My name is Michelle and I have just completed a 9 week homestay with the Cavard Family in the South-East of France.  I can honestly say it was both one of the most incredible and most challenging experiences of my life.  As soon as I arrived, I felt very comfortable with my family which immediately put me at ease.  If this is something you're worried about (which I completely understand because I was too), just know that if you're doing this because you want to, you're open to new experiences and you're prepared to do your best, your host family will appreciate this and they too will feel at ease.  If they ask you a question, try to say as much as you possibly can and do not feel embarrassed. My biggest piece of advice is keep smiling - it goes a long way! However, what I didn't expect was how frustrated I felt in the beginning.  I wanted to communicate with my family and I desperately wanted to understand everything that was being said but I just couldn't.  I thought I wasn't learning fast enough and that I wasn't doing enough which led me to feel a little down on myself.  I was worrying unnecessarily for the first 3 weeks but in hindsight, I was way too hard on myself and wasn't at all patient.  You have to trust the process - being fully immersed in a language is without a shadow of a doubt going to make you improve but it just takes time. I attended school for a little over 3 weeks with the boy in my family before we got Summer Holidays. The day is long and tiring but completely manageable.  It's not that uncommon to have exchange students in the class so the boys and girls were really welcoming.  What I found toughest about school was lunchtime and asking the others if I could eat with them.  I hated feeling like I was imposing myself but looking back, it was all in my head.  They didn't mind me sitting with them so don't be afraid to ask.  Make the most of your time there.  If I were to do it all again, I think I would plan it so that I could spend longer in school because although it wasn't easy, it drastically improved my French as I was guaranteed to constantly be surrounded by people speaking the language, as well as it being hugely character building!
I also found that French people were inclined to start speaking English to me in what I presume was an attempt to improve their skills.  If you find yourself in the same situation, make it very clear that you don't want to - reply to them in French or stress how much you want to practise your French and they will have to get the hint! I went to France with the intention of just improving my French but I've come away with so much more than that.  I visited Cannes, Marrakech, Chamonix, Geneva, completed two weeks of work experience with the mother in a playschool, tried things I never thought I would, managed to push myself further outside of my comfort zone than I ever thought I could and have made lifelong friends with my host family.  I can now think in French which is more amazing than I could've imagined and I could not be happier that I did it.   To those of you doing it, all I can say is have a smile on your face, try your best, don't worry or feel afraid to ask for help and most of all - enjoy it!

My name is Olive, I am a mother of four and a second level teacher, my husband is a farmer. We have two girls now in their early twenties and are third level students. We have two younger boys in second level education. My oldest daughter had just completed second year in secondary school and we were organising her school books for the following year.  As we came across her French book and papers, the words “common cava?” came out of my mouth, with a smile on my face that instantly turned to hurt, as she lifted her head and stared me blankly. I then arranged French grinds for her for the duration of her junior cert. Despite the best efforts of the grinds teacher , her ability and confidence in French did not improve, my feelings turned to frustration and anger as my best efforts and money, was as I seen been wasted. As the grinds seemed to be of no benefit, Dominique the grinds teacher suggested to me the TY Europe programme. I did my research and contacted Jane Regan. I am happy to say, the results have been nothing short of wonderful. It has not been easy for us as parents or the children, but, good things do not come easy and the child must commit 100% otherwise he/she will not gain the rewards, which are lifelong! That summer I was in constant contact with Jane Regan, who secured an exchange for my eldest daughter with a Parisian family whose son was of similar age. The Parisian boy lived with us and went to school with our children. He was enrolled in the TY programme which he attended from September to Christmas. After the Christmas holidays my daughter went to live with the boys family and attend a local school that specialised in music as she was interested in studying the subject in third level college. She stayed there and completed the school year which finished in early June. She found the experience quite challenging and was home sick from time to time. She made friends in school who are in contact with her to this day.  My daughter was exhausted for the first two weeks as she was physically adapting to the new way of life. She went to the local library and took out children’s books, the father of the family was the home maker while the mother worked long hours outside the home. The dad would help her by giving her poems to learn off. She was included in all of the families experiences, nights at the theatre, cinema, out to dinner, dinner parties, family trips away, museums and many cultural events. She experienced all aspects of Parisian family life, from going to the market for fruit and vegetables to getting the dally bread from the local bakery. When she returned home, she expressed her disgust with the Irish public in general at how unhelpful and inhospitable they were. As on the streets of Paris were so helpful and friendly towards her. As a student in Paris she had a card that gave her free access to all museums and educational events. She knew her way through the streets of Paris and how to navigate the underground. When she returned to school her oral French was very good and her written was well above the average. She received an A in the leaving certificate in the higher level paper.  My eldest daughter is currently studying in University of Limerick and last year she completed the study abroad programme as part of her third year on the course. The University is twined up with Cape Briton University in Nova Scotia, Canada. She studied there for the first semester, from September to Christmas. While there she travelled to many places in Canada that would have been impossible to do without the French language as certain parts of Canada exclusively speak French. Our second daughter is now is studying Art in college. She is planning to do an Erasmus programme, where she will attend an Art college in France. My next daughter also did the TY Europe programme and was placed with a family in Geneva. There she went to a science based school. The family were so caring and the school was very accommodating. The children of the school were multicultural as they spoke many languages as their parents were figures in international cooperation’s. She learned a great of French focusing on the written aspect more than the vocal contrary to her sister. She spent three months in Geneva and then moved to Dijon for the following three months. It was with a farming family within a rural community, where her skills in oral French developed dramatically. On returning home she had gained a great sense of achievement which has given her motivation to accomplish many things in her life to date. Our third child just completed his TY Europe experience. He stayed with a family in Lyons. He was enrolled in a Catering Lycee, where he studied cookery. It was hands on course where he learned to prepare and cook meals as part of a team for the Lycees’ restaurant. The reason we chose this type of Lycee was because the girls complained about how boring it was sitting in class for science and mathematics as each class is 1 hour long in France. The terminology of the subjects was too difficult for them to learn as the girls did not have a great interest in Science and Mathematics. He enjoyed the whole experience immensely as he was always interested in cooking and would regularly cook and bake at home before he went to France. He completed five months in the Lycee but found that it would be more beneficial to him if he had been there from the beginning of the Lycee year. The mother of the family that he stayed with was a primary school teacher and he asked her to spend time with him teaching him French so she spent one hour every evening teaching him grammar and the written the language and as a result of this his written French is of leaving certificate standard. The families’ son returned home to us with my won. I organised work experience for him and taught him the written part of the English language for one hour every evening. It was a big commitment but now I can say well worth it! This summer my son has gained part time summer employment in a local restaurant preparing starters and desserts in the kitchen alongside the chef. This September our youngest son will attend an Agricultural Lycee in Dijon, where he will be involved in a practical course from the beginning of the school year. He hopes to complete the full school year there. The Lycee has a boarding facility which he will be availing of during the week and at weekends he will travel to a family home where he will stay weekends and holidays. That’s our plan to date for. I believe the knowledge of Language not only involves the spoken and written word but also the whole cultural experience. Language is the roadmap of culture. It tells you where its people came from and where they are going. Just learning to think in another language allows you to see your own culture in a better view point.

From the 24th of May till the 17th of June I lived in France. The DeSaintMartin family accepted me into theirs for the stay. It was undoubtedly the best period in my life thus far. I wasn’t worried about the stay really or missing out back home, as I left nearing the end of Transition Year and not much was happening in school. My grades in French were great but I went to improve my spoken French which was negligible.   I wanted to go and stay in France to improve, I was never told to. We got in contact with Jane who told us about the family who lived in Toul, outside Nancy.The family couldn’t’ve been nicer or more welcoming. There were 2 boys in the family; Théo (18) and Mathis (13) so I wasn’t ever alone or without someone my age. There was plenty of food at the house and I was never left hungry.  I attended Lycée Saint Louis Majorelle. The class were very welcoming and I felt at home there. I took English, French Literature, History/Geography, Physics and Economics. The teachers were on the whole very welcoming. The History teacher gave me a project to do so I wasn’t just sitting there. I helped the others out in English, and the French teacher gave me exercises to do. The other students were studying for the Bac. The food in the canteen was amazing, Théo immediately introduced me into his friend group and I got to know them like siblings. I went to a party in the woods with the friends about 3 weeks in and it was fantastic. There was a barbecue and it was very good fun. We had to leave early because the family and I were going on holiday the following day to Pas de Calais. They wanted to show me a different region in France. We went to see all the villages and attractions surrounding it and they showed me around. I swam though they thought the water was too cold!  The family had people over very often, family friends so there were always people around. Théo and Mathis were so nice and we did a lot together. Very soon I could hang out with others apart from Théo’s group and the school felt like my own. We went to see the Grandparents as well whenever Mathis was doing a rowing competition. They treated me as their own and were very welcoming. I couldn’t’ve asked for more. Whenever we went to the competitions I saw a different area in France. Both Théo and the father of the family, Stephane had birthdays during my stay. I bought them both presents and we celebrated it together. I went out to dinner with the family Théo and I both also went to Jardin Du Mars (music festival) when the family offered me a ticket. It was easily the best two nights of my life. Théo’s friends were there as well.  I did a lot with the friends there, from mountain biking to beach volleyball.  I made friends very quickly and it was very hard to leave them at the end. I had a party with the class on the last day of school before the Baccloreate started. The parents drove me to the airport on the 17th.  I highly recommend doing this sort of exchange and TY Europe did it very effectively in my opinion.

