The idea of an exchange first came from my 3rd year French teacher. At first, I didn’t give it much thought as I saw it as something quite daunting and very far out of my comfort zone, but once I started transition year and was hearing all my teachers telling us that ‘TY is what you make it’, I decided to take a leap of faith and go for it and I am so grateful that I did.

My exchange student came over to us first and I went second but on reflection I really don’t think either order would have really made much of a difference as you usually contact them prior to meeting anyways, so you already know them to a certain extent. I also found it quite easy to form a bond with my student as living in the same house means you inevitably will be spending quite a lot of time together.

I was slightly apprehensive about going over to France, especially after seeing my student was practically fluent in English even before coming over, whereas my French was quite poor. I was also nervous about the social side of things as I don’t really consider myself to be extremely outgoing. But as the days and weeks unfolded after arriving in France, neither of these concerns really turned out to be that big of a deal. Although my level of French was quite poor, you just must learn to improvise and adapt what you do know to communicate to the best of your ability. At first it can be challenging but you get used to it very quickly. Constantly being surrounded by French media and people speaking French also helps you to pick up phrases and sayings without you even realizing it. And as for the social side of things, you really just have to be comfortable with putting yourself out there a little and trying to contribute to conversations whenever possible.

Although I was lucky to end up becoming good friends with my student, we were not put into the same class in school and initially I thought I was going to find everyday school life extremely challenging because of this but really it did me a world of good. It forced me to meet new people outside of my student's friend group and make some new friends of my own, as well as forcing me to speak French without being able to lean on my student for easy translations. It also significantly improved my overall confidence and helped me become a lot more independent, as I feel you can sometimes find yourself depending and relying on your student a lot in many types of situations, and sometimes even hiding behind them.

Another incredible bonus with my exchange was getting to experience French culture, food, and landmarks. Some of the day outs we went on like trips to the beach or going to see the fireworks are some of my most fond memories of my exchange by far. The French food was also a highlight of my exchange, especially the bread, cheese, and pastries. However, the French diet is something that took me a while to get used to as with my family we usually had a small breakfast, then a large lunch around 1pm, then wouldn’t eat again until a big meal at about 8pm that night. So, although it is something that you eventually get used to, it is a significantly different way of life to Ireland.

Overall, I found this experience to be extremely beneficial for my language skills, especially orally, as well as being beneficial for me as a person by helping me put myself out there that little bit more and push myself to be more open to new experiences.

Megan 2023 France 1

Megan 2023 France 2

Megan 2023 France 3

Megan 2023 France 4

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