Deciding to go on a French exchange was one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

I remember flying into Lyon airport and seeing a sign which read 'Bienvenue', thinking to myself that if I could read the French signs in the airport that communicating with people wasn't going to be an impossible task. After meeting my exchange partner in the airport and travelling back to his home on the outskirts of Lyon I began to settle in right away as the family were super friendly and really supportive, even if I had to use basic sign language to convey what I wanted to say sometimes.

During the first two weeks of my exchange in France I attended a massive secondary school (Lycée) in the heart of Lyon. School was one of the biggest differences I experienced during my stay in France. While the school day was much longer than anything I have ever experienced in Ireland, I nonetheless enjoyed it immensely. Each day during the two hour lunch break all the students were allowed out into the city. For PE we learned circus activities like acrobatics, diabolo and how to walk on a ball.

On the second weekend of my exchange I was invited to join the scouts for a camping trip in the countryside, which I highly enjoyed as all the activities were all really entertaining and the food was surprisingly great. I learned vital survival skills such as how to start a fire without matches, how to quickly set up a tent or how to cook using a campfire. On the Sunday I got the opportunity to experience mass, which apart from being in French, wasn't much different than mass in Ireland. Throughout the exchange I also did gardening in my neighbour's garden in order to raise funds for the scouts.

Luckily the Easter holidays in France coincided with my last two weeks in France. During the holidays I was fortunate enough to stay in Paris with my exchange's grandmother for two nights. We went to see all the sights including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame. Afterwards I spent a week in Carnac, Brittany, with my exchange's other grandparents, where I spent my time gardening with the grandad, going to see the local sights and going to the beach. As the trip came to an end I really only started to realise how much my French had actually improved. I remember the first couple of days when I was barely able to comprehend what was being said at the dinner table but after a couple of days I was able to pick out keywords and after a few weeks I was fully able to converse with the other members of the family during meals. 

All said and done, deciding to go on a French exchange was one of the most beneficial decisions that I have ever made, as it provided me with the opportunity to immerse myself in the French culture and of course improve my French. I would highly recommend doing French exchange to anybody who is considering doing one as it is one of the best things I have done during my Transition Year. 

Thank you very much to all the team at TY Europe for making it possible.

Peter France 2024

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