From the 12th of May to the 8th of June 2017 I lived in Dachau, Germany, with the brilliant Knüppel family. It was without doubt the best 4 weeks of my life! I had wanted to go to Germany, Munich in particular, since I'd began learning German in secondary school. Unfortunately, before TY, it hadn't worked out. That was until my teacher suggested an exchange to Germany. At first I gave no thought to it at all. I was completely pessimistic and just couldn't picture myself doing it. I'd never been away from my home for more than 10 days, so spending a month alone in Germany sounded completely out of the question. But the more I thought about it the more it seemed a possibility. We got in contact with Jane, and received information on a family living in Dachau, just outside Munich. There was no pressure on me to do it, we said we'd think about it and get back to her. I just couldn't not take up the opportunity to go, and I decided to do it. We had Julian in our house for the month of April, and right away we got on really well. You'd be surprised how quickly you get to know someone when you live with them, and after a week or two it was as if we'd been friends for years! Julian left, and it was only a week and a half after that when it was my turn to go to Germany. I remember, on the morning of the flight, being extremely nervous, but I also remember being hugely excited. From my point of view, leaving my parents at the airport was the toughest part of the exchange, but once I got on the plane, I just knew it was going to be the best time of my life. The family met me at the airport and were extremely welcoming, friendly and overall just genuine people. It was relatively late, so we didn't do much that night other than a small tour around their beautiful town. The next day the exchange really began for me, I got to meet some of Julian's friends and on the Sunday we went to the Allianz Arena to see a match, which has always been one of my dreams, and we ended up behind the goal with the extreme fans chanting and shouting for the whole match! It was definitely one of the best experiences of the exchange. After only a few days I felt settled in and was comfortable around the family and in the house. I was also quite nervous before the first day of school, but I'd already met a few of his friends that were extremely sound so I could only expect the same from the rest of the class, and they were too. The school was very different from my school, but after only a few days I began to enjoy it more and more. Some classes were really hard to understand, but I found that after a few days of really trying to listen to what the teachers were saying, it became easier to understand and also easier to engage in conversations with his friends. For the second and third week of school, I was actually going to bed excited for the next day of school, something which I definitely didn't think would happen! For the last few weeks, it began to feel as if it was my normal school. I didn't even have to hang around constantly with Julian, I was able to go around with his friends on my own at the breaks, in between classes etc. And there was also plenty of sport in the school, with lots of soccer which was really important for me!  On Wednesdays and Thursdays the school finished early so on those days we'd go and visit places around Munich and Dachau. Munich was an incredible city, with so much to see and do. We were in the Olympia Park, Nymphenburg Schloss, Marienplatz, Englischer Garten and so much more. The family knew Munich really well, so they were able to bring me to all the proper Bavarian spots in the city and I got a real feel of the city from this. The days that we spent in Munich were just amazing, it was surreal that one of the biggest and thriving cities in the world was only 15 minutes away on a train. We also took many trips to places around Munich. We hiked up a 1700m mountain one day in the Bavarian Alps, and at the top were definitely the best views I’ve seen in my life! We were in tourist destinations such as Andechs, Garmisch, Schloss Lindehof, and so much more! The mountains were just incredible, as I'd never seen anything like them before. As well as all of that, we went to places such as the Concentration Camp in Dachau, Ingolstadt, Freising, the list goes on and on and that was just with the family! We'd often meet up with friends and go to places such as the nearby lake, the cinema, the swimming pool, Volksfest in Dachau, Parties (x3!) and sometimes just relax, chat and play Fifa or watch soccer matches. One of my worries before the exchange was the food, as I'd heard the Germans eat a lot of cheese, which I don't like very much! But it was absolutely brilliant, each day I got to try more and more of the typical German cuisine and I loved it. There was plenty of meat, vegetables and variation. My German has also improved so much over the month that it's unbelievable. I didn't even notice until it was pointed out that I was fully taking part in conversations and fully understanding what everyone was saying. It was a very cool feeling to be able to understand and speak an entirely different language! The worst day of the exchange was probably the last day, because I didn't want to leave! It had already been difficult on the last day of school, a week before I had to go, because I had to say goodbye to a few of my new friends that were going on holidays. It was very difficult to say goodbye to everyone, but once I got home to my family and friends it was really nice to see them. I was really sad to leave, and I miss everything about the exchange, the food, the language, the country, but most of all the people I met and got to know on the exchange. I've made so many new friends that I know I will have for a long time. Thankfully, we have lots of contact with each other and have organised for my exchange partner and a friend to come back to Ireland, and also for me to go back to Germany. I can't wait to go back.



On the 1st of April 2017 I travelled to Spain. My goal was to speak Spanish fluently by the end of my six-week stay. Having now completed it, I may not be fluent, but I have definitely progressed significantly from my Junior Certificate level of Spanish and not only in Spanish, other aspects too. Living with a family in another country was for sure a very challenging experience for me. The family were very different to my own, not only the family, but Spanish people in general. They are very chatty, active and social able. I was always welcomed with open arms wherever I went.  Although these are positive characteristics, as an independent, self-contained person, I sometimes felt I needed some alone time.  It’s good to immerse oneself in the family for maximum exposure to the language and culture but I found having my own space important to coping with the challenges of the experience.  All the family want is for the student to be happy and comfortable, so if you are like me, and need that personal space, make sure you make it clear your alone time is very important to you and then they won’t tend to worry. This is better clarified as early as possible, as indeed are any concerns or issues or preferences you have, such that the family understands clearly, thereby minimising confusion.  You should never be afraid to express how you are feeling to the family or your liaison person, as this is exactly what they want and is ultimately in everyone’s best interest. I attended a secondary school there Alba, one of the girls from my host family.  This was an exhausting yet interesting experience.  I was thrilled to meet people my own age and witness their everyday interactions. This was where I was most exposed to the language.  I heard everyday conversation consistently throughout the whole day.  Alba’s friends were very nice and talked to me.  I found the young people most difficult to understand as the pace at which they spoke was extremely fast.  During the classes I did a mixture of studying my own Spanish through grammar and conversational books as well as listening to the teacher.  I know that although school was sometimes socially boring and emotionally draining, it had a very positive impact on my Spanish.  In the hours after school I had the best opportunity to understand and speak Spanish.  I would recommend going to Spain during Easter like me, or partially in summer, as school was very demanding and a break was vital.
The lifestyle was another thing to get used to, but I ended up almost preferring it to my own.  The meals were very spread out; hence I was starving every time I sat at the table, which was good.  I really liked the food as almost everything I ate was Spanish and so different to what I’m used to.  I tried plenty of new foods and thanks to the family, I don’t believe there is any traditional Spanish food I didn’t get to try.  After a late dinner (around 9:30pm) the family gathered together to watch a film and chill together.  I was exhausted by that time so I usually just went to bed, which the family didn’t mind. I loved getting the opportunity to travel with my family; I went to the tips of the North West and the south of Spain.  I was also brought to Madrid on several occasions. The family was very active so I took part in hiking, Zumba, swimming and lots more.

I am very happy with my trip to Spain, I understand so much more than I did before and I’m a lot more confident speaking Spanish now.  It was definitely an experience I will always remember!

My name is Eva and I am 15 Years old. I am in transition year and as I had a lot more free time this year I decided to go to Spain to improve my Spanish. I went to Madrid on the 4th of January and I stayed for 5 and a half weeks. My friend Grace came with me and we stayed with two different families in a village near Madrid called Galapagar. I really enjoyed my experience in Madrid and I am so glad that I went. I remember being really nervous going out as I had very poor Spanish. The girl I was staying with was 16, her name was Marta, and she had a younger sister who was 10. They were such a lovely family and I enjoyed staying in their house. I had my own bedroom with a treadmill and T.V (which I never had any time to use because I was so busy!) I really enjoyed bringing the dog for a walk as the scenery was beautiful in Galapagar. I woke up on the week days at 7.45 as school started at 8.30. There were six classes a day with a thirty minute break in between. Each class was 55 minutes long which I found long compared to Ireland. I found some subjects hard like Spanish and Maths because I didn’t understand, although the teachers were very patient with us. Grace and I joined the gym and we went every day in the evening. In the gym we used the swimming pool and went to classes such as Aqua box which was boxing in the water we also went to Aerobics and stretching classes. On the weekends we went to lots of places such as the Prado museum, the cinema, Madrid City, the parade of the 3 Kings, the temple of Debod and we also went to many other villages in Madrid such as Segovia where we ate out for dinner and visited many attraction sites. The weeks flew bye and I was very sad leaving. On the last week it was Marta’s birthday and she had a party with her friends. Grace and I became really friendly with some of Marta’s friends so we enjoyed that day. I got to taste some of the lovely Spanish food such as paella, calamari and churros and on the last night my family brought me out for dinner to a lovely restaurant. I am very grateful for the opportunity I got to go to Spain and I feel like my Spanish has greatly approved. It was definitely an experience of a life time and I am so lucky that I met Marta and made an amazing friend who I hope to keep in touch with and meet up with over the summer. I would love to go back and do it all over again if I could but I will cherish the memories and friends I made over those 5 and a half weeks

My name is Erin and I am 16 years old. Recently I've returned home from a 3 month exchange in Spain. I did my exchange with a girl my age, Cristina, who was a triplet. Cristina came to stay in my house at the same time as I stayed in hers. I was very lucky to have her other two sisters, Silvia and Patricia, for help and company but it was also a disadvantage because it prevented me from making my own friends and doing my own thing as I had to stay with them all the time. During the first month I did a lot of listening and I didn't speak much. I had only been learning Spanish in school for 3 years and my level of Spanish wasn't very high at all. I was excluded quite a lot from conversations because I didn't really know what was going on. During the second and third months I did speak a lot more. When I was leaving Spain I didn't think that my Spanish had improved a lot and I was disappointed but then I realised how much it really improved in my Spanish class. I am quite shy and I do rely on my friends a lot to be there for me but in Spain I was on my own and it was very hard at times. Having my friends and family to talk to on the phone wasn't the same as having them with me and at times I did feel quite lonely. I did use my phone a lot to talk to people like Jane O'Regan, my family and friends about what was going on and what I was doing. It did make me feel better if I was having a bad day. School was sometimes fun but mostly boring as I had barely anything to do. I attended Cristina's school with her two sisters. As I didn't understand enough Spanish to do the same work as the class, I couldn't do a lot of work so I just had to sit and listen or read. The area I was staying in was Torrelodones in Madrid which was a 30/40min drive from the city. The city was great. I got to go shopping there and to see a lot of the city. I got to go out and socialise with Silvia, Patricia and their friends a lot which I enjoyed. Overall I had good times and bad times. If I was to do it again I'd definitely shorten the amount of time I'd spend there and make it 2 months as I did think 3 months was a bit too long but I'm glad I experienced it and I didn't go home early!


