Reflections: Part 1

This week, we will be sharing our reflections on the four core values of our class: connectedness, empathy, self-awareness, and leadership. Each day, students will share about experiences from our trip, in which they have called upon these traits.

Susan: In the past week we spent in France, I found that the portion of the meals here are normally much bigger than my usual meals. Sometimes, when I saw people around me finishing up or already finished their meals but I still had half of the dish in my plate, I felt uncomfortable, since I did not want to waste my food or to make them think I did not enjoy my meal. For instance, last Friday, I attended a dinner gathering at a nice Italian restaurant with my host family and their family friends. After the appetizers, I was already pretty full for the night. Even though my main course was not the biggest, all of the other people at the table finished their plate and started chatting and waiting for me to finish. It was an awkward situation for me because I felt obligated to finish it as everyone else did, but I physically could not at the same time. However, I was so grateful that my host family noticed that and very kindly told me that I did not need to finish if I couldn’t. Afterwards, when we were on our way back to the house, I explained to them that the food was amazing but I just cannot eat much; they were extremely understanding about that. Although I felt awkward and was put out of my comfort zone in the moment for being self-aware, communication and understanding were always the best solution.

Joi: This evening my host sister asked me if I would like to help her with a homework assignment, and I f course, I said “yes.”I read aloud her responses to questions for her French class while he typed it up into a document. When they first described the assignment to me, I was more than happy to help, but when I actually realized that all of the writing would be in French, I grew a little nervous. Not only was the text in cursive, (which I already have a little trouble reading) but it was full of French vocabulary and grammar that was completely unknown to me. I thought to myself to just be confident, because this trip has made me realize that the more I anxiously think about speaking a different language, the more I tend to stress too much and make simple mistakes. However, I had forgotten that not only was I reading aloud, but I was also making sure that her father typed her work correctly, and sure enough we were stumped after only the first sentence. After addressing the confusion, I eagerly apologized for my mistake. That was definitely not my first blunder with the French language, and it certainly was not my last while completing this assignment. The living room was full of phrases like  “What’s that?“ “I don’t understand, ”  “I don’t know that word,” or “Repeat that again.” Despite our consistent struggling, my host father expressed his confusion in a very kind and understanding way. He was more than happy to help me correct my pronunciation or define a word that I didn’t know. He was also very happy to learn the matching vocabulary and expressions in English, which I actually found really fun to explain!  I was so grateful for his empathy, as the past week has been filled with us students facing challenges with the language barrier at home, at school, and all around the city of Rennes and the rest of this region. This was just one of the many kind acts of my host family that has made me so comfortable with tackling the language immersion of this trip. After helping with this homework, not only do I know more French words and expressions, but I also feel more confident in immersing myself fully throughout the rest of our trip.

Kami: Today when we went to the Vitré, a small city South of Rennes with a large castle and typical city.  It was super beautiful and a great wait to end the day after teaching the English classes to student and seeing the how differently the schools works. I’m really enjoying learning about the churches and history and society. As I improve my French, it is getting easier communicate how I am feeling.  As the days continue and we discuss our four qualities, we have begun to ask questions.  Our question that I am using today it How does being self Aware put you out of your comfort zone and how did you react?
As I continue to want to improve my French, it is hard when there is one word that I am unsure of or don’t know and it sort of wavers my confidence.  Today in the restaurant in Vitre, I was super nervous to speak the French teacher with us.  So after a bit I began to speak to her and tell her about my family and when I forgot the word for spoon, I took a risk and guessed.  It was similar today when I helped the French student with English and I was asked to speak French. Not being able to communicate the way I spoke before in English, I was nervous but they continued to say how good I was and how impressive my accent was. It was really great to get to learn to make mistakes and speak with new people who are not used my new French skills.

