A Viking in France, part 2


My French friends and I eating the traditional galette des rois. (left to right) Gabriel, Lolie, Peio, Ben, me (Audrey), Mélinn, Lilou, Alice, Chloé.

By Audrey Feledy

It’s been about six months since my plane from the U.S. took off. Forty other students and I have traveled together, studied for the same tests together and eaten lunch together every day. It’s a change coming from Whitman, where it might have been days before I saw the same person twice. One of the biggest elements that contrast from person to person, in a group that’s always together, is how much each of us interacts with the French teens. 

People in my program have mixed opinions about our relationship with the wider community. Most of the students in my program, School Year Abroad, are interested in meeting new people and immersing themselves in a foreign language. However, coming from America, it’s not a surprise that some people still want to feel socially comfortable and surround themselves solely with Americans. I understand that it’s daunting to approach strangers who don’t speak English, but for me, I feel like if I looked back and had only hung out with Americans during my year abroad, I would have been better off staying at Whitman. 

I’m one of the lucky few students in SYA who has the pleasure of saying that some of my best friends are French. I didn’t have a host sibling to introduce me to people. I don’t use Tinder to find friends, like one of my classmates does. It all started because I created an Instagram account to deter my parents from asking me to add them on Snapchat. 

I use that account to closely document my time in France to my family and friends about my life overseas. Also, SYA asked me to represent them on social media. Now, prospective students follow me and send me questions about the program. A boy who went to SYA last year messaged me and told me that his French friends had been asking about the new Americans. He convinced me that I would have an even better time if I met them. Afterward, he added me to a group chat with four French girls. For a few weeks, we talked about making plans and finally all agreed to meet on a Wednesday in a cafe. 

We met up in the center of town after school. Getting around Rennes, France is especially easy because everything is close, and we don’t have to drive everywhere like in Bethesda. We ate crêpes and drank their favorite drink, lemonade with caramel syrup. At first, it was hard to communicate with the girls because I still had trouble with French, but we still walked to the Christmas markets nearby and tried our best. 

Ever since our first lunch together, we’ve eaten together every week and it’s become easier to communicate. Thanks to the French school calendar giving us-a half day every week, we’re able to meet up frequently. Occasionally, I attend their soirées or we try a new restaurant. 

Being with my French friends has allowed me to view French culture from their perspective. When I hang out with people who were born and raised here, I get to learn local phrases and nuances, which I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Having French friends has definitely been the highlight of my experience.