I arrived in Madrid airport on Saturday April 2nd to do a Spanish exchange with Laura Lopez. I already knew Laura from when she stayed in my house and we got on really well. From the moment I met Laura and Ana in the airport I knew it was going to be a great four weeks. We went from the airport to Laura’s brother’s football match where we met her dad, Javier, and her brother, also Javier. The family made me feel very welcome and Laura always helped me when I didn’t understand things. She made my time in Spain very pleasant and enjoyable. My Spanish improved hugely because when didn’t understand something, instead of telling me the word in English she would explain it in Spanish. Within the first two days I found myself even thinking in Spanish when I was by myself or going to bed.  Monday April 4th I went to Laura’s school, colegio Gondomar. When I arrived all the teachers introduced themselves. I went to class and Laura’s friends were all so nice to me. They made me feel welcome and included me in everything they did. They talked about what they would like to bring me to such as Madrid centre, a theme park, ice skating. I felt so lucky to meet all these girls. The classes were challenging because the teacher talked very fast and I understood very little but by the end I found I understood a lot more. Some teachers gave me work and tests which I didn’t mind because my Spanish was improving. I also liked it because in history they asked me to write about an important person in Irish history and I got to write about Patrick Pearse.
On the weekends Laura and her family and friends brought me on outings which I loved. The first Saturday her friends brought me to Madrid. I didn’t do much shopping but I saw loads of famous places in Madrid and got a lot of photos to remember it. We saw the opera, the king’s palace, the plaza mayor, the temple of Debod and more. We had dinner together in Madrid and took the metro to the bus stop. I had such a good time in Madrid centre, it is a beautiful place and I will never forget it. I also went to places outside Madrid with Laura and her family such as Segovia and Avila; in Segovia I saw historic monuments that were so beautiful such as the aqueduct and the monastery. We also went to Escorial which was very nice. My time in Madrid went to fast and before I knew it I was in the last week. In school on the last day they threw me a little surprise party. They filled the board with writing and gave me a present of a t-shirt, which they all signed, and a photo of the whole class. I was so sad that I had to say goodbye to all of them then. Hopefully it wasn’t my last time seeing them but I will really miss them all.  On the last night we went to dinner with the whole family, including her cousin and her Irish exchange student. It didn’t feel like the next day I would be home in Ireland. I enjoyed every moment of my trip and I was so sad to leave.  I got on so well with everyone. Her family were very nice to me while I was there and made me feel at home. All of Laura’s friends made sure I was having the best time I could I am so grateful for that. Laura is a lovely girl and I am so lucky I got to do the exchange with her. I made an amazing friend that I hope to stay in touch with for a very long time.



I have been asked to talk to you about my foreign exchange experience. One of the great advantages of TY is that it enabled me to travel to Spain for a month and improve my Spanish. I was really lucky to get a very nice and welcoming family. Even more importantly I got on extremely well with my exchange student Guillermo, who is coming to Ireland in July. As much as I was nervous before going to Spain I was also very excited. After arriving at the house at 10:30pm I was immediately told we were going into the village to attend a barbeque with Guillermo’s friends. So I was thrown right into the deep end straight away. Looking back I am delighted this happened because it helped break the ice and after this we were comfortable around each other. I attended school for three weeks while in Madrid, which was challenging but very helpful. I found it quite frustrating that I couldn’t participate in lessons. I excelled in one subject alone. ENGLISH. I was very happy with my classmates especially at break time and during PE classes. The lads were great craic and I felt as if I fitted in well. The highlight of the trip was going to an Atletico Madrid match. I was extremely fortunate to be given this opportunity, I couldn’t believe my luck. For those who are interested the fixture was a home match against Granada and Atletico won 3-0. It was an amazing experience and I am so grateful for the family’s generosity. Language wise I learned a lot. I feel a lot more confident in understanding Spanish and am able to converse with people a lot better now. I would recommend going on an exchange to anyone who has the chance. Experiencing a new culture is great with the added bonus that your language skills can be improved. Muchas Gracias por escuchar y buenas noches.


My name is Orla and I’m 16 years old and I did my exchange in Germany for 4 weeks. TY Europe was recommended to me by a friend of mine in school who had had a fantastic experience and so I quickly got in contact with Jane. She gave us all of the relevant information and details, and paired me with a lovely family in Tubingen, just outside Stuttgart. Their daughter Nora came to Ireland for the first part of the exchange in April. She had amazing English, which made me nervous about my German, but she was so friendly, and really fitted in well with our family. Then the time came when it was my turn to go to Germany, and as it happened a girl from my school also happened to be staying in the same town as me. When I arrived there, I was so glad to see Nora, a familiar face, and meet her family. The first day was really hard and I understood hardly anything, but I told myself that this was to be expected. It found it was really useful to have a German-English dictionary, and I carried it everywhere. My first day in school went better than I expected, the class were so welcoming and excited to have a new student. The teachers were very helpful, and did their best to explain to me when I didn’t understand what was going on. My first week in school flew, and that weekend we took in the local sights, such as a beautiful nearby castle. Other weekend trips included a visit to Bodensee, a southern holiday resort, visits to friends and extended family, shopping trips and cycling trips. Everyone made a conscious effort to speak a little slower and clearer to help me understand. I went on numerous shopping trips, where we got to travel by train to other nearby cities. I really enjoyed getting to see so much of Germany. I noticed that my German was improving every day. The food was different to home and my family cooked me a traditional German dinner to give me the full cultural experience. I repaid the favour by cooking them a traditional Irish dinner in return.  On weekdays, I did simple things like doing the groceries with my exchange mother, so as to improve my German vocabulary for foods. I also went to the local ice cream shop a lot, and now know the German for every ice cream flavour! Towards the end of my stay, the weather got quite hot, so Nora brought me to the local outdoor swimming pool. Some evenings, I would sit with the family on the terrace, where we would spend the night eating, chatting and laughing. I really felt so at home, I could not have been paired with a better family. The Euro’s soccer competition was in full flight while I was over there and family friends would join us at the house to support Germany and Ireland whenever they played. At the beginning of my time in Germany, I thought that four weeks was going to be a long time, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The time went so fast, especially as I was enjoying myself and having so much fun. My German improved to the point where I went from understanding nothing on the first day to feeling comfortable conversing with everyone on my last day. I got on really well with Nora and all of her friends, and we are hoping to do another exchange again next year. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I would recommend it to anyone looking to improve their language skills. I would really like to thank Jane and all the staff at TY Europe for all their help and for having everything run so smoothly.

My name is Niall: I remember booking my flight to Germany and thinking that 5 weeks was too long and I would never last that long, but I was so wrong! I should have listened to Jane and should have only booked a one way ticket only for my return ticket being booked I’d still be out there! I had so many mixed feelings about my trip; would I get on with the family/ will I understand them etc. I was very excited but also very nervous. I remember bringing all my Junior Cert notes on the plane over with me trying to remember my German so Id actually be able to speak it! When I met the family at the airport I was really shy and I started speaking Irish to them ... So embarrassing!! They welcomed me and I didn’t understand anything they were saying, I could only try and pick out a few words here and there and I remember thinking that I would never be able to cope with this for 5 weeks. I was paired with such a fantastic, loving, caring family and I really felt like the 4th child! The boys were both my age and there was a younger girl too. The parents were so kind and brought me to so many things at the weekends like to the local castle, shopping and also a weekend away to their house in the snow! I never had a dull moment. The tennis club was less than a 10 minute walk up the road which was perfect for me, I could walk to training every Monday and Friday which the parents organised for me. I was so so anxious about school and hadn’t a clue what to expect! 
It was such an early start compared to Ireland and I didn’t think I’d understand anything. Although some classes were really difficult like Maths and German the teachers never gave out to me because I couldn’t answer a question or never told me to do something I didn’t want to do. The students were so helpful and really helped me improve my German. I have to say my time in Germany was definitely the best experience of my life. I enjoyed every moment. My German has improved so much and I could understand everything people were saying after a week. I am still in contact with the family and I would go back in the morning if I could! My best advice is to not book your return ticket and please don’t think that 5 weeks is a long time because it flies around, also bring a notebook or something to write down all the new phrases / vocabulary you learn and finally just enjoy this opportunity because it is so beneficial and its such great fun!! 

Hey, My name is Sarah, and I went to Spain on an exchange for the month of April in the year of my Transition year. I went to a town just outside Madrid called Galapagar. A town I quickly began to love. As soon as I arrived into Spain, any worries disappeared as my excitement was booming.

I was so lucky to have gotten such a generous and caring family that was so perfectly fit for me. I got on so well with them, I was more than delighted. I couldn't have been luckier. The Cordova family made my experience so much more enjoyable. I can't stress enough how kind and welcoming they were to me. They didn't feel like strangers to me at all. 
I was expecting to be home sick and was so shocked at myself to say the least as not a day went by that I didn't love being away from home. I was a typical Irish person who packed a load of shorts, completely oblivious that Spanish don't wear shorts in April in an around that area of Spain for its not short worthy yet. I learned it the hard way but now know to be more prepared and inquire. This experience defiantly improved my Spanish and understanding of it, as the most difficult thing to grasp, was understanding what they were saying. It's completely different to learning it in school. Which is why I would highly recommend an exchange as you'll learn more in a month then you would learning it in a year at school. (Possibly all the three years I've been learning it.) School was different over there but once you start talking to others and put yourself out there by making the effort, everything becomes much more beneficial for yourself and better for those around you. You Make friends and have a great time.
While over there, I was still brought to the gym three times a week and given the freedom to train. My parents over there were so good to me! I also attended Zumba classes with the girl I was staying with, once a week. It was a great bonding session and a tough workout.  I not only improved my Spanish, but I gained a new friend that I plan to keep for life and a new love for the Spanish people, cuisine, language and the country. I'm dying to return. I will now be hosting Mariana as she will be coming over to Ireland in August. I'm so excited and I hope she will enjoy the experience as much as I did which I'm sure she will. I will forever remember this experience, and only a single month. For me I found too short, I Would have loved to stay longer but before I left I didn't want to take the risk. I never thought I would have loved it so much. It was hard leaving for I become so close to those I lived with, and felt like a member of their family.  I will be forever grateful to my Spanish family. I had an unbelievable time over there thanks to them. We visited many towns and landmarks. Even one of the Seven Wonders Of the World (the Monastery in El Escorial) Its amazing, what a perfectly fit family, enthusiasm and an open mind can make you achieve and have the time of your life. I also made an Irish friend over there and we rarely crossed paths but when we did we had great chats comparing our experiences, and like me she was extremely lucky with her family and was loving the experience just as much as myself. It was good to know I wasn't the only person struggling at the beginning but slowly noticed my own improvement. BEST EXPERIENCE I could have hoped for and I learned many life lessons along the way about traveling alone etc. 
Not a single bad thing I could say. I was so lucky to have experienced it the way I did. No regrets.