Laure Joelle: This past weekend, I went to a baptism reception with my host family. I was out of comfort zone then because I wasn’t expecting a huge celebration and party (and I didn’t know it was a baptism celebration in the first place), so I was very underdressed. I guess in a sense I was acutely aware of myself in that I clearly stuck out like a sore thumb because of the way in which I presented myself in appearance, but I didn’t mind so much as it got more into the evening. I decided that I just couldn’t do anything about it, so I just went about by way as I normally would, and I actually got to know a lot of my host sister’s extended family members. It turned out to be pretty fun because I got to experience a new culture (the family is Algerian). I apologized to my host family because I wasn’t dressed as formally as I (probably) should have, but they completely understood the whole situation and told me not to worry about it.

Tania: Staying with a host family has forced me to be more self aware of my behavior. At home/Porter’s, I would never go more than 1 day without speaking Spanish, and I would socialize by speaking a language that I am fluent in.

This past week, I have had to experience communication in a language that I am aware  I cannot fully understand and speak. There have often been language barriers, like when I forgot how to say “wear” in French and was very embarrassed after I thought it would be the same word in Spanish. I have also had to communicate in French with my host family, since they are not fluent in English. They have been very nice and conscious about me not being fluent in French, but there are still many conversations I cannot understand. There have also been times where I cannot express myself clearly, since I don’t know enough words in French to do so. All of these examples have pushed me out of my comfort zone, since making conversation is not as easy as it is at home. I have had to be able to communicate in a way that I have never had to before. Recurring to the use of body language to communicate, and having to recognize certain looks on people’s faces to fully understand what they are saying, etc are some examples of extra work I have had to do in order to communicate during this Intermission trip. This has all been very challenging, but also a great learning experience.

Darian: One situation where I was self-aware and it put me out of my comfort zone was when my host mother and I spoke about the culture of smoking in France. In this situation, self-awareness helped me because I was aware of my own boundaries while being open to learning. I have an emotional boundary with smoking because my grandfather died of lung cancer. Many of my family members talk about how much of an amazing man he was and I wish I could of met him. In knowing that he died of lung cancer and knowing the health consequences that smoking carries it was hard for me to understand why smoking is such a large piece of everyday French culture. My host mom shared with me that when she was young she smoked and that you used to be able to smoke on international flights. She also shared that after people in the United States became aware of the deficits that smoking has on your body many US cigarette companies began to push a lot product into countries like France who were not test aware of the health consequences. I respected my boundary with smoking while being able to understand and empathize with another culture.

Zoe: When I was very young I saw lambs for the first time in real life and thought they were absolutely adorable but did not know that they were eaten as food. I went to a grocery store with my parents and saw that they were serving lamb and started to cry. I have never eaten lamb because of my moral obligations. On Sunday night it was time for dinner and I asked what we would eat but didn’t know the french word for ‘lamb’ so my host father showed me a picture of a lamb. This moment was very difficult for me because I did not want to be a difficult houseguest, did not entirely know how to explain why I don’t eat lamb, and I didn’t have the vocabulary for it. Nevertheless I figured out a way to get out of my comfort zone instead of just eating the lamb.

Whenever I stay with friends or family I am always very cautious to be an easy and low- maintenance house guest and become very uncomfortable when I have to ask for something or express my distaste. Normally it not too bad because I am fluent in english and I know the people I am staying with but in France, neither of those two are a reality. I know myself and I know my boundaries but sometimes it can be difficult to say no. I found it in myself to do just that and it payed off in the end. My host family is so understanding and so sweet so it was not a problem; I just had to get out of my own head.

Tanya:  Self Awareness

This core value was defiantly the one I demonstrated the most on this trip trying to avoid any potential cultural misunderstandings and trying to follow the cultural norms here in France. There are a few cultural differences we have been made aware of since we have come here and have adopted into our daily encounters, for example, always standing on the right side of the escalator or trying to not speak too loud in public. Coming from America, these are not mainly cultural norms. However, we understand that when in another country it is essential to adjust to their norms and to be respectful of them. These aren’t rules that you can learn before your trip because there are much more than the ones I previously listed, and the best ways to learn is from observing our surroundings, being present, and asking a friend when in doubt.


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