Friday the 9th of November was a very exciting yet nerve- wracking day for a lot of people – we would finally be going to spend six days with a host family in another country after having very little contact with them. Saying this however, we had nothing to be worried about as we were welcomed like old friends later that day.
Upon our arrival at ‘College Gaston Serpette’ we were greeted by the French students before being introduced to our partners. Very kindly, many of the families had baked cakes and we got a chance to bond with our partners over the goods.
I was very relieved to arrive at the ‘Roche family’ house because, after a long day, I was just ready to sleep. Christophe and Coralie (the parents of Pénélope, my French exchange partner) were extremely kind and welcoming and even the cat seemed happy to have me in their home! That evening we enjoyed a lovely dinner and some board games with the older brother and younger sister. The family really appreciated the gifts that I brought, especially the younger sister who has since said that shortbread is her favourite thing in the world!
We went straight into having a weekend with our host family and this provided an opportunity to really get to know them as well as have a great time. It was board games and the local ‘Nantes market’ on Saturday and a visit to the beautiful ‘Mont– Saint-Michel’ on Sunday.
Monday morning required an early start as we had to go to school with our partners. I sat through art and maths with Pénélope and actually managed to understand quite a lot of what was going on. I have to say that it was very different to be back in a class with boys after the two years since leaving primary school! Speaking of primary school, that’s where we went in the afternoon. We filled out questionnaires with the children, who were all very excited to see us, before doing a presentation (in french) on presdales school.
On Tuesday, we visited a very interesting town called Vannes, an hour and forty minute coach ride away. After having a tour round, we were given free time. During this period, we all enjoyed picnic lunches made by our host families. It was in Vannes that I bought presents for my family back in England. I really enjoyed Vannes as it was a very pretty place with lots of quirky little details and we were given a chance to put our French to the test by talking to shopkeepers, etc., without the worry of getting anything wrong, as we knew that we weren’t going to see these people again. Also, they were very understanding.
Wednesday was, unfortunately, our last full day. My family gave me hot chocolate in a bowl (a very new experience!) and a huge selection of croissants, pain au chocolat and other pastries as they knew that there was a long day ahead! We got the tram into the centre of Nantes quite early in the morning so that we would be able to fit everything in. First of all, we had a guided tour round the château. The weather did not let us down, the beautiful skies were as blue as anything and it was very warm (considering that it was November). Then we went to the main shopping area in Nantes – there were lots of boutiques and individual shops in addition to some of the more well-known shops. The real highlight of the day would have to be visiting the huge mechanical elephant and carousel! To begin, we went into a museum which explained how the two were made and gave information about future projects that are being planned. I found it extremely interesting as the huge amount of time and effort put into the attractions was something to behold in itself. The ride on the actual elephant was slow but allowed you to take in local scenery and appreciate the work gone into it.
The day ended with a reception with the mayor of Nantes and we met up with our partners and families. It was very lovely and the trip ended on a high.
Then came the dreaded goodbye on Thursday morning… we were all very emotional to leave our ‘homes’ which we had been so happily welcomed into. Many tears were shed as the time came to say goodbye to our partners. The bond that we made with them was so strong – they had been like our brothers and sisters for the past week and leaving just felt wrong. Surely it was too soon for us to leave? However, we knew that it wouldn’t be long before the return visit and modern technology means that we can keep in touch very easily!
I’m so glad that I took the opportunity and went on this trip and would definitely recommend it. Your French will improve without you even realising and you’ll pick up new vocabulary just from overhearing dinner time conversation. The bonds and friendships that I made on the trip are ones that will last forever.
Róisín Hurley (Year 9)
Mon échange scolaire:
On the 9th of November Presdales and Richard Hale set off for France for the infamous French Exchange. Being the only Year 10 going, I was a little apprehensive at first but there was no need for me to be! My fellow Presdalians were absolutely lovely and, although it was a little awkward at first, I soon found myself chatting with them. Not only this but the teachers accompanying us, Miss Haywood and Miss Lee, were so sweet and kept us laughing and smiling the whole week.
Arriving at Gaston Serpette (the French school), I was so, so, SO nervous but also really excited to meet my exchange partner. I had previously texted her a bit so I knew what she looked like and a few things about her but I was still anxious that maybe we wouldn’t get along.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. We were well-matched, and I knew as soon as I said my first “Salut!”, I was really going to like her.
Unusually, this year, we went on a Friday which meant we were immediately spending the weekend with our host families which meant that there would be no teachers there to help translate! My correspondent’s parents were so welcoming, and I instantly felt safe and at home and I soon befriended her cat. My family made no fuss that I was vegetarian and cooked some delicious meals, making sure that I never went hungry – there was always a goûter (snack) ready and waiting for me!
At the start of the week, there were often challenging points where I would try to ask or describe something to my exchange partner and couldn’t quite get there. Despite the language barrier, we were always able to get across what we wanted to say, even if it involved an odd jumble of French and English. By the end of the week I was better at saying these phrases and found myself feeling more confident to say them in the first place.
It was really cool to experience a completely different culture, and even better to be doing so in such a beautiful city! Leaving Nantes, I was so happy I had met such kind people and so upset that I would not see my correspondent for several months – there were many tears at the airport! I wish I could have stayed for longer.
To any younger students thinking about whether to go or not, I would 100% recommend you give it go, and I’m not just saying that because I know Miss Haywood will read this! It will boost your French speaking and listening and prepare you for those GCSEs with extra vocab you wouldn’t know otherwise. You also get to spend a whole week off school with your mates, and get to meet new people, both French and English, with whom you may well become really good friends.
Going on the exchange gave me so much more confidence with my French and really inspired me to keep going. Not only that but I made a genuinely amazing friend who made my week so enjoyable.
Rebecca Kennard (Year 10)
My French Exchange Experience
I went into the French exchange feeling nervous but mostly excited about meeting my partner and diving into the French lifestyle. Since I had done the exchange before in year 9, I half knew what I was expecting; however, unlike the last time, I was constantly speaking French and by the end of the week I was really getting used to the family’s lifestyle and the French culture.
My partner is called Lou and early on into the exchange we were already really good friends! We’re looking forward to seeing each other again when she comes back to England! We did lots of fun activities whilst we were there. With the school, we went to the Machines de l’Île (where there’s a giant mechanical elephant) and also we visited the Château de Nantes, which was really impressive. On Monday and Tuesday I went to the French school and it was really interesting to find out what school in France is like because it was so different from England.
For me the best part about the trip was getting to meet my exchange partner because I have made a really good friend who can also help me improve my French. The most challenging part of the trip was at the start. I was finding it hard to understand the fast and complicated French that the family and my partner were speaking, but by the end of the week I could pick up most of what they said to me. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone taking French, not only because it improves your listening and speaking skills, but it also allows you to make lots of friends and it is altogether a lot of fun!
Hannah Wilson (Year 12)