I arrived in Madrid airport on Saturday April 2nd to do a Spanish exchange with Laura Lopez. I already knew Laura from when she stayed in my house and we got on really well. From the moment I met Laura and Ana in the airport I knew it was going to be a great four weeks. We went from the airport to Laura’s brother’s football match where we met her dad, Javier, and her brother, also Javier. The family made me feel very welcome and Laura always helped me when I didn’t understand things. She made my time in Spain very pleasant and enjoyable. My Spanish improved hugely because when didn’t understand something, instead of telling me the word in English she would explain it in Spanish. Within the first two days I found myself even thinking in Spanish when I was by myself or going to bed.  Monday April 4th I went to Laura’s school, colegio Gondomar. When I arrived all the teachers introduced themselves. I went to class and Laura’s friends were all so nice to me. They made me feel welcome and included me in everything they did. They talked about what they would like to bring me to such as Madrid centre, a theme park, ice skating. I felt so lucky to meet all these girls. The classes were challenging because the teacher talked very fast and I understood very little but by the end I found I understood a lot more. Some teachers gave me work and tests which I didn’t mind because my Spanish was improving. I also liked it because in history they asked me to write about an important person in Irish history and I got to write about Patrick Pearse.

On the weekends Laura and her family and friends brought me on outings which I loved. The first Saturday her friends brought me to Madrid. I didn’t do much shopping but I saw loads of famous places in Madrid and got a lot of photos to remember it. We saw the opera, the king’s palace, the plaza mayor, the temple of Debod and more. We had dinner together in Madrid and took the metro to the bus stop. I had such a good time in Madrid centre, it is a beautiful place and I will never forget it. I also went to places outside Madrid with Laura and her family such as Segovia and Avila; in Segovia I saw historic monuments that were so beautiful such as the aqueduct and the monastery. We also went to Escorial which was very nice. My time in Madrid went to fast and before I knew it I was in the last week. In school on the last day they threw me a little surprise party. They filled the board with writing and gave me a present of a t-shirt, which they all signed, and a photo of the whole class. I was so sad that I had to say goodbye to all of them then. Hopefully it wasn’t my last time seeing them but I will really miss them all.  On the last night we went to dinner with the whole family, including her cousin and her Irish exchange student. It didn’t feel like the next day I would be home in Ireland. I enjoyed every moment of my trip and I was so sad to leave.  I got on so well with everyone. Her family were very nice to me while I was there and made me feel at home. All of Laura’s friends made sure I was having the best time I could I am so grateful for that. Laura is a lovely girl and I am so lucky I got to do the exchange with her. I made an amazing friend that I hope to stay in touch with for a very long time.


My name is Sara.  I’m 15 from Wexford. I wanted to do an exchange because I thought it would be interesting to learn about a new culture and improve my Spanish. The girl came over here first, I was really nervous in case we didn’t get along but we were really lucky and got along really well. She came over at the end of August for two months. She came to my school and got along really well with everyone and made loads of new friends. I was really sad when she left and I was looking forward to seeing her again in January. Because we got along so well I wasn’t that nervous about going over I was just really excited. When I arrived I was instantly made feel at home. In Spain they were still on their Christmas holidays because they celebrate Christmas differently. They celebrate the day the three king came to see Jesus in the manger. So on the 5th of January they have a parade. We went into a town called Escorial to see the parade. We met up with people from school in there. In the parade the three kings throw sweets out it was really fun and a good way to get to know the people. The next day the three kings came to the house and gave presents like how Santa does in Ireland. School started that Friday I was kind of nervous but excited. Everyone was really nice to me and really friendly. It was a lot different to my school in Ireland. The biggest difference was that it was mixed, my school in Ireland is an all-girls catholic school.  School started at nine same as in Ireland but on Fridays it finished at half two. The others days it finished at different times usually around five and classes were an hour long. Lunch was longer and we got food there. At the start it was really hard because when lots of people were talking I would get lost in the conversation but after about two weeks I began to understand what they were talking about. Everyone was really helpful and if I was trying to say something they would help me. We visited Madrid a couple of times. We went to El Prado, Soralla’s house, we went to  a café where they sell these Spanish doughnuts called churros. You dip them into hot chocolate and they were delicious.  We also went to a town called Avila it was an old medieval town. For any Irish people that go over I think it’s important that they know when you greet people you have to give them kisses on each cheek. All in all I really enjoyed my time in Spain and I would definitely recommend any one to do an exchange especially in ty you will not regret it. I never felt home sick and the time I felt most sad was when I was going home. I will definitely never  forget my time in Spain and will stay in touch with Lorena.

3rd October 19th
My name is Laura
and I am 15 years old. I travelled to Germany for almost 3
months and it was one of the best experiences of my life.
I left Dublin airport on the 3rd of October filled with mixed emotions. I was sad to
be leaving my family and friends behind, nervous for the flight and meeting the
family but I was mostly excited for the journey ahead.
When I arrived it was a major shock having to speak another language all of a
sudden. However I had nothing to fear as the family were so kind to me and
immediately did everything in their power to make me feel welcome. I knew right
from the start we were going to get on brilliant and we did!
The first 2 weeks was midterm break in Germany so I had no school. This gave
me a great opportunity to get to know the family and my exchange partner,
Lavinia, a bit better. It also allowed me to get used to my surroundings, do a little
bit of exploring and meet some of Lavinia's closest friends outside the school
environment. I thoroughly enjoyed having this opportunity before beginning
The first day of school was very worrying. I was so nervous about what all my
new classmates would think of me. The fact that I might not have been able to
understand everyone all of the time and how I might not have been able to say
what was on my mind at times worried me a lot. Little did I know I had nothing to
worry about. I quickly realised that everyone was so kind and friendly towards me
and I adapted really well into German school life.
School was very different in Germany. The first major difference was that we
wore our own clothes to school rather than a school uniform. I liked having the
comfort of my own clothes but it was a little annoying having to pick out a new
outfit everyday. Another major difference was being in a mixed school.
Here in Ireland I attend an all girls catholic school and being in a mixed school
was totally new to me. However, I really enjoyed being in school with boys. The
days in Germany began very early, 6am. This was difficult to get used to at the
beginning but the reward was getting to finish school at 1:30pm every day!
At the beginning I found it difficult to speak German. I had only been learning the
language for 3 years in school but I knew the basics of the language. It was very
strange for the first few days listening to everyone speaking in German but after
a week or two I began to get used to it.
During the first month I did a lot of listening rather than talking. I found it
frustrating at times not being able to say what was on my mind but if I was having
any difficulties, many people around me, in school and at home, could use their
English language skills to help me. By the time of the second month, I began to
talk more and my bubbly, positive personality finally began to show. I started to
be able to be myself a lot more and people began to see the real me. When the
third and final month came, I was able to have a fluent conversation with
someone, understanding most words and saying what I thought without having to
put too much effort in. It all began to come naturally to me.
Throughout my trip I did so many amazing things and visited so many wonderful
places. I travelled to cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Oberhausen and Hamm
and undertook activities such as bowling, shopping, eating in restaurants, baking
and doing art. I visited some brilliant places such as the zoo, the cinema on a few
occasions, restaurants, a theme park by the name of ‘Movie Park’, Christmas
markets and shopping centres. One of my favourite trips was when my family
and I travelled to Cologne for the day and visited the Lindt chocolate museum,
the Cathedral and even did a bit of shopping. Another great day I had was a trip
to the zoo with my school friends. We spent a brilliant day in the zoo looking at all
the animals and having great fun together and afterwards we headed into the city
for a beautiful meal in a lovely restaurant and did some shopping in the local
Christmas markets.
Overall, I loved this experience so much. Words cannot describe the fun I had
and the memories I made will never be forgotten. I learned so much not only
around the German language but around their culture and customs too. I would
hope that this knowledge will help me go through life with more of an
understanding of others. If I got the opportunity to do this again, I would go in a
heartbeat. I would suggest to anyone who has the opportunity to go on an
exchange to do it! Take the chance and mark my words, you will not be sorry!

