Home From a Wonderful Summer in St. Brieuc

Hello everyone! This is my last update for the blog as I returned to the United States from France last Friday after spending a few days in Paris with my group. I miss the people that I connected with in France, but I am so glad to be able to be with my family and friends in America again. I missed you more than you know!

I spent the early part of last week enjoying my final bits of time with my host family. Monday evening was my last night with them and we spent it singing and playing music with one another. The morning of departure on Tuesday was one of the hardest emotional experiences I have had because I had to leave a family that had been strangers 6 weeks before, and yet had so graciously opened their home to me and embraced me as one of their own. I am forever grateful to the RIOU family and will continue to stay in close contact with them.

On Tuesday, our group was able to see the Palace of Versailles where the “Sun King”, Louis XIV, had lived luxuriously. We also took a riverboat tour on the Seine where we got to see Paris by night (which will take your breath away). The next day was packed full with visits to the Louvre, the Musée d’Orangerie, the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Saint-Chapelle. We finished off with a dinner at a nice restaurant.

Our second day in Paris (and our last day in France) included the Musée d’Orsay, climbing the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Luxembourg Gardens and Les Invalides, seeing the exterior of the Moulin Rouge, and Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur.  Our last meal together was accompanied by an intense karaoke session!

We spent a night without sleep getting ready for departure the next day. After arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, we checked into our flight to London, boarded the plane, and arrived for a layover in the UK around 9:30 in the morning. Once the wheels lifted off the ground in France, the obligation to speak the French language was lifted and we were allowed to speak in English. As a result, when I said “thank you” to the flight attendants and customs officers, I didn’t know who I was for a little while.

After a long flight from London to Chicago, I was greeted by my wonderful family. How amazing it was to see them again after 7 long weeks! We spent the car ride home catching up and struggling through the English language (on my part). It’s a bit surreal to listen to myself attempt to use English again and be able to hear the progress in my French skills.

Now, as I continue to process all that I learned and experienced this summer, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God, my family and friends, and your support. It’s hard to sum up the summer in a few blog posts, but overall, I believe that this experience has left me a changed person. I look forward to seeking out more opportunities to use the French language in the future. Once again, thank you for your love and prayers. This would not have been possible without you and I am so thankful to have been able to share the journey with you.

Love, Grace

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Grace’s last evening with her host family

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Grace with Laetitia

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Grace with her instructors

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Heading into welcoming arms

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First selfie with family at the airport

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… and reunited with Sophie (just returning from Haiti) that evening!

Farewell St. Brieuc

Hello all! This is my last week in France and as such, this will be my last update on the blog while I’m in Saint-Brieuc. Last week was very busy: our group had our last day of school this past Wednesday and then the reception at City Hall the same evening, which went well. My friends Quinn and Anna got the opportunity to deliver speeches and we sang the national anthems of France and the United States for the host families.

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Performing for the mayor

Performing for the mayor

Thursday and Friday were spent preparing for the Farewell Show on Friday evening. It was a packed show: we had everything from theatrical pieces, instrumental numbers, parodies of French songs, acapella groups, you name it.  I played a duet on the violin with Melissa (who plays the viola) and also got to play Clair de Lune on the piano. The show was well-received and well-enjoyed by the host families, and we all celebrated with a dance part afterwards!

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Duet with Friend Melissa

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Grace performs “Clair de Lune.”

Finale for the community and host families.

Finale for the community and host families

Right now, I have my last two days with the family RIOU. The time has flown by with a speed that’s difficult to accept, and I’m not really ready to say goodbye, to be honest. They have been so kind and supportive, but hopefully, I’ll get the chance to see them again in person someday.

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A bittersweet time for Grace as she prepares to leave the family who has so lovingly embraced her

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Grace being taught how to make French crepes

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Our group will say our final goodbyes to our host families early Tuesday morning and then leave to spend a few days in Paris. We’ll get to see places such as the Palace of Versailles, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. I’m sure we’ll have a blast learning more about the history of France while enjoying our last bit of time together. We’ll leave for Charles de Gaulle Airport very early Friday morning to head home to the United States! I’m beyond excited to see my family and friends.

Again, thank you for reading the blog and following along with my experiences here! I couldn’t be more thankful for your support and prayers.

