Kelsey’s blog – My first trip abroad with RNC, and what a trip it was!
One of the aspects of College I was most excited about, as a language student, was the offer of foreign exchange trips, and when the invite came around and my place was confirmed, I couldn’t wait for January to roll around.
Leaving at 7:45am on a Sunday morning was a bit of a strain, but we all made it, admittedly half-asleep, onto the minibus, through the airport and onto the plane.
Our first interactions with the teachers who would support us in France were brilliant; it felt wonderful, and on the whole pretty surprising to have my English-accented classroom French understood by actual French people.
The French school itself was quite a contrast to RNC – most students were gutted at the lack of wifi! There was also a lot of confusion regarding the accommodation, as it is laid out in a way which I am only able to describe as being like a labyrinth. Somehow, none of us got permanently lost.
During the first two full-days in the French school, we sat in on some lessons, to see how things differed in France. Our first lesson, however, was on socialising in France – I’ve never shaken hands so many times and with so many people, and as for the whole air-kissing thing? It’s certainly very new to me.
Sitting in on a Spanish lesson was really bizarre for me. Understanding every-day French is quite a task for me to begin with; when the teacher is switching between a language that you might possibly understand, and one that you have no grasp of at all is quite a headache-inducing experience.
Speaking to teachers and students about the educational support for people with a visual impairment was interesting, and definitely tested my French abilities. However, it highlighted the huge contrast in the approaches taken by staff and students in England and France.
We spent time in Lyon, visiting the tourist sites and exploring the public transport. Those who didn’t like heights were very keen (not) on Lyon’s cable-car, which saved us from the walk up the steep hill.
Ordering in French cafes was a skill which I had to work on, and work on quickly, if I wanted to get my coffee. Those of us who spoke enough French to order drinks and snacks were, all of a sudden very popular in cafes with the rest of the students – I wonder why! On the menus of the restaurants, there were obviously plenty of variety of dishes unknown in England, so picking an option that you think you’d like was part of the challenge. The other part of the challenge, however, was understanding what on earth the menu was saying!
On the Tuesday evening, we split up into groups, and visited the houses of French teachers’ families to eat dinner with them. Once we found the house we were visiting (which was quite a task in itself, amongst the first flakes of snow), the nerves set in. I was worried that my French would not get me by, or I would say something wrong or rude!
My fears were unnecessary: we chatted in French about politics, education, and far-away French territories, which seem to have much warmer weather than France itself, based on our week there. We ate some lovely French food – so much bread and cheese, and left feeling full, tired and very proud.
The last two days of our trip were spent in Grenoble. As the snow fell, we had a guided tour of the city, and learnt about its history. Much to everyone’s amazement; it is home to 63000 students. We stayed in a training hotel run by French hospitality students, who were really friendly and eager to learn about people with a visual impairment and English music!
On Thursday, we went up into the Alpes, and after eating another large lunch, we gave sledging a go. Admittedly we were not the most gifted sledgers in the world, and perhaps with practice we’d improve (although I’m inclined to doubt this statement). More than anything else, it was amazing fun, a great laugh, and so thrilling: I would love to give it another go!
So, overall, an amazing trip to France. I tried so many new things, spoke so much more French, and gained so much confidence in interacting in a foreign country. Merci, RNC, for a brilliant trip!
Check out our Facebook page for more photos of the French exchange trip.
If you are interested in studying French at RNC or would like more information on the courses we offer, please call our Student Recruitment Team on 01432 376 621 or email firstname.lastname@example.org