I am currently enjoying my first week in Montpellier, France. The weather is good and the food is excellent. I have settled in well with the family I’m staying with and get on well with the other students at school and at sport, all of whom have been very friendly to me.
Everything went smoothly during my journey here. There was a friendly woman sat next to me on the plane who had gone on a similar exchange and she was very helpful. I think you will find that a lot of people will be more than willing to help you out. The local co-ordinator and family greeted me when I arrived to Montpellier. At first it was a bit difficult for me to understand them but I always understood their general message. After the first week I began to feel more comfortable speaking French. Although there were still many things I couldn’t say, it was a lot easier for me to express myself. The first few days could be hard but don’t worry. Even if you got an A in the Junior Cert, it only helps a little. Just stick with it because the rewards will be huge.
We start at 8:30 every morning but finish at different times. On Monday and Tuesday school ends at 18:00. On Wednesday, 12:30. Every second week we finish at 17:00 on Thursday but otherwise it’s 18:00. Friday is a shorter day, school ends at 16:00. All classes are 50 minutes long but some can be up to 2 hours. Teachers will expect you to behave respectfully but will not give you much homework. They’ll let you do your own work in class most of the time. Just ask.
It’s not too bleak though. There are two 10 minute breaks a day and lunch is an hour and a half long. The food at school is generally very good. We get hot meals, bread, yoghurt, salad, cheese and dessert. Of course, you can choose what you have. Lunch is paid for by scanning a smart card, like many schools in France.
I enjoy school although the classes are hard to understand. I get on very well with the other students and they don’t mind explaining what I don’t understand. There is an inclusive, intimate atmosphere among our class even though the school has over 1,000 pupils. Our class is one of nine in Secondaire. I recommend that you bring your own work to do because some classes could be boring, like History/Geography, that you most likely won’t understand, simply to due to its complexity and the frequent use of dreaded long words. It’s important that you try to engage with your classmates as much as you can. They know that you can’t have a full conversation but a smile and a few words go a long way. Especially when you’re Irish.
I asked my host family if they could enquire about me playing some sport here before I arrived. They had no problem organizing this. I can train with a local soccer team and do light-contact rugby training with the town’s rugby club. This is excellent for me because I can meet even more people and continue playing sport like I do at home.
Top 5 Words to Know That You Didn’t Cover at Junior Cert
1. ‘Meuf’ : Le Verlan of femme. Lads almost never say ‘femme’ while talking amongst themselves. Use femme otherwise though!
2. ‘Mec’ : Like ‘man/dude’. Used all the time
3. ‘En cours’ : in class. They hardly ever say ‘en classe’.
4. ‘Dur’ : hard, tough, difficult, painful. You can use it so often. So do they.
5. ‘Chiant’ : boring, dull. Anything that’s burdensome.
I hope you found this article helpful. These are the things that I would’ve found very useful to know before I arrived here.