From childhood, I’ve known I love to travel. As I grew up I imagined studying abroad in high school, I talked about it, hoped for it, and never did end up putting anything together. As I entered college I renewed my hopes, and made plans for junior year. I was serious, I was excited, and I was going to France. Nantes, France, to be exact.
After all the planning, all the excitement, I was terrified when I got to Nantes. I arrived at the IES Abroad building, which I would later grow to love, and I met a whole crowd of other students, each one of us more or less quiet, just waiting for our host families to come pick us up. The first few days passed like you would expect, people saying their names over and over, trying to talk to as many other students as possible, and sharing all kinds of information about their lives at home in the US and about what their host families here in Nantes are like. IES took us on lots of weekend trips, especially at the start, and little by little we grew to be as comfortable as if we had spent years with each other. The little table in the kitchen and the big mass of tables in the library became regular spots to gather and talk, and I made friends in Nantes who I still talk to and remain close with despite the fact that we are now spread out all over the US and France.
My host family, more than anything, was one of the most impactful parts of my time in France. I was far more tearful and sad on the day I left France and my host family, than on the day I said goodbye to my real family, because them I would see again in only four short months. I was blessed with a host family who I grew to think of as my own family, as my mom, dad, three younger sisters, cat and dog. Each one of them welcomed me as if I was some long-lost member of the family, coming back from a lengthy trip. I fit into their life and routine quickly and with ease, and I could talk to each of them about whatever came into our heads. IES couldn't have done a better job placing students in their host families.
The classes I took, both with IES and at the University, were challenging, but rewarding more than anything. And challenging though they could be, there was always a tutor, a friend, or the teacher standing by to help however they could. Though I had my worries about whether or not I would be at ease with the language before arriving, every fear was quelled shortly after arriving. There was a learning curve, and adjustments had to be made along the way, but the fact that everyone in your sphere wants to help you, coupled with the fact that simply being immersed in the language will help you to learn quicker than you could have believed, makes everything seem all the easier.
I loved my semester in Nantes more than I even realized I could before arriving there, and I wouldn't change it for anything. I came home with lifelong friends, knowledge of a beautiful culture and country that I never imagined I would understand so well, memories that will say with me as long as I am still going, and skills in a language that I will be able to use for the rest of my life.