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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tynesea Watts: My life in Caen

Tynesea Watts participated in the 2014 Lexington-Deauville High School Student Exchange.  As a student at the University of Kentucky, she decided to participate in our Deauville-University of Caen Scholarship program to spend a semester studying at the University of Caen.  This scholarship is provided by the Deauville Twinning Committee.  

My life in Caen: 

     This is the first picture I took while I was in Caen. It was taken the day after I arrived at around 8 am on a frigid mid-January morning. It was crack of dawn and I had a tumultuous night trying to sleep, resulting in my surrendered after a tedious battle with jet lag (because who really needs sleep anyway?). Moreover, I had no internet service when I arrived so the lack of Wi-Fi made me feel slightly more anxious than usual. Needless to say, I had to get some fresh air. I took the picture on top of a hill over right behind the building of Modern Language, where I took almost all of my classes. The day was about to begin and the parking lot was filling up with cars. The sun was peeking over the horizon and breakfast hour was in full swing. I didn’t know at the time, but this would become my daily view to get to my classes.

            I arrived in Caen on January 17th, 2017. By the time I opened the door to my dorm the first time I was exasperated. I hadn't slept in over 22 hours. When you add it up, I had an eight hour flight, a six hour time change, and a five hour train trip that should have been about two and a half hours long. 

            I came to Caen with three goals in mind. First and foremost, I wanted to improve my French. Secondly, I wanted to make friends and build connections with people overseas.  Finally, and most importantly, I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do with French.

At the time, I was a French minor but I was deciding on whether or not I want to pick it up as a major. I took my classes at the B2 level in French with people from around the globe. It was truly an amazing experience to be in classes with people who come from so many different walks of life because we were improving our language skills while grasping a deeper understanding and appreciation for different cultures through our classmates. Once I fell in to the daily rhythm it was a lot like being at like being at home. I would go to class, come home and do my homework, run errands like going to the bank or the grocery.  Then I would eat dinner and go back to my dorm, and I would finish my day by going to sleep just to wake up and repeat it the next day.

I used to go on walks a lot to help with my stress and to try and better understand the layout of the town. I was finding charming little nooks and crannies everywhere.  I would enjoy walking by the port  and the l’Orne river. I was fascinated by the boats and I liked taking pictures of them because I rarely ever see actual sail boats.  I’m used to seeing motorboats like the ones used for navigating lakes and rivers. I was enchanted by how closely the old and new were intertwined. As a result of World War 2 many of the original structures had been destroyed. Consequently, many of the buildings had a modern postindustrial style. However, some of the original structures survived and are still stranding till this day. Among these is the William the Conquerer castle which was built in the 11th century.  My personal favorite was the Abbaye aux Dames.  It was built by the wife of William the Conqueror and is often used by the region of Normandy for promotional reasons. I did a project on their park and I would visit it every night before I went to sleep to watch it light up at night. My late night walks are one of the things I miss most about Caen.

By the end of the semester, I passed the Delf Exam at the B2 level.  I’ve decided to continue in French, but to keep my French degree as a minor. I hope to maybe do another French program or move back for a small period of time after I graduate. Yet I think the most important lesson that this experience taught me was independence and self-sufficiency. This lesson was notably empowering because I was able to test out my own limits and see what I could do alone.

            I may be home but my experience is still not over. In the same manner that we have to adjust to life in another country, we have to re-adjust to the quotidian once we return home. This adjustment process can take weeks. It sounds like a lot—I know because it’s no cake walk. It’s been about 6 weeks since I’ve returned home, and I’m currently in the re-acclimation phase of the reverse cultural adjustment process. I still want to respond to people in French. I still have to force myself to speak English. I get hungry at the same times I would eat my meals. I still have cravings for Orangina. I find myself looking up programs in France, as well as apartments. I may be home but it feels like I left in piece of myself behind in Normandy. I wish you peace and prosperity. Until next time! 

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