In July 2015, I embarked on a journey to spend 3 weeks in the beautiful French city of Nice. I was determined to improve my French both for my school examinations and for myself personally as I’ve always had an interest in studying other languages.
Upon arrival, I was very nervous – mainly because my French wasn’t exactly up to scratch! Also because I was doing this all on my own in a foreign country.
The first meeting at the airport with my host – a small, blonde woman in her 40’s, I would say – was awkward to say the least! I didn’t realise I would have such difficulty in communicating through French with her. It was utterly mortifying, but after 3 weeks, it became far easier.
I received a massive culture shock when I first arrived in France. It was a country to which I had never been before and I was not used to the place or the people there. For the last 9 years of my life, each summer my family and I went to Spain, so switching my sunny holiday up this year from the Costa del Sol to the French Riviera was certainly unusual for me! Nonetheless, I absolutely adored the French culture by the end of it and I already have plans to return!
My host made it really easy to settle in, as she was a very easy-going woman and her apartment was definitely student friendly, not to mention it was only a 5 minute walk from the main street of the city – very convenient! Dinner was always French cultural and appetising, far different to the mashed potatoes and vegetables I would be served at home! She made her greatest efforts to chat to me at dinner and whenever else she could to really help me improve my French.
The city of Nice was absolutely breath-taking. The architecture, the history, the people, the beach, the views – everything – was beautiful. There were plenty of things to do here every day, never leaving me bored! The promenade was close to the city centre, with beaches where I could sunbathe – although my pasty Irish skin didn’t give me much of an opportunity to get that sun kissed bronze that most of my other international friends seemed to be getting!
The old town of Nice was so pretty and rather interesting, oozing with French history and culture. It was a fabulous place to take a stroll during the day or night.
Transport was made super easy, with buses running every ten minutes and the tram every few minutes during the day. I had to take the bus to school each day.
The train also takes you anywhere you want to go every half an hour, by which I took to many places such as Cannes, Monaco, Ville-France, Eze and even Ventimiglia in Italy for one day!
I had classes every morning from 9 – 12:20. The classes were based on your ability to speak French, so you were put in with people at the same level as you and you could work on your French together as equals. The teachers in the school were excellent, I learned so much from them. We learned lots of grammar as well as having fun with oral speaking by playing games or role playing. The classes were made so interesting and the teachers were great fun too! The classes are where you make all your friends. In school I met so many other students from all over Europe, from places like Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland, and Spain! It was so interesting to speak to them all and see what life is like for them in contrast to ours. Everyone was lovely as well as all the staff working with the school. They really tried to make us feel comfortable and they set up lots of excursions for us too – more opportunities to make new friends and gain more experiences! For example, I went paragliding, something I never thought I would have the courage to do, but I loved it!
In the night, after dinner with the host family, there was lots to do such as going to the beach with friends, to a party, to the cinema, or going to get an ice-cream!
By week 3 of the trip, I really did not want to leave. I had one the most amazing experiences of my life, made so many new friends, tried so many new things and most importantly, my French had improved remarkably.
I would highly recommend completing a course such as this one if anyone has any interest in learning a second language or even wants to improve their language speaking ability for the purpose of their school work. I discovered a lot about myself during the trip as well as other cultures and gained so much more independence and experience. After giving up just 3 weeks of my summer, my French has certainly reached a much higher standard and this has reflected in my school work this term. Next year, after my examinations, I hope to go on to study French at third level. This is something I probably would not have discovered or have become so passionate about if I hadn’t been involved in the course.
I believe taking a trip like this was well worth it. For me, it was an adventure I know I will never forget.