And so we come to my final few weeks in Rennes, and consequently my last journal entry... I'll forgive you if you're breathing a sigh of relief right now! It's a funny feeling, though - while looking forward to returning home, it's also strange to find myself at the end of this year abroad already, and is an ideal time to reflect on how the year has gone.
It would be fair to say it got off to a considerably rocky start, and in my first term I was very very unhappy here, which had a knock on effect on my mental health, and as a result, my physical health and my day-to-day life. Having taken stock of how I was feeling over Christmas, speaking to friends, family and Exeter staff I elected to return to Rennes - although, in all honesty, it was never in doubt - I know myself well enough to know that had I not at least tried to make a go of things out here, I would never have forgiven myself. One thing I am not is a quitter. I found enough modules to just about make up for the credits missed in my first semester, and chose modules that I knew would interest me and motivate me to work.
Unfortunately the strikes interfered with this somewhat, and now I am at the end of my second semester and have sat as many of the exams as possible, although with minimal amounts of teaching it remains to be seen how well I've done, but there is little point fretting about it now - I have done everything in my power to try and ensure that I pass these exams.
However the year has panned out in terms of my education at Rennes II, I feel that I have benefited from merely being abroad - and my confidence has improved, even if I do still get a little apprehensive at times - I still get so nervous my pulse races, when I have to speak to, for example, a tutor one-to-one which is a horrible, feeling. I have managed to go and visit Paris 3 times over the year, as well as some time in Pisa (more on this later!) which has on the one hand reminded me of my passion for the language, and why I chose to study it in the first place, but simultaneously reminded me that over the summer I need to brush up on my vocabulary and mastery of the Italian grammar, in whatever way possible.
It's been a few years since I last went to Italy but my time in Pisa was fabulous, although I did come to the conclusion that I prefer the French architecture over the Italian architecture, but that's by the by. It had been a long time since I'd seen Nicola and having some time together and seeing where she's spent her year, and how, was lovely. I also saw Jen, another Exeter girl who Nicola lives with, and Charlotte, another course mate. My Italian was weaker than I thought, which is worrying, but has also spurred me on to focus on it over the summer, perhaps by buying Italian translations of well known books I've read to improve my vocabulary, among other things.
We visited Florence, and Lucca, which were both lovely - Lucca in the sunshine was particularly idyllic, and lovely and green. Italian ice cream is delicious, and I ate a LOT of pizza - naturally, I suppose. The French just don't quite know how to do it - instead of mozzarella and tomato, the most common one is jambon and emmental - not quite what I'm looking for in a pizza! I ate well, slept well, and felt relaxed, which doesn’t happen all too often in Rennes! At the end of a year that’s had both ups and downs, we could look forward together to next year back in Exeter, and being reunited with everybody who’s been abroad this year.
As far as final comments on my year in Rennes go, I feel being on the continent has helped improve my language, although in all honesty, for the money and the emotional turmoil I’ve been through, I don’t know if I’ve seen a big enough improvement... I do wonder whether in future, if tuition fees do go up, people will be less happy to sign up to a course that incurs extra costs, although, equally, I suppose students will be prepared to do it for the improvement in their language.
It’s been a rollercoaster, yet I am slightly sad to be leaving... I don’t know what this summer holds me, other than a houseful after the serenity of my little chambre! I’ve got my little habits and routines here that will be lost, and of course my darling friend Caroline, who has shown me extreme kindness as well as giving me an insight into local theatre through her amateur dramatics, and her interest in all things theatrical.
I could go on and on and on, but I think now would be as good a time as any to sign off. I queried at the start of the year whether I was even doing the right degree, but when we found an old visitor’s book at my grandfather’s, I’d signed it at the ripe old age of 5 and a half, before I’d even started learning languages, and added a comment of “très bon”, so at the end of my year here I’ve finally accepted that my degree is the right one, and as a result, this year should have happened, and that there is no point now looking back with regret.