Experience of Germany: Philip Conroy

I left Ireland at on 19th September 2015, having booked an exchange with German student Konstantin “Konsti” König through TY Europe months earlier. I arrived at 11:25 with Aer Lingus in Flughaffe München, collected my check-in-bag, and met the König family for the first time. I was driven home alongside Konsti in the back of Katrin’s (the mother) BMW. We arrived home at Am Blumengarten 8, in the suburbs of München, having passed a few buildings on the way home such as a Fujitsu building, an impressive sculpture and the Allianz Arena, home to the pride of the freestate of Bayern, FC Bayern München, the German football champions. I was shown around the house by Konsti and then unpacked. That night I saw München for the first time, when we took the U-bahn (underground train) to the city centre. The next day we saw a movie with Konsti’s friends, and I hardly understood any of the fast-speaking German voice actors! The day I arrived was the first day of the world-renowned beer festival, the ‘Oktoberfest’. I saw lot through this festival. People came from all over the world to celebrate in the festival. The traditional dress, ‘Liederhosen’ for men and ‘Dirndl’ for women. Mainly because of this festival, there are six separate beer brands from München.
Monday came and I got up earlier than I do in Ireland, at 7 o clock and had muesli. We cycled in early so we could go to the school office and get a form to say that I was an exchange student. The school was called Albert Einstein Gymnasium (secondary school in German), named after Albert Einstein obviously, the world famous scientist who lived in the 50s, who actually attended the school! The teachers signed the form every new class. We cycled to school every day, except one where we were going into town with the class.The first day passed slowly. I got home at 3:30, as Mondays were the longest days of the week. I attended Konsti’s Karate class on Monday evening, which was interesting and similar to the Taekwondo class I do in Ireland. On Tuesday, we had dinner with some friends. After that we went to the Allianz Arena, to witness Bayern München destroy Wolfsburg 5-1, with all goals coming from from Robert Lewandowski, in the space of nine minutes!! Wednesday came and Konsti had a bad headache and stomach pain, so I stayed out of school, for that day and then Thursday too. Alex, Konsti’s sister plays football, and so that Wednesday evening I went to the ladies’ football training! Katrin brought me to a German supermarket and on Thursday showed me around München some more, around Mariensplatz and the Viktualiensmarkt, where I tried a typical Bavarian food: Bratwurst (type of sausage). Fridays we had P.E. where we played football and was very fun. On Saturday we went into the city centre (Katrin, Konsti, Alex and I). There we took three hop-on bus tours of München. I saw the beautiful Nymphenburg Palace, the BMW (Bayerischen Motor Werken) headquarters and museum, the famous area of Müchen, Schwabing and the amazing Olympic Park that hosted the 1982 München/Munich summer Olympic games. The next day we went to the local church, which was almost impossible to understand, espiecially with an Indian priest taking the Mass! Monday I went to school, where I attended a ‘Muttersprache’ or fluent speakers English class, where I felt at home speaking English there. The week passed relatively quickly, I went to Karate as normal on Monday, Football on Wednesday and Friday, and I walked with Katrin and Gina, their dog while Konsti did golf. That weekend we met up with Konsti’s friends and went into München and saw different parts. On Sunday we met with Konsti’s school friends and went into the ‘wiesen’ or the Oktoberfest to Sendlingor Tor. We went on many rollercoaster rides and got bratwurst and gebrannte mandeln, which are sweetened almonds and enjoyed widely in Bavaria, it was a good day out. The next week was eventful. On Tuesday we went into München with the class and did a sort of ‘Treasure hunt’, where we had to find out several pieces of information from buildings surrounding the centre, which was very fun. I learned more about München, and that it had been the capital of Bavaria (which had existed before the unification of Germany) and an important city for politics, arts and protection. Alex left for college on Wenesday, so me an Konsti got the tram to Karate and I finished with the football training.  I didn’t go to Konsti’s golf on Thursday, as I worked on a project for back in Ireland, but I wrote it in German! On Friday we had a half class of P.E. as we helped out with moving papers down to the storeroom in the basement of the school. Saturday was the the beginning of my last weekend, and we got up at 6am to drive to Neuschwanstein, a very famous castle in Bayern, which the Disney castle is based off of, and where ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ was set. We also saw the Wienkirche, which was amzing with many statues and paintings. The next day we played football and went for a long cycle in the Perlacher Forst, an absolutely massive forested area just outside München. The air was very fresh and there was a  lot of people going running, cycling, walking and rollerblading even there! It came to my last week there. I went to Karate as per usual on Monday and Wednesday and on Thursday I stayed out of school to go to the Englisch Gartens (English Gardens) with Katrin and I got a few presents for friends an family. Friday was my last day, and I said goodbye to people I’d met and we had a football match in P.E. Later that day I went on a cycle around the area to reflect on everything that had happened over the last 4 weeks. I had had a great time and could think of no bad memory or awkward moment, apart from the time we were doing reading in class and I had forgot my sheet but that was fine! I’m so glad that the exchange worked out so well and I will certainly keep in touch with Konsti and his family!


My name is sue I am 16 and I went to Tuebingen in Germany in February/March 2015. I was late I deciding to do an exchange but still managed to organize one with the help of Jane to go a few weeks later.  I was matched with Anke who I then emailed to get to know her. I was really excited to go to Germany but nervous to go by myself for 5 weeks. When I got to Germany I met Anke and her family and knew that I was going to be ok and that i would have fun over there. I got to experience lots of aspects of German culture when I was over there. The first weekend we celebrated her granddads birthday with a meal out in a restaurant, and my last weekend there we celebrated her other grandmother’s birthday.  I was really nervous about school in Germany but everyone there was really nice and welcoming and I made friends easily. Anke did other languages as well so I was lucky enough to be able to do extra German classes while she had these. Some classes were very difficult like chemistry and maths but I took in what I could and asked Anke questions after class. It’s safe to say English was my favourite class because I was able to understand everything and everyone loved to hear my Irish accent! School was very different to Irish school but I liked not to have a uniform and that the school days were much shorter.  I was also lucky enough to get to go skiing with Anke, her family and a few other German families in Switzerland while I was there. It was difficult at first to understand everyone there as they had very strong  accents, but nevertheless I enjoyed skiing very much and it really improved my German and understanding of dialect!  I had a great time in Germany and did a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally do here in Ireland. I went to big basketball matches, I went shopping in outlets (with stores such as Calvin Klein and Michael Kors), I went ice skating and I went to different theatre plays. When I was in Tuebingen, Trinity College Dublin happened to come to perform ‘the playboy of the western world’ in German in the town university! This was funny to hear Irish accents after 4 weeks of only hearing German being spoken.  I also got to play tennis, my favourite sport while I was in Germany. Anke’s father played in the local tennis club and arranged for me to join some training sessions which I was delighted about. It was great to improve my sport and the language at the same time. I also made more friends through playing tennis and got to play with lots of different people. All in all I couldn’t recommend an exchange to Germany enough! I learned so much German there and more colloquial language that we wouldn’t learn in school. As well as this I learned a lot about the culture and really enjoyed my stay and am hoping to go back again this year to visit!

My name is Taylor, I'm 16 and I only recently returned from a 2 week home stay during the summer in a town outside of Barcelona, Spain. It was truly one of the best experiences I have ever had. I study Spanish at home by myself and so many times I have considered an exchange, but the idea of being with a different family in a different country worried me a little. I thought of all the usual things, would I be shy or uncomfortable? Would I be homesick and change my mind half way through my stay? Once I showed my interest to Jane, she helped me and advised me and matched me up with an amazing family with 3 daughters, who I got on really well with. I was very fortunate with the family I stayed with, they made me so comfortable and helped me loads and I can say that there wasn't one moment throughout my time there when I felt sad or lonely. There were days spent on the beach, shopping, going to concerts and festivals, visiting cities and of course hanging out with so many nice people who helped me a lot with the language and understood the situation I was in. I had no time to miss home because I was so busy each day doing fun and interesting things. I had to accept that there was going to be moments where I didn't understand what I was being told, but the main thing was to laugh it off and learn from the mistakes I made. I'll greatly miss the food I had too, for breakfast, lunch and especially the main meal. The mother of the house was a brilliant cook and I was always excited for meal times. The one thing I'd have to mention about Barcelona and the area of Cataluña, is that its main language is Catalan, and it is spoken by all natives there. The language is seen on signposts on roads, it is spoken on some TV channels and radio stations and it is the preferred spoken language of people in the area. I heard a lot of Catalan spoken during my stay, however the family and people I was with made a great effort to speak only Spanish with me, but for some people, they might prefer to be in an area where they are immersed only in Spanish. The important part was that I improved greatly in the language, both speaking and listening, and it's an experience that you can't gain from studying at home. It's the friendships and people who you meet that make the trip special, and without a doubt, I would love to go on another home stay or exchange next summer, but for longer. I think the longer you're there, the more beneficial it is. I'm very appreciative of Jane's help, this couldn't have been done without her, and of course the brilliant family that I stayed with. I would recommend this to anyone who has a strong drive for improving a language that they're learning.

My name is Mae, I am 14 years old and I went on a one month exchange to Germany. My brothers had gone on an exchange the year before so I wasn’t too nervous about going. My exchange student came to Ireland in April and I returned to Germany in June. I was looking forward to meeting my exchange student again as we got on really well. On my first day I quickly realised how little German I understood and I found that it was even harder to talk. My first week in Germany we had holidays, I thought this was good as it gave me a chance to get to know the family before going to school. During the holidays I travelled to the local cities/towns with my exchange student, her sister and some friends. I enjoyed this and felt that it made it easier when I went to school. During the holidays I went to Austria with my exchange family where we went hiking, bobsleighing and we went on gondolas. I found this really enjoyable and felt that I got to know the family better over this two night stay. During my first week in Germany I quickly learned that not knowing the past tense was a big problem. As I am only in second year we hadn’t learned the past tense in school. My exchange student and her sister, who was one year younger than me, gave me a crash course on how to use the past tense. This helped a lot as in school many people asked about what I had done during the holidays or at the weekend. School was enjoyable although I couldn’t understand most of what the teachers said. I made some good friends in school. We had to get up at half past six every morning for school and I found this hard as I am used to getting up at half past seven for school. The weather was really warm for a few days and I was delighted to get a chance to go to a Freibad (outdoor pool). My exchange student and her sister did kickboxing and I got to train with them. I really enjoyed this as I got to try out a new sport that I wouldn’t have gotten to try otherwise. I was surprised to find it quite challenging but still thoroughly enjoying. I thought that the food was really nice, especially breakfast, however they ate a lot more pasta and fewer potatoes. I got to try Wiener Schnitzel and a Doner Kebab which I really liked. I got on really well with my exchange family and it made it really easy to stay there for a month without getting homesick. My exchange went really quickly and I can't believe it is already over. I would recommend it to anyone learning a language as I think my German really improved during my stay. Thank you to Jane, Claudia and my exchange family for making my stay in Germany both possible and enjoyable.        

