This semester, Hanna is studying abroad in Rennes, France with School Year Abroad (SYA). While there, she will be writing about her experiences for The Razor.
Since I arrived at my host family’s quaint European house in early September, I’ve been more than a little uncomfortable. While I love my host family and the room that they designed for me, none of it feels like mine. I am reminded of this feeling every night at dinner when they speak in rapid French to each other after slowly and methodically asking me about my day, or when I am helping my host sister unload the dishwasher, only to realize that I don’t know where the plates go. Noticing my discomfort in this foreign environment, my host father came up to my room one night and told me that their house was now my home. While I appreciated the sentiment, I still feel three thousand miles and one large ocean away from home.
One day, after school, I came home with the intention of watching a movie and going to sleep early. The stress from spending an entire weekend speaking French with my host parents had gotten to me, and I was looking forward to taking some time to myself in order to decompress. After using my limited French skills
and confidence to say “À demain” (see you tomorrow) to my host parents, I walked upstairs, ready to start my night of relaxation. I changed into my favorite pajamas, brushed my teeth, and got my iPad from my
backpack. Wondering what Paris was going to do to Rory in this episode of Gilmore Girls, I opened up my iPad only to find that it was dead. Normally, needing to charge my iPad would not have been a problem. In my room in France, though, there is only one outlet near my bed, and my phone was already plugged in for the night. Just as the annoyance started to set in, I saw the American power strip that I had packed for this very purpose. A sense of relief flooded through me as I plugged the power strip into the outlet; my relief quickly turned to panic, however, when my desk lamp on the other side of the room shut off. With my limited knowledge of circuits, I was able to deduce that my power strip had short circuited the electrical system. To get more information, I turned to Google for answers. My “Why did my light turn off when I plugged in a power strip” search yielded many results, ranging from “how to fix the outlets” to “call 911 immediately.” I started freaking out, and called my parents. When my father answered, I broke down into tears and explained the situation, including the almost certain possibility that, according to Google, the house was going to burst
into flames at any moment. When I finally stopped rambling long enough for him to respond, he gave me the only logical solution: I had to talk to my host parents. While my host parents had only been kind and welcoming to me since I had arrived, I was not a fan of my father’s suggestion for a few reasons. Firstly, I had no idea how to explain the situation in French. Secondly, even if I did know all of the words and tenses to form the explanation, it was nearly eleven at night, and my host parents were both sleeping. Moreover, the idea of asking my host parents for help, when they were already providing me with food, housing, and a surrogate family for the next three months, made me feel horrible. How could I tell them that I may have fried their electrical system when simply asking for a glass of water was already a difficult task? Nevertheless, I knew my dad was right: I had to knock on my host parents’ door.
It took about ten minutes and even more tears for me to build up the courage to walk out of my room and knock on their door. When I handed my phone with the Google Translated explanation to her, my host mother reached to wipe away my tears while asking, “Ça va?” I gestured to the phone and said that I was sorry. She quickly skimmed the paragraph, brought me downstairs, and flipped a switch on the electrical board. We then returned to my room and tested the outlets, which were now working as if the whole incident
had never occurred. My host mother gave me a hug and told me not to worry and to get some sleep. I gladly took her advice, thankful that the crisis had been averted.
The next morning, before school, I saw my friends and told them about my night. I struggled to endure their
laughter until my friend said something that has stuck with me since: “We have all been there.” Since
that morning, every time that it takes me five minutes to ask my host parents a question, or I get lost, yet again, on the way to my bus stop, I hear those words and remember that I am not alone. I have over sixty SYA classmates who, like me, have chosen to live through these slightly bizarre experiences, as well as my friends and family back in the USA, who never fail to respond to my fun stories and pictures on good days
and desperate phone calls on bad ones.
Most unexpectedly, my host mother’s kindness during my outlet-induced crisis showed me that I also have the support of my host family, who will be there to wipe away my tears or celebrate my small French language victories. I still am not ready to call Rennes my home, but it feels more like one with each day that I spend with my new friends, teachers, and host family, all of whom want me to succeed.