Hi everyone! My name is Dara Morley and I am currently on a ten week programme in Nantes, France. So far, I’m absolutely loving the experience and I feel so lucky to have this opportunity. However, I didn’t feel the same before I left. On the contrary, I was really nervous to leave my friends and family for over two months. The prospect of spending ten weeks in a foreign country initially scared me but thankfully, all my worries were eased upon arrival.
A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Although the language barrier was awkward at times, I instantly knew that I would be comfortable with my host family. Anne, Gérard and their daughter, Capucine welcomed me into their home with open arms. Now, we are all very close and have made so many plans to maximise our time together – before returning to school after the Halloween break, we are travelling to Clermont-Ferrand and in December, we will fly to Marseille for a weekend. Every week, we do something together, whether it would be a trip to the market on a Saturday morning, a visit to the cinema or (because it was Halloween recently) a pumpkin-carving competition! Capucine and I are really close and we often take the bus into the city for a coffee or to meet some friends.
Similarly, I was very anxious about starting in a new school at the beginning. However, my classmates were very friendly and inclusive. It seems to me that the French are very accustomed to having exchange students in the class. Likewise, the teachers are always very understanding. I think that attending school here has been one of the most valuable aspects of my exchange. Going to the lycée for five days a week (which means being completely surrounded by the language) really helped in developing my own level of French. As the weeks progressed, I began to understand more and more within the lessons.
JOINING THE NANTES CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC
By embarking on this programme, I was also able to avail of other opportunities. For example, I joined one of the youth orchestras in the Nantes Conservatory of Music. These weekly practices allowed me to meet new people with similar interests and provided a chance for me to practice my violin.
CREATING LIFELONG MEMORIES
At the moment, I am more than halfway through the exchange. I cannot believe how fast the first five weeks have passed by. This is an experience I will never forget. Not only has my knowledge of the French language improved, but I also believe my social skills and confidence in general have also developed. I have made so many friends and developed a strong bond with my host family. I would recommend participating in a programme like this to all students who are interested in improving their foreign language skills. Total immersion in a foreign language and culture has so many benefits and will leave you with lifelong memories.