Rebecca Sunoo - 2015 Program Participant

Eating cotton candy in Nantes, France

Enjoying some barbe-à-papa at the carnival in Nantes!

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I decided to apply for an international program to broaden my knowledge on different cultures and to become proficient in the French language. I began studying French when I was about 12 years old, and so began the dream to study abroad in France. I wanted to become fully immersed in French culture: everyday home life, food, holidays, customs. There's only so much of a culture and language you can study from a classroom, and I knew the best way to learn and understand was through living directly in it.

Why did you choose IES Abroad’s Nantes program?

I chose to study through IES Abroad Nantes because of its intense focus on language and culture immersion. While many students pick Paris for its brilliant location and tourist attractions, Nantes appealed to me because of the homestay program as well as the end goal of bilingualism. I wanted a program that forced me to speak French all of the time. I didn't get a break at home, in fact that's where I learned the most through conversations with my host family.

What was your favorite part about the IES Abroad Nantes program?

My favorite part about IES Abroad Nantes was the location of the center: right smack in the heart of downtown Nantes. We were walking distance from the Place Royale, the Machines de l'Île, and so many unique shops and restaurants. The vibe of Nantes is very friendly, while keeping a traditional French attitude.

International student with French host family

With my amazing, silly, beautiful host family

What made your experience unique?

Nantes is not a city well-known to people outside of Europe. It’s rich in history and the architecture is beautiful. I would say the most unique thing about Nantes is the mechanical elephant. IES Abroad Nantes made sure we took many trips, both educational and fun-filled. We were able to see Mont-Saint-Michel, the beaches of Normandy, and many castles of the Loire Valley that wouldn't have been as easy to get to without help from the wonderful staff and program leaders.

How did the local staff support you throughout your program?

All of the staff at IES Abroad Nantes was accommodating to individual needs. In my particular case, the staff helped me when my phone was stolen and offered their help above and beyond what I needed. I felt comfortable talking to the staff about personal and educational needs.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish that I would have spent all the free time in my evenings with my host family, rather than curling up in my bed and sometimes isolating myself at night. I'm a homebody, and even just spending time on my computer but down in the living room with my host mom would have been something I could have done to get out of my comfort zone even more.

Statue of Peter Pan in Hyde Park, London, England

At the Peter Pan Statue in Hyde Park (London, England)

What was a typical day like for you as a student in Nantes?

My host mom knew early on that I was not a morning person, so she often wrapped up a snack or some bread for me to take for my breakfast. I took the bus to the program center, which was convenient for me since the stop was right outside my house. Most of my classes were at the center, but I took a couple classes at the local university.

For lunch, my friends and I would go to a boulangerie for a sandwich (and always a pastry!). Afternoons in Nantes could be spent at a café, shopping in downtown, or sometimes I went grocery shopping with my host mom. I tried to spend as much time with my host parents and siblings as I could, often turning down social events to spend time at their beach house or going to pick up my host sister from horsemanship. They truly became my family, and dinner was always fun with the whole family gathered at the table.

What did you enjoy doing on your freetime?

I participated in some of the sports at the local university, including Zumba class. It was fun to be surrounded by French college students who looked as ridiculous as I did dancing. I also enjoyed going to Mesquer, which is where my host family had a beach house. We would often have a barbecue for lunch, and take a walk along the beach.

At the top of the chateau at Mont-Saint-Michel

The top of the château at Mont-Saint-Michel

What did you like best about your accommodation arrangements?

I lived in the best host family I could ever have imagined. My host mom was an absolute angel, she went above and beyond to make me feel welcome and comfortable. I loved having four host siblings to talk to, with their ages ranging from 11 to 19. I sometimes helped my host mom bake, or I would join my host dad for a late night oyster-shucking session. I never felt out of place, and within a week, I described my house in Nantes as chez moi'.

How has studying abroad impacted your life?

I have a much broader world view, and a part of my heart will always be in Nantes. I still find myself thinking and saying some things in French without even thinking about it. I try to stay in contact with my host family quite regularly to not lose that special relationship we developed. Most importantly, I will never taste cheese, butter, or bread the same way again!