In May 2024 I spent 4 weeks in a coastal town on the West Coast of France. It was a great experience and my French has really improved. The family I was staying with were warm, kind and very welcoming to me. My exchange partner Juliette stayed with me in Ireland for the month of April which meant I knew her well before going to live with her family.

In the beginning speaking French and trying to understand what people were saying was the hardest part. However I knew I had to challenge myself to use the French that I already had as I knew that it would improve so much more if I was speaking. I did this by asking people questions about themselves as well as speaking in French to people in shops, cafes, the post office etc. Although it was difficult at first my confidence in speaking the language improved a lot. I found it very interesting experiencing daily life in a different culture.

I went to school with Juliette for 2 and a half weeks. I found it quite difficult at first as the days were very long and it was hard to understand the lessons. However after the first week I already felt like I could understand more and I didn’t have to ask people to repeat themselves as much. During the more complicated lessons, I spent the time reading simple books in French. I found this very enjoyable and quite beneficial as well.

The family took me on some great day trips while I was there. One day, we took a boat to a nearby island and rented bikes. It was so nice cycling and seeing the amazing views. It was a beautiful day, and I was able to go for a swim! We also took the train to Nantes one day, which I really enjoyed. My favorite part of the day was visiting the “machines de l’île” which is an art project in Nantes. It consists of lots of machines that mostly resemble animals. We rode on a merry go round made of metal machines. It was a really unique experience. The day trips were great but daily life with the family was really enjoyable as well. The house was about a 5-minute cycle from the beach and we often went there with Juliette’s friends. I also played football and board games with Juliette and her younger brother and we also swam in their pool which was great fun. I went surfing every Saturday morning with Juliette’s surfing club which was amazing. On one of the weekends I attended a dinner party with the family. I really enjoyed the night and I felt like I experienced a big part of French culture firsthand. We began eating at about 8.30pm and didn’t finish until 12.30am! This wasn’t like anything I had ever experienced in Ireland, but it was great. Everyone there made a very big effort to speak French slowly to me. I could feel my French improving!

Throughout my time in France, Jane and Margit were in touch with me regularly. They were really kind and supportive and it made such a difference knowing that there were people looking out for me. Overall, it was a great experience doing the French exchange. My French has come hugely. I’m so glad I did it!

Alice France 24 - Student Exchange

Isaac France 24 - Student Exchange

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