During the first week of the Easter holidays, a group of year 10 pupils, including myself, took part in a French exchange, with the school of Institution Sainte-Marie, in Antony, which is near Paris. We had each been assigned a partner, and had been corresponding with them for some time before we arrived, so we also had a basis of familiarity on which to build.
During our stay, we visited many iconic monuments, like the l’arc du triumph; we also visited the louvre, amongst many others. The only noteworthy attraction that we did not see was the Eiffel Tower, but fortunately, many in our number were lucky enough to visit it with their host families. These excursions were fascinating and helped us understand the new culture that we were experiencing, by having some knowledge of where it originated. In between these organised events, we were also given some time to roam around, going shopping or getting a drink. These were some of my favourite times, as you got to see Paris, not just from a tourists point of view, but also the city itself. It was, moreover, a chance to relish the new freedom that we had been granted, due to our advanced age and maturity. It was wonderful to know that our teachers trusted us be sensible, and to also know that they believed that we would not abuse that trust.
However, perhaps the most crucial part was the time that was spent with our partners and their families. The hosts were uniformly welcoming and accommodating, and no one had a bad word to say about them. It was a fantastic opportunity to be involved with their day to day lives, and be able to note how it differed from our own. In particular, the packed lunches were very memorable. We had a feeling that they were a bit of a foreign concept to the French, as people were being given some truly odd concoctions. They were also receiving truly incredible quantities of food. On one day, someone had been given five satsumas. Another had three packets of crisps, six drinks, two sandwiches, a chocolate bar, crackers and a salad. One more area in which they seemed to struggle was my friend’s vegetarianism. They would try to find out what she liked, and then stick it all together in a box, which is how she ended up with an egg and tomato salad. More alarmingly, when in the stage of speaking online before having met, she was sent an acknowledgement that she was vegetarian, and then asked if she wanted chicken, bacon or pate in her sandwiches! Another subject of note was how much later they ate, usually eating dinner at about ten thirty in the evening.
Overall, it was a great trip, both informative and entertaining, not to mention greatly improving all of our French skills, and I am sure that we are all looking forward to our partner’s arrival to England in June!