My Name is Marie and I am 16 years old from Waterford. I have just returned from a one month exchange in Beauvais, France for the month of May. I stayed with the Chatelard family. The girl I was doing the exchange with was the same age as me she also had an older sister that is 19. This was the perfect time for me to go because not much was happening in this month and transition year was coming to an end. I had been to France before on holidays twice but this turned out to be completely different to actually living like a French person. The longest I had been away from home was two weeks so as you could guess I was quite nervous about going away by myself for four weeks. Without a doubt it was the best experience I had encountered. As it was a totally different way of living. I was the one who wanted to go on the exchange so my parents weren’t forcing me. We found out about this exchange from the internet. Thanks to Jane for finding such a suitable family and student who had so much in common and got on with so well. It only hit me that I was actually doing this when I arrived at the airport in France I began to feel a bit nervous. When I met them they were so kind and understanding but it was a bit of a shock when they suddenly started speaking French and I couldn’t understand. The day after I got there they brought me to a theme park which was fun and this helped me to get to know my exchange student. I had two weeks holidays and two weeks of school which was a nice mix of both. During my first week I went to the familys holiday house in Brittany were we did lots of activities outside like swimming at the beach, walking and running. The weather was not as hot as I was expecting but it was still quite good. I realised how difficult it was to form sentences from the words I understood and so I found it hard to speak at the start of my trip. I went to school by myself because my exchange student Aglae went to a boarding school which I was unable to go to. I was nervous the first day but I made great friends in my class, everyone was so friendly. The other students and teachers were very welcoming but it was very hard to follow the teacher because my French wasn’t good enough. Lunch was a proper dinner unlike what we eat in Ireland for lunch. I loved being able to try lots of new foods. I felt tired as I wasn’t use to the long days of school and the classes which lasted an hour. I went to Paris twice. This was my favourite day as I got to go shopping and see all the tourist attractions. The family put a lot of effort into keeping me entertained during my stay. On my third week I started to miss people at home but I thought that I just need to make the most of my time here. I think two months would have been a better length of time  to go for as I think I would have learned a lot more in this amount of time. I have become more independent and confident after this. I would definitely recommend doing an exchange with Ty Europe because I had a once in a lifetime experience that I won’t forget.

Sinead’s exchange in France
I decided that I would like to go to France for an exchange to improve my French and to experience French culture. I choose to do transition year so I was able to go on an exchange for two months to the north of France. Let me tell how scared I was when it finally hit me that I would be leaving my family and friends for two whole months! I was going to be gone for the months of March and April. My parents flew out with for the weekend and met my exchange’s family, which I think work out very well.  When I first came to France I really didn’t know what to expect but I found my first week really enjoyable. My exchange Sophie was on her winter holidays so we had a week together before school started and that suited me perfectly. I was very apprehensive to start school so I was glad of the week’s holidays. When school started I became very homesick and wanted to go home desperately.  In the beginning I found school extremely difficult and I also found the days very long, as we had to get up every morning at six am. In France school starts at eight o’clock and ends at half five, so this was another big adjustment for me. Most of the schools in France are mixed and the students wear their own clothes. The classes are an hour long compared to our forty minutes here in Ireland.  One thing that I loved about my experience in France was the French food! Every day at around four o’clock we would have a gôuter- which is an afternoon snack and literally translates to taste. This would consist of a hot drink- hot hocolate/tea/coffee , bread or biscuits. Bread is very important to the French so it is eaten at every meal. Although my exchange and I are very different, I think that my exchange to France was very successful and by the end of it I was sad to leave as I had made so many new friends and my French was progressing well. I would love to go back to France next year.

My Experience in France
I went to stay with a family in Suresnes, Paris for a month. I was really nervous leaving my family and going to a completely strange one! I was also nervous because my exchange partner was two years younger than me and I didn’t know if we would get along well. The first two weeks I was there Armance (my partner) was on her Easter holidays from school and the second two weeks I attended school with her. On my first full day she brought me into Paris city. We saw the Arc de Triomphe and went shopping on the Champs-Elysees. She told me about the architecture of the Arc and the meaning of everything. She brought me along the Champs-Elysees and showed me all the cool shops that were there. She introduced me to some of her friends, we had lunch with Marc Alexandre, we played cards with Fleur and we went to the Olympic pool with Victoire and Marc Alexandre. The first week was the hardest to understand the family speak to me in French and ask me things, I wasn’t used to the accent. At this stage I was thinking “I am never going to be able to talk back to them”! But I thought wrong! By the second week I started to catch a few more words than before and I could understand what the family were asking me sometimes! On the second week they brought me to Cap-Ferret in Bordeaux. It was the hardest week for me because I became a bit homesick and we were staying in a house with her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins also. I felt like I was intruding on something. However, I ended up having a good time, her relatives were very kind and included me in everything and her little cousins were adorable! The third week was great! I got to go to her school with her. Their schooling system is very different to ours so I thought it was really interesting to see it! There were 300 students in her year alone! Which is the same amount in two years in my school so it was a bit over-whelming. I met all her friends and they were so lovely and kind to me. I’ll never forget their kindness towards me and their willingness to include me. That weekend was the marking of the end of World War 2. Her and her mother took me to the Eiffel Tower and on a bike ride from the tower to Notre Dame. They also brought me to Chateaux de Versailles, which was so beautiful. At this stage I could understand the family most of the time and it was easier to talk back to them in French. The fourth week came and I realized that it was almost time to go home and that I was really going to miss her family and friends. Her friends all came over for a crepes and waffles party to say goodbye. I also got to go to La defense shopping centre and to scouts with Armance. In the end I had nothing to worry about. I got on really well with my partner, her family and her friends. I would recommend an experience like this to everyone it was a great opportunity and I definitely improved my French!

Back in September my parents suggested I go on an exchange to France, I said “why not” because I wouldn’t be doing anything else during the year. My Mam found TY Europe and we arranged an exchange with Augustin and his family, to this day I am very grateful to my parents for suggesting it.
Prior to my one month exchange I had pre conceived ideas of what my family would be like, what France would be like, and the one question I kept asking myself was: “Will I survive?”
When I arrived at the airport I was met by Augustin and his mother, they were both very kind from the very beginning. We drove to their lovely house in the Parisian suburbs and after that I had no worries, although I couldn’t speak much French to begin with I strangely felt at ease amongst the family. On the first day, a Saturday, myself and Augustin went into Paris to see his friends and to go to a rugby match in Stade Francais. Augustin and his friends spoke some English so we were able to communicate through bits of French and bits of English, but, they were adamant to help me improve my French which was great because I love the French language. I had been to Paris before with my family but being there with people who knew the city, not just for its touristy regions was an enlightening experience.
On the Monday we had to get up at around 6.30 to catch multiple trains to boarding school in Reims, which was around an hour and a half journey. When we got there I was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and kind each and every friend of Augustin’s was. The weeks at school flew by because I was so busy, the school days are longer but on some days we had long breaks so we could go into town for food or just to chill out, those few hours were my favourite hours during the week. At night, we slept in what’s called a pension, basically just a dormitory with shared bedrooms. There were ten of us to a room and we shared a big bathroom. I always looked forward to the night time, partly because I was so tired and also because of how fun it was. Throughout the school there was a great community spirit. I could go on forever but I don’t want to be a bore.
All in all it was a great month, if I could change anything it would be the fact that I only went for a month and not two. Towards the end of my stay my French was starting to get a lot better and I feel an extra few weeks would had been even better. If you’re reading this , not sure if you want to go on an exchange or not I will say you should, it is daunting , it is a journey into the unknown, but I guarantee it is a worthwhile experience and one I will never forget.
I did Survive, it was easy.
Thank you Jane for organising the exchange, I will never forget my month in France.

Since I've started learning German I've always wanted the chance to go to Germany, speak the language and experience what life is like in Germany. Thanks to Jane and the team at Ty Europe I was able to do exactly this. TY was the perfect opportunity for me to go and this was one of the main reasons I chose to do it.  After finding TY Europe and after eventually convincing my parents to let me take part on an exchange to Germany ( the idea of me going away from home to Germany for a few months at 16 was daunting to them) the rest was organised fairly quickly. I had certain allergies that needed to be taken into account but nevertheless an exchange family was found for me and I was to spend 2 months in Dusseldorf. My exchange partner came over first but as he had exams he could only stay for one month. Unfortunately we didn't get to talk to each-other before his arrival, which for the first day, made things a bit awkward. But the rest of his time here flew.  Then after Christmas I finally flew to Dusseldorf. The first week I was there things felt really strange, I was in a new country with only one person I knew and I had to adjust to a new lifestyle, daily routine and hangout with new people. By the second week I began to feel at home and speaking with my parents after the first week really put me at ease. I met Claudia during the second week and knowing she was always there at the end of the phone if I ever needed anything really helped also. The rest of my time in Dusseldorf just flew by, I couldn't believe it. While I was there I saw and experienced some amazing things like Karneval, the Ruhr valley , the TV tower and I got to see some really nice parts of Dusseldorf. I loved Germany so much that near the end of the second month I begged my parents to let me stay for another while. As my first family were going on holiday I needed another family if I was going to stay longer so they contacted Jane and within a couple of days Claudia had found me a really nice family in Köln. I got the train from Dusseldorf to Köln and met Claudia at the station. After a trip to a panorama point of Köln City she brought me to the new family. This time there was a lad my age which made things easier to settle in. Again the first week was a bit strange, staying with a new family with different routines but it felt easier. The only complaint I could have was that I had to get up at 06:30 for school each morning which for me was near impossible at the beginning.  This time I got to see more and a different part of Germany. I got to see the Kölner Dom, Aachen and the Aachener Dom, celebrate Easter (which was really cool), Drei land punkt and loads more. It also happened that it was my birthday while I was there. It was really nice, the table was decorated with my name in gummy bears and my age in smarties when I woke up and beside this was presents and a really really nice chocolate cake. I also got cards from home and then Claudia came around later that day for a get together with me and the family where we had the cake and coffee and talked a lot. Unfortunately I could only stay 5 weeks in Köln as I had to be back for the last month of school in Ireland. I couldn't believe how the time flew and how fast the whole experience was over and I really wanted to stay longer but unfortunately I couldn't.  My whole German experience was just amazing, there was nothing I didn't like: the food (probably liked it a bit too much) , the people were so friendly, the cities , the sights , the language and the families. Settling back in in Ireland after 13 weeks being away felt weird and I'm still missing Germany, but glad to be home and so so so happy that I did this exchange. It is truly an amazing and once in a lifetime experience to have and I'll definitely be going back in the future. I can't believe how much it improved my German and I feel really confident already for the LC but the exchange didn't only improve my German, I've become a better person since going, before I went I was a bit reserved but since spending time in Germany with Germans (they're mad) I've become more outgoing, open and confident . I would definitely recommend everyone to take part on this programme for as long as you can, I would of stayed a year if I could and TY is the perfect opportunity for people to do this. Thanks to Jane,  Claudia and the two families for giving me this amazing experience.

