Category Archives: Student Reflections

Student Reflections

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.

Dani shares:

One of my favorite experiences during my stay at Rennes was being able to connect with my host sister through TV shows that we both liked. Every night after dinner, we would go up to her room to watch TV together and talk about other shows we both had already watched. This was definitely one of the highlights of my home stay because my first night at Rennes we were talking about movies and shows and it made me realize how very similar we are in many different ways.

Mary shares:

During my stay with my host family there were a lot of things that connected to the four core values that our class is focusing on. For example, I felt connected to empathized with my host sister when we were talking and she shared that she is worried about next year when her brother will be living in Chile for the year. She was caught between being happy for her brother and excited that he will get to have this experience, and nervous about being able to talk to him with the time zone difference, and live without him for a year. This is very similar to my own experience with my brothers since we all go/went to boarding school, and my brothers school is on the other side of the continent with a three hour time difference. I was able to use my own experience to try and comfort her and reassure her that even with the time difference she will be able to talk to her brother. Another core value that I saw a lot was self awareness. A lot of the french students we met were very aware of how fast they were talking. They were really good at making sure they slowed down so we could understand and participate in the conversation.

Chloe shares:

The two weeks of school in Rennes is a real immersion to me. I did not feel like a tourist; a traveler is perhaps more accurate to describe my role in this journey. During the break, we enjoyed our time with the students. The best part of being a traveler is the cultural exchange. The students here were very welcoming and it was never a problem finding someone to have lunch with. We would talk about the habits and traditions in our cultures, and a lot of times, we were amazed by how different they were. During classes, I communicated with students and in some ways, I felt as if I was at Porter’s. I would even interact with the teacher and point out a mistake in her class. This trip has been more than a language immersion program; by spending time with the local students and families, I feel like a traveler for the first time and never want to leave.

Jenny shares:

My host family is a bilingual family. Although everyone in the family’s level of English varies, they can all communicate in English just fine. Aliénor, the youngest child of the family, has just started taking Spanish this year, while also having English class everyday. Because Aliénor has just started Spanish, I can tell that the language can be difficult for her at times.

The first time I interacted with Aliénor was when she was explaining how to play some board games to me. She spoke with me and noticed that I didn’t completely registered everything, and so she slowed down and stopped after every two sentences to make sure that I understood her. I think because Aliénor can understand my frustration with learning a third language, she always tried to make sure that we are both were on the same page. To know that there’s someone in the family who also understands my frustration and why I always stumbled when I spoke French made me feel reassured that it was okay to make mistakes, because that’s how we learn.

Selina shares:

When reflecting on the four core values, empathy, leadership, connectedness, and self-awareness, I could see empathy being demonstrated in many of the interactions between my host family and myself. I’m not used to communicating in French and they are not used to speaking in English, so I think we can very well empathize with each other when challenged by the language barrier and have been able to show willingness and put in effort to foster this cross-cultural relationship. As a result, I could see connectedness in the harmony we have come to find as host family and host student, despite the many differences that make us two worlds apart. Self-awareness is evident for me almost constantly during my host stay experience. I’m always very well-aware of how I present myself and also, I’m always reminding myself to take on challenges and step out of my comfort zone. Finally, I think leadership is shown when I initiate conversations that are not as easy to talk about such as stereotypes, controversial topics…etc. Overall, I could see the four core values apply to many moments of my time here in France.

Lilli shares:

Throughout this trip, I have demonstrated all of the four core values and upheld all of hem up until the end. I demonstrated a sense of connectedness by becoming closer with my host sister and her family. In the process I also became closer with other people in my class and learned the importance of staying in the moment and trying to form new relationships with people I meet. Being in a busy city, both Paris in Rennes, I learned to navigate myself around the streets and gained a better sense of direction, especially after getting lost once in Rennes waiting for my host sister to finish class. After having to navigate myself around, I became much more self aware, not only of my location, but also my belongings as Paris is a city with those who could pickpocket me. Finally, I demonstrated the fourth core value, empathy, by understanding the difficulty of having another person living in one’s house. Whenever I saw or felt that my host family was a bit overwhelmed with another person living in their house, I tried to help them as much as I could’ve. I empathized with my host sister when she had many priorities in school but also had to be present with me by not being too much of a burden and being independent when it came to finding my way around Rennes.

Annabel shares:

Staying with Mathilde’s family in rennes was my second experience living with a host family in a foreign country. Due to this, I have to admit that I went in with some expectations. I am pleased to say that my experience living with mathilde and her family was amazing in both similar and different ways from my first time staying with a host family. I felt that despite a language barrier due to my limited french and the family’s limited english, we had to communicate and connect in other ways sometimes. Eating crepes for dinner with mathilde and her mother on my last night in rennes probably wasn’t the most exciting or interesting thing we did, but it was a moment where I felt a connection with a different family and culture. Throughout multiple experiences like this in Rennes, I was able to appreciate these little moments in a new way.

