Danielle Robert has mixed feelings as she prepares to leave France

Rotary Exchange student tells the story of her discoveries and growth as she prepares to return to Quesnel

Danielle Robert

Danielle Robert

Danielle Robert is a Rotary Exchange student in France. This is part two of a two-part submission.

After Brussels, we were again on vacation and my Canadian companion came to visit me for two weeks. After a week of discovering the villages around my host family’s home, we took off to the city of Saint Nazaire on the coast and spent the second week in museums, exploring the town by bicycle and cooking French–Canadian meat pie for our hosts.  We took a one-day boat cruise in the Morbihan Gulf, and did a day-trip to Nantes, the capital of the Loire-Atlantic. Having saved up extravagant amounts of money for the visit, we enjoyed restaurant dining twice–a–day the entire week, and my visitor fell in love with French bakeries and more specifically, croissants. It was a wonderful vacation, definitely one for the memory books.

Returning to school after our adventures, I changed families (only three suitcases!), fell ill and faced another Bac Blanc, all in one week. I immediately fell in love with my new family and new location, tucked away in La Roche Bernard, a half hour from the Morbihan Gulf. My family here spends lots of time together and my two sisters are very sweet. I adore my little sister, who is subjected to French braids and twists from me daily now. On a darker note, a doctor’s visit told me I had acquired a kidney infection and put my on strong antibiotics. I was relieved to discover that, despite all the horror stories I have heard about travel insurance, mine was quite effective.

Besides two weeks in March, spring has been rainy and windswept.  Summer seems to be creeping in now in the second half of May (you can tell because everyone at school is bright red after the weekend) and it is greeted with joy.

The medieval town of Guérande held their annual medieval festival this month and I participated at the event with my Rotary Club. We set up a tavern that specialized in seafood and I learned that I am quite talented as a waitress.  Customers were rather pleased to be served by a smiling Canadian with a funny accent. The weekend itself was characterized by thousands of people dressed in medieval garb, a medieval market with an impressive array of clothes, leather shoes and artisan jewelry, equestrian shows, a parade and food and games for all ages; a unique experience for someone from a country as young as Canada.

At present, I have but eight weeks left in this beautiful country and as my exchange year is soon coming to an end, I am making great efforts to turn my mind to the near future. I do not expect my re-integration year to be an easy one. It’s amazing how much relationships can change over the course of a year. Even though I was in host families, being separated from my real parents made me grow up more than I could have imagined possible. It’s a little strange to think about going back to high school next year to complete Grade 12.  I know that university and scholarship applications are on the horizon and having not done certain subjects like math all year, the need to study is pressing. I am planning on attending Simon Fraser University in 2014, for a double major in French and political sciences, so next year will be a competition to have the best marks possible. My goals have changed a good deal during my exchange. I arrived wanting to be a language teacher; now, I am looking forward to working in international relations.  My parents believe that I could finish up in an embassy.  We’ll see how that goes.

As much as I am looking forward to coming home and rejoining my family and friends, a little part of my heart breaks every time I think about leaving.  After nine months here, France has become a part of who I am almost as much as my homeland.  My only regret is not having created very strong links with my French friends. I know that I could come back anytime and stay with any of my three host families and they would take me in with open arms.  I will have multiple Mother’s Day and birthday cards to send next year. I have Rotary to thank for this amazing experience. I’ve learned so much about myself and the world this year and that’s a gift no one can take away from me.  I love this country and I loved the year spent here. Thankfully, it’s not quite over yet. I still have two weeks of school, and then six weeks of summer holidays to benefit from.  I will be changing families for my last time in mid June.  Alas, I still have to figure out how to squish everything into only two suitcases.