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8 Things I Love Most About Studying Abroad in France

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ― Henry Miller

Spending the semester in Rennes, France, I have already learned and experienced so much. While studying abroad I’ve had the opportunity to meet new people and experience culture uniquely every day. There are eight things in particular that I’ve learned to love most about my study abroad experience.​​

Photo by Neely Hoegen

1. The history

One of the things that continues to amaze me is the history behind every building and city in Europe. Museums throughout the country are packed full with in-depth information and artifacts that I have read about in textbooks. I’ve walked through the same hallways as German soldiers who occupied a castle that was bombed by the British Air Force during World War II. There’s something chilling and moving about seeing all of these artifacts and places firsthand.

2. Living with a host family

Living with a host family provides a firsthand experience of a culture. Throughout my stay, I’ve been able to practice my language casually and learn more slang expressions not taught in traditional language intensive classes. It’s somewhat difficult to go back to living with parents again after experiencing independence in college for a few years. However, after an adjustment period, I feel as though I’ve become a part of the family.

3. The coffee

There are plenty of cafés on any given street, making relaxing and drinking coffee with friends a daily activity. One thing that’s difficult though is that coffee cups are much smaller. The coffee here is small and strong while in the United States, we tend to have gigantic cups of coffee mixed with all different ingredients. Being a coffee fan, the lack of flavor or sugary alternatives doesn’t bother me, but there are some days that I would kill for an iced caramel macchiato.

4. The student discounts

Students get discounts for nearly everything. Most transportation is discounted and a lot of restaurants will offer a student combo. These discounts also exist in The United States, but I’ve found that they are far more common in France, which is strange considering college in France is far less expensive than in the United States.

5. The ease of travel

There are busses and a metro to get around Rennes, so once I figured out the system (After that time I got lost for two hours), I gained access to anywhere in the city for fairly cheap. It’s also very easy to travel between cities and countries, and these trips are frequently a fraction of the price one would pay to travel within the United States.

6. Their earth-friendly tendencies

Under the 2015 Energy Bill, France banned plastic bags from being used at grocery stores, so everyone uses bags that can be reused every visit. Many families limit shower time and lights are expected to be turned off when leaving the room even for a second or two. Plastic bags and disregard for conservation are just so ingrained in the American culture that it’s hard to even notice what we do conserve.

7. The food

What would an article about studying abroad be without talk about food? Something I love the most about the food in France is that every meal is balanced with smaller portions of many different food groups. This is something that we’re taught to do in the United States, but as a college student, I usually fail to accomplish. Food in France is so much more than eating, it’s a culture in and of itself!

Carthage alumna Annelise Boland remembers the food especially during her experience abroad. “Food is something I strongly resonated with in my time abroad,” says Boland. During her time in Aix-en Provence, France, she observed, “There is an art and a sense of pride in the potency of a cheese or the preparation of a dessert. But most importantly, it’s the importance it holds—dinners could last hours, waiters never rushed you to leave—I noticed that food has the potential to create bonds between people and I found that truly remarkable.” 

Dinner is a time to talk and relax with the family and for that reason, it’s common for a meal to last three hours. As an impatient person, this was quite difficult at first, but I’ve come to appreciate the meaning of the practice.

8. Access to the Internet and social media

I have no clue how anyone studied abroad for so long just by receiving letters. I’m so grateful for social media and Skype for keeping me connected to home and school. When I miss my family or friends, I know many of them are just a click away and that makes thousands of miles seem much less far away.

If you’ve ever considered studying abroad, just do it! Discover things about a country that you love! Meet new people, live a different life, be wild. Go see the world! If you’re a Carthage student interested in studying abroad short or long-term, you can learn more about Carthage study abroad trips on the school website.

Neely is a junior at Carthage College where she majors in French and minors in English and Secondary Education. She is a proud member of Alpha Chi Omega and is spending her Fall semester abroad in Rennes, France. She is obsessed with all things Dance Marathon and travel. To follow her awkward encounters and study abroad journey, follow her on Instagram @neely.c.hoegen and on Twitter at @neely_hoegen.
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