Gabby shares:

I have demonstrated leadership by being alone with friends in the city and figuring our way around. I took initiative with figuring out directions and navigation myself through the busy streets! I made sure that I was on time for everything and I made sure to set a good example to represent our school.

I have demonstrated connectedness by connecting with my host sister and other girls who are at the Lycée. One day we went with Dani, Thais and Simrat for lunch at Thais’ house and then Laser Tag afterwards. It was just us exploring Rennes and I felt as though we all became closer.

I have demonstrated Empathy by understanding how it is to have another person in the house. I had hosted two girls from RDFZ in Beijing and I can understand how it feels to want to make sure that their always happy while also balancing school work. Camille, my host sister, apologized for feeling as though she didn’t spend as much time with me as possible, but I empathized with her by being understanding of her situation!

I have demonstrated Self-Awareness by being careful in a very busy city. I always reminded others to look both ways while crossing the street and reminding those to not forget items in places. Having had my phone stolen while traveling two years back, I have grown very Self-Aware in foreign countries.


So many memories made in Rennes.

Student Reflections

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.

Roanna shares:  

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.

Student Reflections

Each day, students will share some aspect of their time in France. Today, we will hear from Annabel H. and Selina C. as they reflect on their experience so far.

Annabel shares:

Yesterday we were able to take a day trip to Normandy and explore Utah and Omaha beach. It was an incredible and moving experience in many ways. One thing that interested me in particular was the way France and the United States interacted at Omaha beach. Since it is territory that the US leases from France, it was fascinating to see the two cultures and nations mix together. It was subtle things, like english being written before french throughout the memorial. However, it was also more obvious in the lack of french flags at the graveyard. One of our core values resonated with me throughout the day: connectedness. The interactions between the French and Americans evident on both beaches, the museum and the graveyard were a physical symbol of the relationship, but the testimonies of American soldiers and the French people they helped liberate were even more compelling. They detailed accounts from different perspectives, yet both ultimately spoke to how emotion transcends barriers of language of country.

Selina shares:

Today was our last day of going to classes with the French students, it was a bit sad to say goodbye to the friends we’ve gotten close with over the past week. Although we’ve been part of their classes for only four days, everyday we got to meet new people and became friends with them after exchanging stories about our own background. We even made promises to stay in contact and visit each other in the future! This cultural exchange has been really memorable and eye-opening for me!

Student Reflections

Each day, students will share some aspect of their time in France. Today, we will hear from Roanna Z. Lydia G. and Carlyn K. as they reflect on their experience at the Normandy landing beaches.

Carlyn shares:

Today was different than most. We had the opportunity to visit Normandy, the beaches, the D-Day museum, and the cemetery of the Americans who died fighting in France. For some this was a very personal day. We have all studied World War II in school and heard stories from friends and family. But to stand on that ground was a whole new experience. At the cemetery we were literally back on U.S. soil, but there was a figurative meaning to this too. I felt more connected to my country than ever. Watching the flag being lowered today meant so much more.

Roanna shares:

Today was an eye-opening experience for me. While I do remember learning about D-Day and World War II during Western Civ. my freshman year, it was a completely different experience to be at the actual site where the American soldiers landed. I found it really interesting visiting the museum that held some of the actual weaponry used during the war and an hour-by-hour account of the first day soldiers experienced on the beaches, but the most profound moment for me was standing on the cemetery. Even though I am Chinese and not American, I don’t think that the experience was any less moving. I don’t really think that nationality had anything to do with it, it was mainly the fact that tens of thousands of soldiers not that many years older than I am willingly sacrificed themselves for such a selfless cause that made the experience so touching. Standing there, with the rows and rows of gravestones that reached far beyond what I could see, I just don’t think I have any words that can describe the extent of the emotion that I felt. The stark contrast between the white markers and the green, complimented by the pouring rain, created an extremely beautiful but heartbreaking picture.

The American Cemetery

Lydia shares:

Throughout our trip to France, we have been navigating cultural and linguistic barriers in order to learn more about ourselves and others around the world. We remark on our differences and experience life from another perspective. However, at our visit to Normandy today, we were reminded of all the similarities between these two countries and their people. While we read stories of American soldiers sacrificing their lives to liberate others, dying thousands of miles from home for the liberation of people they would never know, we saw French people laying flowers on the tombstones of unidentified soldiers lost in battle. They understood and grieved these losses just as much as Americans did. France suffered greatly in the war; as did Germany, as did Italy, Russia, England, Japan, Poland, everyone. As I realized this, for the first time that day I ignored my soaked feet and forgot my surroundings. I simply, like everyone else who visits this place, stood amongst the fallen, unable to express my thanks.

Photo credit: Lydia G.

Weekend Student Reflection

Each day, students will share some aspect of their time in France. Here, Lilli A. talks about her weekend with her host family.

Lilli shares:

I had such an amazing time with my host family on Saturday. First we ate breakfast which for me was pancakes and Nutella (which I love) and then for lunch had a special dessert called Galette which is a traditional French dish. After lunch my host family decided to make this day the designated shopping day so the itinerary was to go to Ikea and then the mall.

