As we wrap up our time in France, you will hear from students as they reflect on the four core values: connectedness, leadership, empathy, and self-awareness.
I think that empathy was really exhibited through my interactions with my host family. One of the many examples of this was that when we communicated with each other and I didn’t understand a word that they were trying to say, they would always rephrase the sentence while also slowing down their speed. Moreover, even though they had never hosted a correspondent before, it was clear that they tried their best to empathize with me: I was always able to shower first, they asked me about my day, and cooked many Brittany/Rennes specialties for me to try. I think that it was all of those little things that built on top of each other to make my stay with them so wonderful.
Connectedness was also a core value that played an important role in my stay in Rennes. I was extremely excited to discover the unique culture of Brittany (and how it differed from France), and, to my delight, my host family and Enola (my correspondent) were also eager to learn about the American and Chinese culture as well. A perfect example of this was when they brought me to a ‘Chinese’ restaurant. They had no idea what actual Chinese food was, so they constantly asked me questions like “Do you eat this?” or “ How do you use chopsticks.” At the same time, I also got to understand what French people’s preconceptions about Chinese culture was (i.e. a lot of fried food). I think that give-and-takes like this that we had really helped cross cultural barriers and connect us: I learned way more in my two week stay in Rennes that I could ever learn just by searching on the internet.
For me, self-awareness and leadership went hand-in-hand. Initially, I remember being a little nervous and apprehensive about this trip: I didn’t know if my correspondent would enjoy or want to spend time with a person that couldn’t communicate as well to her as she could to me. As a result, I was prepared to be the quiet introvert that I am. However, I was shocked at how I just threw myself into this experience. Even though at times they did speak too fast for me to understand, I always tried to participate in conversations Enola had with her friends. Moreover, I would always actively participate in the immersion by either eating food that I have never tried before or having conversations with my host father who didn’t speak a word of english. I think that my enthusiasm caused my host family to follow my lead by also interacting with me more and trying harder to make my trip fruitful–which it was. It really shows that you don’t know what you are capable of until you put yourself in a position you have never done before.