Last Week with les Riou and La Fete Nationale

Hello friends and family! I’m back with more updates for the blog. Last week our group had our third and final excursion before Paris to Cap Frahel, Fort La Latte, le Chateau de Bienassis, and l’Abbaye du Beauport. It was an incredible day filled with history, laughter, and picture-taking. We were able to see the ruins of the abbey and explore on our own, and at Cap Frahel we took some walks on the coast and saw a lighthouse. The wind was a bit of a menace but made for a memorable visit! Though we were only able to see the exterior of the Chateau de Bienassis, it was gorgeous. At Fort La Latte we were able to experience seeing a centuries-old home to lords, their families, and knights. The fort is also the site where a handful of movies were filmed, such as “The Three Musketeers.”

The rest of the week finished up well. My friends and I were able to visit Les Rosaires (one of the local beaches) on Friday after a half-day at school. During the weekend, my host family surprised me with a visit to the most-visited amusement/spectacle park in Europe: Puy du Fou! It was fantastic: we were able to see recreations of famous moments in history with impressive special effects. The park is about three hours away by car from the house, so we had to get up pretty early in the morning. It’s been one of my favorite memories here!

This week, I will celebrate “La Fete Nationale” (Bastille Day) with les RIOU. Our group will also have our last day of school on Wednesday and have the Mayor’s Reception that same evening. Thursday and Friday will be spent preparing for the Farewell Show for the host families Friday evening. Everyone’s getting excited to be able to perform for the families! They’ve been so generous to us and have opened their homes warmly, so we all want to be able to give our all this Friday.

It’s crazy to think about how time is flying over here in Saint-Brieuc; this is the last week with our host families before we head off to Paris next week and then back home to the United States! I’m excited to return home to see everyone but will be sad to leave France and my host family.

I’ll be back soon with updates of our last bit of time here! Thanks for reading!

Grace

for more information and photos, visit Grace’s instructor’s blog: http://iuhpflstbrieuc2015.blogspot.com/

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Grace’s wonderful and very fun host family, the Rious. They surprised her this past Sunday and took her to Puy du Fou, one of Europe’s most popular amusement parks.

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Grace and Carmel High School Friends on their last excursion in Brittany.

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Normandy, Abbeys, Chateaus!

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German Cemetery, Normandy

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American Cemetery, Normandy

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Grace and Carmel Friends, Mt. St. Michel

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The Students in front of the memorial, Normandy

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Grace with friend Rachel

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The class in front of Mont St. Michel

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Grace’s class group behind the desserts they made for the rest of the class

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Bonjour friends and family! I hope your week is going well. Our group had our second excursion to Normandy last Thursday and Friday, and it was an experience I’ll always remember. We started our visit with Mont-St. Michel. It’s more beautiful in real life-the abbey is fascinating and the story behind the place is really interesting. We were also able to see the Bayeux Tapestry which runs over 200 feet long, tells the story of the Normand conquest and has centuries of history to its name. Our next stop was Pointe du Hoc, a Second World War site on the coast of Normandy. There are ditches in the earth left by bombs and German bunkers preserved for 70-some years.

Our group spent the night at a youth hostel and had a great evening playing soccer on the beach. It was fun to unwind a bit and connect with more students as we continue to grow in our use of the French language together.

The next morning, we left for the town of Caen and the Normandy Memorial museum. We saw exhibits of D-Day, the Second World War in general, and why it’s important today. After the museum, we were able to see Omaha Beach and the American cemetery.

As you walk down to the beach, feel the sand beneath your feet, and look out onto the waves where seventy years ago our soldiers fought and died for us and for the justice of others, there aren’t really any words to express the emotional impact. I was hit with an immense amount of gratitude for the soldiers who risked everything in the name of freedom. You see the rows of white crosses that seem to stretch on forever and hear the American national anthem playing. It was one of the most somber and humbling experiences of my lifetime thus far.

Our group finished up the trip with a visit to a German WWII cemetery. There’s a stark difference between the German and American cemeteries, most notably the format of the headstones and number of visitors. It’s interesting to be able to see both sides of the war and how soldiers are remembered from both perspectives.

