A year abroad in Saint-Georges-de-Didonne (Nouvelle-Aquitaine)

Student Joanna Chedgey reflects on the ups and downs of a strange year

Joanna is studying French at the University of Bristol and contacted France Mission about finding a church during her year abroad. She’s settled at the Église Evangélique de Royan (addroyan.fr).

If you’d asked me at the beginning of my degree, or even at the beginning of my second year of university, how I thought my year abroad in France would pan out, I can assure you that adding a pandemic into the mix was not part of my plan. Thankfully though, it was part of God’s – otherwise hope really would be lost!

This year has been for me, as it will have been for most people, full of real lows – namely loss and feelings of loneliness and lack of control (accompanied by a lot of comfort eating of pains au chocolat – still debating if that’s a low or not).

I’ve been working in a couple of primary schools as an English-language assistant which thankfully hasn’t been too disrupted as schools have remained opened for the duration of my time here so far. I will say, though, that teaching a foreign language to a group of young mask-wearing children whilst wearing a mask myself has been a challenge and a half!

However, despite the difficulties of this year, I’ve seen, perhaps more clearly than ever, the goodness and steadfastness of God. I’ve experienced this in obvious ways like through the blessing of finding and being welcomed into a church family here in France, where I’m reminded of the good news of the risen Jesus each week, but also in more subtle ways, like through the sunsets that I’ve had the joy of witnessing (three cheers for living by the beach), pointing me to the perfect world to come.

In both the good and the bad moments, a verse that’s come to mind time and again this past year is Lamentations 3.22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Praise God that in a situation that threatens to consume us, His love is more than sufficient, and His mercies are new each day!

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Joanna Chedgey

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