This was my first time going to Ikea so when I actually went inside, I was amazed at how cool it looked. I wish I could’ve stayed there forever and looked at all of the sample rooms. After going to Ikea we went shopping in the center of Rennes and went to Pull and Bear, H&M, Kiko, and Bershka. I ended up only buying red lip gloss from Kiko, but we still had a fun time looking at all of the clothing together.

Afterwards, we decided to go to a cute store filled with stationaries, journals, candles, and other items that I loved and I ended up buying a journal that I can now write all of my experiences in. Overall, I had a great time this weekend and got to see Rennes in a totally different perspective.

Weekend Student Reflection

Each day, students will share some aspect of their time in France. Here, Dani Z. talks about her weekend with her host family.

Dani shares:

It was an amazing weekend in Rennes with my host sister. On Friday night we went bowling with some of the other french girls that had students from Porters and afterwards we went to McDonalds for dinner.

Friday night bowling

I had such an amazing time getting to know the other french girls and being able to practice my french. On Saturday night I went out to dinner with my host sister’s family to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday.

new friends

I had the chance to meet some of her cousins, uncles and aunts. It was so much fun! Today I visited  St. Malo which is a fortified city north of Rennes with my host family.

We walked around the beautiful city and went to a crêperie for lunch. Afterwards we bought some fruits de mer to eat for dinner tonight. I really enjoyed spending time with my host sister and her family.


What are we up to this weekend?

Our group is doing some pretty great things today! I asked students to share what they were up to and here are some texts I got:

“I’ll be watching my host sister’s orchestra concert and then we’re gonna go out to lunch, and later visit the planetarium together.”

“Spending time with my host sister’s family and going to Saint-Malo.”

‘We’re having lunch in the Ville today, and tomorrow going to Saint-Malo.”

“We’re going to the museum and the park today, and tomorrow we will go to Saint-Malo”

“I played badminton today, and tomorrow we will be going to St-Malo aussi!”

“I’m eating some amazing specialties this weekend (I made a galette!) ”

“I am at the Republique with m host family, and we just had galette, too! We are doing some shopping next.”

“We went to the planetarium and the Museum de Bretagne, and probably le ciné”

“I’m having dinner with my host’s friends and we are going to the shore tomorrow. My host sister took me to a graveyard for photography class today!”


Weekend Student Reflection

This weekend we’ll be hearing from different students as they share the wonderful things they are up to with their host sisters and host families. Check back for an updated post later today!

Today Gabby A. shares:

Today was pretty amazing. It’s my first part of the weekend with our host families! We began our day by going to a small farmers market in Pacé. We bought some chicken and food for lunch. There were so many stands with fruits and veggies, fish, meat, and flowers. We then returned home to cook up some lunch. After, we went to Cancale to explore the coastline. It was absolutely beautiful! Here, we bought 12 oysters to eat for dinner. I also bought a specialty of Brittany which is a bowl with ones name on it. After that, we went to St. Malo. We walked around and found ourselves at a crêperie! We ran into Mathilde and Annabel, too! We bought some more pastries to eat after dinner tonight. We currently have 2 Galette Frangipane and 2 Kouign Aman to eat! Overall, it was an amazing day discovering Bretagne! I am so thankful for such a wonderful host family.


Ready for the weekend

It is finally the weekend! After a very full first week, students now get to spend some quality down time with families. Each day this weekend, students will share some aspect of their experience in France. Today, we will first hear from Selina C. Later today we will hear from Lilli A. and Gabby A.

Selina shares:

As an American exchange student with a chinese background in Rennes, it has been a fascinating experience for me to navigate between the three very distinct cultures. On Thursday, we went to classes with the French students for the first time. I was amazed to find that there were a lot more similarities between the French school system and the system back in Taiwan and that the dynamic in a classroom at Lycée Saint Martin is really different than a class at Porter’s. At Porter’s, we are encouraged to learn through questioning and critical analysis, whereas at Lycée Saint Martin, classes are more exams-oriented like schools in Taiwan. It is so interesting to compare and contrast the French culture that I am newly exposed to with the two cultures that I am from.


I will be spending my first weekend in Rennes with my host family. On Saturday morning, my host sister has invited me to go with her to an event similar to our college fair, where she will get to know more about the schools she is interested in and the various opportunities that are offered. She told me that in a month, they would have to decide which field out of the three, literature, science, and economics, they want to specialize in. This is also similar to high schools in Taiwan, where in the second year of high school, everyone decides whether they will study in the field of liberal arts or field of science. On Sunday, I will be having a family dinner with my host sister’s cousins and her grandparents. I was told that they only come to Rennes once a year for this reunion, so I feel very lucky to be able to attend this occasion with them!


Week 1 Highlights!

What a week we’ve had! From meeting host sisters and families for the first time, to hearing about the history of Rennes and the Lycée, to learning how to make crepes and doing some amazing Breton dancing. We are all so grateful for the time we’ve spent together with our new friends and with each other. Check out this video with this week’s highlights!