When we got back from the trip, I was able to spend the weekend with my host family hiking and getting together with extended family members. I have five days of courses left and then lots of preparation for the Farewell Show for the host families! It’s crazy how the second half of my time here is flying by. I’ll be back with more on the blog next week. Thanks for reading!

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Last excursion in Brittany, Abbaye de Beauport, Cap d’Erquy and Chateau de Bianassis

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Adventures in St. Brieuc

I’m continuing to love life in Saint-Brieuc! There’s been lots going on as usual. This weekend I got together with my friend from Carmel, Jasmine. We went to the beach and I got the chance to meet her host family. Yesterday, my host family and I had fun doing “parcours”, which is a ropes course in the forest. It wasn’t easy, but was very fun!

I’m making good friends at school and we’re all excited for the excursion to Normandy and Mont-St. Michel this Thursday and Friday. Today, I had my first music practice with three other student musicians. We’re planning to perform at the farewell show for the host families later on in July. I also enjoy playing music with my host father, Jean-Claude. You can see a video that my host mother, Daniéla, posted of us on Facebook. (Friend my mom to view!)  My host family is very musical and supports me in my practicing endeavors (as well as all other aspects of living life in France).

Quick side story: My friends and I continue to traverse Saint-Brieuc and have mini adventures all the time. Example: Last Friday was a half-day of school, so during the afternoon we went to a café, shopped, and for the grand finale: Quinn (Carmel friend) wanted to try McDonald’s in Europe and see if it’s better over here, so about six or seven of us took the city bus to the nearby town of Plérin (15 mins. or so away by bus) just to give Quinn the chance to try MacDo (as it’s called here in France). So yeah. We had this big adventure just for McDonald’s. Kind of sad, I know, but it’s one of my favorite memories.Thanks for reading!

Love, Grace

From Grace’s Mom: So which McDonald’s IS better?!

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Group photos from last week’s excursion to Dinard

Daily class schedule for Grace and friends:
9:10-9:25: Announcements
9:30-9:55: Support groups
10:00-11:35: Linguistics/Grammar for Communication/Culture/Literature
11:45-12:45: Lunch onsite
12:50-2:25: Linguistics/Grammar for Communication/Culture/Literature
2:30-3:40: Monday – office hours (time to meet with instructors); Tuesday & Thursday – choir or theatre; Wednesday – sports

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Grace participates in choir. They sing some selections as a group, including the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. Choir members also have the opportunity to work in a small group to create their own song, using a popular tune and writing their own lyrics and choreography. I’m sure she’s having fun with this group, but I’m sure it makes her miss all of her CHS choir buddies!

Other interesting links:
The instructors’ updates on the group plus photos! http://iuhpflstbrieuc2015.blogspot.com/

How good is your French? Here’s a recent news article about Kevin, one of the siblings of Grace’s host family.
He’s playing in an amateur national level 5v5 soccer tournament: Kevin Rioux
http://www.5foot5.fr/Finale-CONVI-FIVE-J-4-Kevin-RIOU-Pemp-Fobal-Family-Saint-Brieuc-Seul-un-apero-qui-derape-peut-nous-empecher-de-gagner_a697.html

Grace and Friends Exploring

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Hello, friends and family! I hope you’re having a great week. This week in Saint-Brieuc, there’s been lots going on. We had our first excursion on Friday to Dinan, Dinard, and St. Malo. Dinan is a small town about 45 minutes away from Saint-Brieuc by bus and has a big history. We were able to tour a cathedral, a chateau and walk through the town a bit. It is the quintessential French town with charming alleys and beautiful architecture.

We stopped in Dinard to have a picnic on the beach and rest for a bit. In St. Malo, our group walked on top of the city wall and explored the city’s shops and bakeries. The weather was perfect and my friends and I took lots of pictures!

Here in France, the Fete de la Musique is taking place. In lots of towns across the country such as Saint-Brieuc and Langueux (the suburb of Saint-Brieuc in which I live) there are local music festivals for the general public to enjoy. Yesterday, I was able to rent a good violin and have been practicing on both the keyboard and the violin in order to progress musically.

I was also able to attend the performance of Laetitia’s rhythmic gymnastic students. They performed very well and I was glad to get the chance to see the work that Laetitia has put in this year.

