Culture Shock in Nantes!

I have officially been in Nantes for two weeks! In some ways I feel like I just got here, and in other ways I cannot believe I have only been here a week. Honestly, nothing in my life has been as hard as adjusting to living with a host family. The first two days I was constantly overwhelmed and anxious, which is not my usual personality. Before I left, no part of me was even a little bit worried about living with a host family. I have always been a social person and at Pitt I am a pathfinder, so I have become very comfortable talking with strangers and I thought those skills would serve me well in Nantes. However, the language barrier is more of an obstacle than I expected. The first two days I struggled with understanding anything my host family said and part of me wanted nothing more than to just get on a plane and fly home. Especially, after I talked to my mom on the first day. It was such a relief to understand what someone was saying and easily communicate back that I got emotionally after our conversation. Then I spoke with another girl on the trip who had lived with a host family before and she said all of that was totally normal and that it would get better with time. So, I buckled down and did my best to go into each day optimistically, and she was absolutely right! Each day has been easier than the last. I still struggle to understand everything, but I’m no longer afraid to say that I do not understand and to ask for an explanation. I am less afraid to make mistakes when I speak French, and I am happy when my host family corrects me. My bus ride to and from school have become a relaxing part of my day instead of something full of anxiety, and a very small breakfast followed by a 3-and-a-half-hour diner have begun to feel normal. Honestly, the biggest adjustment has been that it is not culturally accepted to ask to pet other people’s dogs, and there are SOOO many cute French dogs here, but even that is starting to feel normal. Do not get me wrong, I still feel like an American pretending to live in France and each day brings new challenges, but with them also comes new victories. I cannot wait to see how many fears I will overcome by the time this experience is over, and if any other students are reading this and going through the same thing please know that it will get easier and you are not alone. Happy traveling to all!SiecinskiA1