“Don’t spend your time doing homework – go out and meet new people.” This was my lecturer’s advice before I set off on my year abroad.
It was 1986. As a language student, I had to spend a year overseas. My year involved six months in France, then six months in Germany. For the French leg, I chose Rennes, in Brittany.
Its university opened in the late 1960s and the arts and humanities faculty is located in Villejean, to the north-west of the city centre. My hall of residence (pictured) was in the nearby Square de Normandie. This high-rise example of brutalist architecture has, against all odds, survived the intervening decades.
Most of the students were locals, so they headed home at weekends. This left me and the other foreign students to run wild among the concrete sprawl of the student accommodation for two days at a time.
We also ventured into the beautiful city centre, where the townsfolk were welcoming enough to a young British student, seemingly intent on mangling their language.
I enjoyed my time in Rennes, and at the end of my year abroad, I spoke French fluently.
Importantly, I was also able to report back to my lecturer that I had taken him at his word.