My name is Cliodhna, I did a home stay in Spain for 5 weeks. I stayed with a loving and caring family that made me feel more than welcome in their home. I would highly recommend this for anyone looking to improve their Spanish. I found it a very good but also at times difficult experience as I have never been away from my family for 5 weeks before. There were days that I got a little  upset but  I would always try to think positive as I would and I would say to myself ' tomorrow is a new day '. While I was there, the family took me shopping, skiing, touring and they also took me to their  gatherings as they were Jehovah witness's ,At these meetings I got to meet new people from the community, they made me feel more than welcome. I found it a quite strange religion as they don't celebrate special occasions like Christmas , Easter and  birthdays. I learnt about their religion too while I was their. I found the school was quite different from at home , because their class hours were longer, they have one lunch break, and I didn't find it as strict as I would here. Also what I found different was the siesta time and the fact that they eat late at night with several courses of food. I was so lucky to get a lovely family like the Monroy family, the mum bought me lots of small gifts to bring home and I made lots of new friends in Spain. I would also recommend for people to bring a dictionary or have a translation app on your phone as I did find that helped. 

Since Odhran started learning the German language it was his wish that he would spend some time in Germany. He loves the language and is very interested in its culture and people. He got the opportunity, through TY Europe, to go on an exchange to Dusseldorf in January. Odhran's original exchange was for two months but because he was enjoying the experience so much he asked to stay longer. His original exchange family were going abroad so that was not an option but his German TY co-ordinator Claudia worked tirelessly and found him another lovely family in Cologne, who welcomed him and us if we wish to visit! He will be staying another six weeks. We have been overwhelmed by the kindness and welcome given to Odhran by everyone during this amazing experience.
  TY Europe offers a professional, safe and very reasonably priced exchange programme. We liked the fact that each family fills in a comprehensive form so we knew a lot about the family before we agreed to an exchange.  We had specific needs as Odhran has a nut allergy and asthma and were concerned that this might hinder his chances. However it was not a problem and we were assured by both of the families that he was in safe hands. We had our exchange student, Nick, with us for a month and it was a very interesting and enriching experience for us and hope to have him come back in the future. The most difficult part of the exchange for Odhran will be when he has to leave Germany. He has immersed himself in this German experience and  the proof of this has been seen already. He told me that he had seen a Leaving Cert Mock paper and he could do it all no problem. I am certain that Odhran will want another exchange before his Leaving Cert and we will certainly encourage it. We would like to thank Jane and Claudia for all their help, support and kindness to Odhran and ourselves.

I heard about TY Europe from a friend, and I won’t lie, I was dubious of an internet company at the beginning! However, all my worries were quickly washed away when I met the team behind this extraordinary organisation. I quickly realised that I was in safe, experienced and kind hands.    My trip to France was simply a fairytale! I was staying in the Alps with a very kind and helpful French family, whom I really enjoyed. Since I was there in February, the amount of snow was out of this world and a huge novelty to me! I was super lucky as my French family were huge fans of the outdoors and I went skiing most days!    The culture differences were immense! Their food and eating habits varied considerably to my own in Ireland. I was never hungry and I really enjoyed the strange, but delicious, food.    I attended school for 3 weeks, which was an eye opening experience for me! Coming from a small school, with a uniform and mountains of books, the French school system was a huge change. I sincerely enjoyed my weeks at school and saying goodbye to my new friends was a sad occasion.    During my first week, I wasn’t home sick at all, however during my second week, I was. The euphoria of arriving had vanished and I missed my family and friends. I found that Barry’s tea and only ringing home every 3 or 4 days kept the home sickness away and by the start of the third week I was back to my usual self. I realised that this was a once in a life time opportunity and it shouldn’t be wasted pining for the rain.    I was extremely lucky that I was placed with an outstanding French family, who were simply excellent to me. They gently corrected my French as I spoke, lent me French books and participated in endless riveting conversations. I was sad to say goodbye to them at the airport as they were truly a wonderful family.    I would recommend TY Europe to anybody! I really feel that my French has improved massively and even now I find myself speaking in French when I don’t mean to! This organisation is outstanding and I had constant contact with the French correspondent in France, who contacted me regularly to ensure I was ok. It was definitely the best experience I have ever had and I am so so so so happy I did it!

When I began TY and even through the summer of 2014, I knew that I wanted to have an unforgettable experience to look back on in the future years. That's when I began to search the internet in hope that I would find something remotely like the 'something' that I was searching for. I wanted an experience that incorporated speaking constant French while skiing in my free time. That is when I came across TY Europe. It all happened extremely quickly from then on; Jane and Margit found me the most incredible family that I could ever have asked for. We skyped and sent e-mails to each other in the months before hand and then before I knew it, it was the 27th of December and I was on the plane heading for Combloux, Mont Blanc, France.
When I came out of arrivals on the other end, my French mother and father greeted me with hugs and kisses and were so happy to see me. From that moment on it was really full steam ahead with speaking French as my family spoke little English at home. So all the communication had to be through French. I was extremely lucky to find this family. They live in Combloux which is a popular ski resort and there was a ski lift 100 yards from the house (typical wooden, mountain ski chalet type). I could ski in/ski out from our back door. It was idylic for me because I am a keen skier. I had seven days holidays before school started, so I skied for those seven days. I found this was a good way to a build a nice relationship with the family, as I was spending the days eating, skiing and living with them. I really got to know the family in these first 7 days and I was introduced to all the close family members and friends.
School was an early rise at 6am because i took the bus at 7:15am with my french sister Philippine,who also attended the large secondary school in the nearby town. School was a little bit of a shock at first because I thought that the days were extremely long, as we took the bus home at 6 o clock in the evening. The first week in school I found was also very tiring because of the listening,understanding and speaking of French. Most of the other schools take Wednesdays off for skiing, but my school didnt. Saying that, my French mum and two younger brothers did. After the first week I did decide to take the Wednesday off to break up the long week. I found this very beneficial because It meant that I could ski/snowboard while still speaking French with my family. It was also just a coincidence that my classes in school did actually finish at 1 o clock anyway, so I didn't miss much school time.
Every weekend was a new experience, from skiing to snowboarding, to visiting the busy nearby ski resort towns. One of the Friday nights we headed off up the mountain by snow scootor and we had a typical French meal, fondu etc, in a cosy mountain restaurant and to top it all off we headed back down the mountain slipping and sliding by snow sledge.
I also learnt how to snowboard there towards the end of my experience. To get this opportunity was a miracle in itself but to be able to actually snowboard after just one day was an even bigger miracle. I was privileged to have such a good teacher with so much experience.
For me, I wouldn't be able to pick out the highlight because the whole 5 and a half weeks was the highlight in itself. I was incredibly lucky to find such an amazing family and that we are still in very much close contact, and will be visiting each other over the coming months. I was also so lucky to be able to ski as often as I did. This has been one of the best experiences of my life and I will never forget what a wonderful time I had. And I thank Jane and Margit so much for giving me that opportunity in the first place.

Hi I'm Kelly and I'm just after spending 3 months in a small town called Villieu in Lyon, France.  I loved my time in France with the De Haas family. At the beginning I found it very difficult. I could barely understand anyone and I found it very difficult to hold any conversation in French.  The family couldn't have been nicer though. They helped me so much with my French and made it really easy for me to settle in. Sabine, the girl my age was lovely too. We liked all the same things and got on really well.  However, my first day at school was a different story altogether. I got a massive shock going into a school with 1500 people and they all chatting as fast as possible in French! I was in class 216 and knew nobody. I hadn't a clue what was going on. No one spoke to me the entire day. I couldn't even find Sabine at lunch because the school was so big.  I went home from school that day really upset and down in myself. Sabine's Mam came in and spoke to me, asking how the day went and I told her how I felt and what had happened. She was so lovely and understanding and the next day I was able to move to the same class as Sabine. I found this much easier and it helped a lot to have someone with me.
        It took about a month to settle fully and to start to make friends properly. It was around this time I got into the French culture too. Before this I couldn't speak much and could understand a little bit. One  month was the mark for me and finally I was starting to think in French. I could speak now without translating what I wanted to say in my head. I even dreamed in French!  The family took me on lots of trips, to do and see cool things, but my favourite was definitely 5 days spent in Paris during the October Mid Term for Sabine's sister's wedding. It was really good to see a French wedding and their different culture. We visited all the tourist places too; The Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, Notre Dame, Le Louvre, we went to a wax museum and to a little village called Monmatre where all the artists were, painting people on the side of the street! That was my favourite place in Paris, along with The Eiffel Tower of course!  I do a lot of sports here at home and it was strange for me to suddenly not do anything.  Then I started playing badminton on Wednesdays with the school and basketball on Thursdays .  Basketball was brilliant.  It was so easy to make friends with the girls and the trainer was so kind.  They welcomed me straight away and made me feel at home.  They had a going away party for me on my last day. :)  Another thing I loved was the food!  We had cheese every night after dinner. Yum!   I found the eating pattern hard to adjust to.  We had breakfast at 6:30 a.m.  Lunch, which  was like dinner at 12 or 1 o' clock and then dinner (supper) at 7 or 8.  Nothing in between!  I got used to it after a while however. I found the school day very long.  Too long!  School started at 8 and finished at 5 or 6, depending on your subjects.  Luckily, I finished at 5 every day.  We finished at 12 on Wednesday which was good.  It was too hard to concentrate for hours, especially as I was listening to French and was confused most of the time!.  Some subjects were easy, but some were really hard, Physics especially.  The first two weeks I was exhausted coming home but I got used to it with time, like coming to the end of my 3 months. Overall, my time in France was brilliant.  I became a stronger person from my experience of it.  It was the best decision I've ever made in my life! I made so many good friends and lots of good memories I'll never forget! I can definitely see myself going back to France in the future.  Maybe the summer before 6th year.  My 3 months in France helped my French enormously and i'll work hard to keep it up by listening to French radio or videos on the internet. I wold advise everybody to do an exchange and to stick it out through the tough times.  I'd also like to thank Jane and Margit for the calls and texts throughout and for helping and supporting me see it through