Thanks for reading the blog! I’m so grateful to have incredible support from you.

Grace

From Lisa: Friends and Family, if you are friends with me on Facebook, you can check out my wall to see a mini concert that Grace’s host mom, Daniela, posted. Grace on violin and her host father, Jean-Claude, on guitar. Enjoy!

Grace’s Loving Host Family

Joe, Sophie, Joey and I are so grateful for the love and care Grace is receiving in France from her host family! For the first time, Grace gets to be the youngest sibling in the family. She has one older sister, Laetitia, and two older brothers, Gaetan and Kevin. Her parents are Daniela and Jean-Claude. Thank you to them all for welcoming Grace so warmly and for treating her like one of their own!

Grace's host siblings and parents from left: Gaeton, Daniela, Jean-Claude, Kevin & Laetitia. We couldn't be more grateful to them!

Grace’s host siblings and parents from left: Gaetan, Daniela, Jean-Claude, Kevin & Laetitia. We couldn’t be more grateful to them!

For more photos and updates from Grace’s instructors, check out this link again. Grace is featured in some of the birthday photos and in one or two of the bowling excursion photos. She shared earlier this week that she is beginning to think in French instead of English and now pictures English words with French accents.

http://iuhpflstbrieuc2015.blogspot.com/

More coming soon!

Chocolate now a verb

Bonjour mes amis! Greetings from Saint-Brieuc, France! I’ve had a wonderful time so far and everything is going well. 
My host family is amazing and has been very kind thus far. I think that I was placed with the best family in France, but maybe I’m biased. They celebrated my birthday with a dinner, tartelle aux fraises for dessert, and a nice necklace. So far I’ve been to lots of boulangeries with my host mother and sister and we also went to the 25th annual Courrida de Langueux, a race that involves all generations who love to run. 
On Sunday we went to the Ile de Bréhat, about a half-hour drive from Langueux. We had a reunion with the family of my host father. On the island there are lots of lighthouses and lots of places to eat. There are excellent views of the sea as well. 
School is going well; my classes include Grammar and Communication, Culture, Survey of French Literature, and Linguistics. My classmates are amazing, and we’re navigating the difficulties of the French language together. The language gets better every day; it’s tough but a fun challenge. 
Fun Fact: Chocolate is a verb here. 
I wish I had time to write more, but I’ll be back with more soon. Au revoir!
Grace 

             

Birthday Phone Call

Wednesday, June 10 was Grace’s 17th b-day and was her first full day in France with her host family! It was a joy to talk to her – our one and only phone conversation for the summer! She will get to have one hour of computer time per week, but that won’t include social media. If you’d like to send her an e-mail, here’s her address: grace610miller@gmail.com. She may not be able to respond to all of the messages, but I know she’d love to hear from you! Hopefully soon we can add some of her first photos from her experience! It sounds like her host family is wonderful! They fed her a delicious birthday dinner, complete with birthday tart. We are thankful she is in loving hands and is getting to have this experience of a lifetime!

If you’d like another blog to follow, here’s one updated by her instructors for the summer:

http://iuhpflstbrieuc2015.blogspot.com/

More about Grace’s school day and summer schedule coming soon! For now, here’s a link to the tourism guide for St. Brieuc:

http://www.baiedesaintbrieuc.co.uk/

Grace shared that her host family's home is just 1/2 mile from the English Channel.

Grace shared that her host family’s home is just 1/2 mile from the English Channel.

a shot a took from Grace's senior photo session before she left for France

a shot a took from Grace’s senior photo session before she left for France

Safe Arrival in France

Yesterday afternoon we enjoyed a really nice send off for Grace and her new friends at O’Hare in Chicago. We received word this morning from the IU program that her flight landed safely in Paris, and at the time of this posting she should be tucked away in bed at her summer home in St. Brieuc, which was about an eight hour bus ride from Paris. More news and information in the coming days. Grateful for her safety!

Last family selfie for a while!

Last family selfie for a while!

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Five Carmel High School students in St. Brieuc this summer

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See you soon, Buster!

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Brunch with the family before heading to the airport

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Arrival at O’Hare – ready to roll!

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We love you, Grace!

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Grace and new friend and fellow student, Nathalie, from Ft. Wayne