasbourg. It is incredible how the different regions in France have a strong personal identity with different traditions, food, and ways of life.

The next day (Xmas Eve), Philippe toured me around the city a bit before leaving for Christmas Eve dinner with his family. I also decided to take a boat tour around the city and learned a lot about the city and different buildings that surrounded me. I had no idea how old this area is! I became familiar enough with the city to seek out an Italian specialty store where I bought tortellini that I would prepare for my meal. I decided that shopping in the specialty stores would be the best way to experience my very own French Christmas. I stopped at a Wine Cellar and chose a local brew and went to the patisserie next door for my crème brûlée cake! 

 I was lucky enough to speak to a lot of my family on the phone and wish them a Merry Christmas. On Christmas Day, I was able to Skype with my Dad, Alison, Brooklyn, and family! Brooklyn loved all of her gifts, including a trampoline from Santa!

 I think that this Christmas taught me what the season is really about. I learned what it is like to be separated from those whom you love and share memories with, and I believe it is an important and unique lesson learned. I was lucky not to feel lonely, only grateful that God was allowing me to experience a Christmas unlike any other!

Joyeux Noël! 

The End of Something Incredible

Fall 2013 has been full of so many wonderful opportunities and experiences that I will always hold near and dear to me. I met some of the most interesting and dynamic people you can think of, seen some gorgeous sites, and shared memories that will last a lifetime. This semester helped me find out who I am and who I hope to become.

The friends I made here in Rennes have shown me so much about other cultures and personalities and have made me realize a lot about where I come from and how I am. I am so incredibly happy to have shared my first semester abroad with people who have impacted me so greatly. For the first time I was able to make friends with people who would not judge me for being who I am and I was able to feel like I had a home here in France!

We have done so many things together. Nights out, day trips, classes, study sessions, late night chats, movie nights, and so much more. I am so lucky to say that I have bonds with people from absolutely everywhere and I hope to reunite with these wonderful people again in the future.

Farewell Dinner with Da Crew

We all got together for a final dinner where we each received different "awards" that symbolize what we bring to the crew. I got "Most Improved" which is really special to me since I came into the crew about 2 months after most people. I feel so blessed to have found my place in such a dynamic group of people. I'll never forget what I have learned from these past months and I look forward to learning more during Spring Semester.


One thing that is really cool about the people you meet during an exchange is their willingness to share their culture and to learn about yours. I have learned about so many different traditions that my friends have and as Thanksgiving approached, I knew that the Americans needed to share their traditions too!

The week of Thanksgiving was one of the busiest weeks that we all were going to have so we decided to have a big dinner the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Luckily, one of the American guy's moms sent pumpkin pie mix, which to me is the best part of the holiday! An announcement via Facebook was shared and we all chose a dish to make. I made fruit salad, green beans, and gravy! 

The event turned out to be an eclectic mix of different types of food, including Chinese! It was so cool to spend Thanksgiving with over 20 other nationalities!