Lauren, Outbound to France

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So today marks my 17th day here in Saint-Brieuc, France and things are slowly getting better. I'm not sure where to begin with this because there is so much I want to say. I guess the first thing I should probably address is packing. Oh my goodness was that very stressful! I wanted to limit myself to two suitcases and a backpack so I could have an easier time walking through the airport and so that I did not overpack in general. Many Rebounds and Rotex in Florida told us not to overpack and that we would only need about two weeks worth of clothes. Following their advice I packed about two weeks worth and let me tell you, I am woefully underpacked. My mom just recently sent me more clothes because I literally wear the same outfit like three or four days in a row. I'm not sure what advice I have here in this situation, all I know is that I should have packed more than I did.

Now talking about when I arrived in France and my first two weeks here. I was lucky enough to only have one direct flight from Atlanta to Charles de Gaulle (CDG) so even though my flight was a long eight hours, I had it easy compared to most other exchange students who take three, four, etc. connecting flights. Even so, I was still very tired when I arrived in Paris. Once I got to Paris I met up with everyone else in my district so we could all take a bus to a meet up with our families in our district. We met up with our families at night on August 29th, so we had two days with our families before we went to our first inbound camp. The first weekend I was here I went to an Inbound camp in Vannes and met all the other Brittany Inbounds. There are around 35 of us here in the Brittany region of France, and the weekend in Vannes was a lot of fun. While in Vannes in the morning we partook in some basic French language courses and went over the rules of our district. In the afternoons we got to explore Vannes. I was a lot of fun, but there wasn't much French speaking, so when I got back to my host families house it was very difficult switching from English into French all the time.

I should make it clear that no one in my host family speaks English fluently by any means. So immediately when I arrived it was full French from the start. The first week was extremely difficult because it was very difficult to communicate with my host family. I did not understand them and they did not understand me. What made this even harder was that this was also my first week of school, which was even more difficult than communicating with my host family. None of my classmates speak English and the only teacher that speaks English is my English teacher. The first week of school just consisted of me introducing myself to my teachers as an American and telling them I barely speak French and I really do not understand French. This leads me to the topic of learning your host language before you leave. My opinion on that is, learn as much as you can, but know it will probably never be enough. There is a kid here now from Canada who has done French immersion in school for twelve years and still is struggling with communication. Just know that school is VERY different from the way native speakers use the language. Back to my experience though. After my first week here was over and my first week of school was over I was extremely exhausted. I slept until 2 pm on Saturday. Thinking in English and speaking in French is extremely exhausting. After my first weekend with my host family came my second week of school. All I have to say is that this week is definitely easier than last week. I am very slowly starting to understand people more, even though I am still having trouble speaking back. Friends at my school tell me that my speaking is getting better but I am not 100% sure. I will say though that I am happier at school now. Also, school days here are VERY long. Monday I end at 6pm!, Tuesday at 3pm, Wednesday is a short day and ends at 1pm, Thursday ends at 5pm, and Friday I got very lucky and end at 2pm, though we have an A week and a B week (the ending times I just listed are for an A week) and I am not 100% sure what my B week schedule is. Also there are like two or three hour long breaks a day where you're supposed to do your homework, but I understand absolutely nothing that's going on in the class, so I just sit around and listen to music and read during the breaks.

All I can say is that it has all been very difficult but it is slowly getting better. I can see how in a few months how this will just feel like normal life, because I am already starting to get that feeling only being here 2 weeks