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