Michael French experience
I left to go to France on the 25th of October. When I arrived at the household of the host family it was very daunting. At the beginning I could barely understand what the family said to me which was strange because I thought I was good at French! I realised in France that language education in Ireland is not a very good preparation for the real world. When school started I was very nervous about the language and if the other students would accept me. To my surprise, from the minute I walked in the front doors I felt welcome. I must say there wasn’t one nasty or unwelcoming person in the school that I met. The classes were very hard to understand but it got a lot easier coming to the end of my time at the school. At home the family was incredibly nice to me, there wasn’t one time where I felt homesick or alone. The food was nice but the meat took a bit of getting used to. I was playing rugby three times a week over there. It was tough understanding the game the way they played it but like school it got easier after time. Every player made me feel like one of the team and there was a lot of joking and friendly banter. I`ve made so many new friends and learned so much French while I was there. In my opinion it was a great experience and I would not think twice about doing it again. I would highly recommend this to anybody wanting to learn French in the future.

Ulysse Barnard: This trip was awesome, clearly one of the best thing I’ve done in my life because it was so much longer and I had so much fun, the school was really good, the other students were very nice the teacher too, so everything was great everybody has done a lot of things to make me feel better. In TY (the year I was in) they do a lot of super activities like scary houses, ploughing championship, cinema, restaurants, …  At the beginning I had a lot of problems with the English but now I make some mistakes but no problems to speak with someone anymore. This school is so cool that I think that if I see my family for one week I can come back for 2 other month. If I can I’m going to come back next year. The only think I did not like in the school is the food is not healthy and it’s always the same thing every week but definitely this trip was a thing that you must do if you want to see your English improve. I can tell you that I’m really sad to live the school…

My name is Ailbhe Murphy and I am 16 years old and I did a months exchange. I live in Dublin, Ireland and I stayed in Beauvais, France for a month with the Chatelard family. I had an amazing experience. It was completely different than anything I have ever experienced in my life before. The first week I was there I attended a tennis camp with my exchange 14 year old Aglae. I had never played tennis before and didn’t know what to expect, at the end of the week I had a strong interest and liking for the sport. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I arrived the day they finished school for their Easter break. While I was there it was the older sisters Clementine’s 18th birthday. She was having a party. I was baffled by how different the culture was. It was incredible and was so cool to be able to have been a part of it. She had previously done an exchange with a girl from Cavan called Ruth, who she had invited over to attend the party. She arrived the day before the party, it was really nice to meet her and we all became good friends and it was fun to hear how her experience went and if she had any advice. She was a great help and encouraged me to make the most of my time there, to try speak as much French as I could and that my time there would fly by. I didn’t really believe her until I realized I only had 4 days left! We spent one week in there holiday home in Brittany. It was a beautiful place, the weather was good most days and there were plenty of things to do. We didn’t spend much time indoors, which was great. We cycled places and went for runs and explored new areas. We went out to eat a few times and it was amazing to taste all the different types of typical French food. My favorite dish to get was mussels and chips. I also enjoyed tasting the savory and sweet crepes. When we came back after a fabulous week away, I had school for a 7 days. It was difficult for the first few days to get into the routine of longer school days, different eating hours and longer classes. I 100% preferred the French school lifestyle and routines instead of the Irish schooling systems.  I didn’t feel like the day dragging out at all, which I often felt, was the case when I go to school in Ireland. It was probably the best part of the exchange experiencing the French lifestyle, meeting new French, hearing French all around me and also to see how English is taught in different countries.  I easily could have stayed another month with the Chatelard family. They made me feel so welcomed all the time and really I was so lucky to have gotten a family so kind as them. I highly recommend doing an exchange as I really felt it was one of the best decisions I have made in my life so far and it was extremely worthwhile. I also recommend the Jane O’Regan organization, as I felt so comfortable all along the way to call Jane at any stage. She was extremely helpful from start to finish and it made a huge difference to my trip.  I think 2 months might be the ideal time to go for as I spend my first month settling in and I think if I had stayed another month my French was have improved a hundred times more.


My name is Sarah, I have recently spent 8 weeks in Lerkusen, Germany.  I am a Transition Year Student so I felt it was the perfect opportunity to do a homestay.  Like most people I was a little apprehensive before I went however due to the fact that I was only assigned to a family about one month before my departure I really did not have that much time to be anxious.  I flew over with my dad, which was helpful and eased my nerves.  When we met the family at the airport I was immediately comfortable and reassured.  The first night away from home might have been difficult but I was so tired I feel straight to sleep.  I found the first day quite strange.  I suddenly found myself in another country with strange people and the reality of the huge language barrier became evident.  Everything around me felt so different.  After studying German for 3 years in Ireland I can honestly say that on the very first day I hardly understood a word.  The difference between learning a language in the classroom and having to speak it to communicate with people is huge.  I attended school for the eight weeks.  For learning purposes I was assigned to a class of students who were 14 years old which worked out very well and both the students and teachers were supportive and provided a lot of encouragement and explained words and phrases that I did not understand.  The classes were still very challenging, and instead of trying to understand everything, I decided to just listen and pick out various random words.  I then wrote a few new words in a copybook each day which really improved my vocabulary.  I shared a room where I stayed with Hannah with whom I got on very well.  She is 18 and was always so helpful.  This arrangement provided me the opportunity to be in regular conversation with someone and made learning very easy.  I feel that if I had my own room I might have communicated less with the family.  Hannah always made me feel welcome amongst her friends, inviting me to various social outings throughout my stay.  My host family also brought me to the cities of Cologne and Aachen which I loved.  Karneval a German festival consisting of parades and celebrations took place during my stay.  It lasted for a total of five days which gave me the opportunity to meet more people.  At the beginning I thought that 2 months was quite a long time but realistically the weeks pass so quickly that I would recommend anyone considering to do an exchange/home stay to spend no less than 6 weeks in the country.  I really started to notice a difference in my German after 5 weeks.  I was able to have a decent conversation with someone at this stage which made it easier to socialise with people.  I would recommend anyone doing Transition Year to strongly consider doing this.  For me it really made my year worthwhile and I don’t regret it for a second. I made so many friends which I hope to visit soon.  It was an incredible experience and I am truly grateful for it.

Hello! My name is Tara, I'm a 17 year old girl from Waterford. In 4th year I was supposed to go on a French exchange  with my school, but I was very disappointed  when the trip was cancelled. I love travelling and languages so I was really devastated when the French trip was cancelled. However, a few weeks later my parents found this website and we thought we should try it out- and I am so glad that we did!!  Since it was a very spontaneous trip, I had no time to worry about anything, such as the family, the school, etc. Before I knew it I was in Belgium! I had never been to Belgium before so I was pretty excited. The family I stayed with was perfect for me but very different to my own! There were five children in the family which was something I had to adjust to at the start - as I only have one brother. The part of Belgium that I was staying in was German speaking, which was fine for me as my mother is German. However Didier, my exchange father was French. So I tried my best to use French as much as possible with him. It was very challenging at times because although I study French in school, I have never had the opportunity to speak it. I think the language I improved the most was Spanish though! Spanish was one of the subjects I did for my Junior Cert exams; although I wouldn't struggle in class and I would get high grades, my oral Spanish was incredibly terrible. I really couldn't speak at all! Therefore having a Spanish exchange mother was a wonderful opportunity! Also i took Spanish classes with some of the kids. Having three languages wasn't easy either- especially when we all sat down for dinner ! Sometimes I'd wake up in the morning and I wasn't able to think in the right language, I would answer with "oui" instead of "si". But after a while I became quite used to it! I loved my family! At the beginning I spent a lot of time with Mathilde- the youngest in the family. Although she was only 11 and I was 16, we bonded over board and card games. However, as the days passed by I got closer to Inés, who was 14. We would often walk together to school, along the way we had great chats!! I loved spending time with both Inés and Mathilde, they were like little sisters to me! I also spent quite a bit of time with Benoit, who was 15. We were in the same class and we would often walk to and from school together. In the afternoons we would sometimes play table tennis or football, Inés, Mathilde and Felix would also join in!! My family was definitely one of the best things about Belgium. They made sure that i thoroughly enjoyed myself, from weekend trips to trying out new sports such as wheel gymnastics! School was a completely different story all together. It was a mixed bilingual school. Half of my classes were in German and the rest were in French, it was definitely a challenge particularly in maths and science. I was in a  small class of 18 which meant that everybody knew each other. I made quite a few new friends that I hope to keep for life. Although it was a little awkward at the beginning,  we became closer as the weeks went on! In the fourth and final week I could not believe that I was leaving them! They were unlike any of my friends here in Ireland. I wish I could have stayed for longer time and if I would have known about it at the start of TY I think would have gone for at least 3 months! Belgium has been one of the experiences of my life and I would go back in a heartbeat!! 





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