Salut! My name is Tadhg Quinn and I’m a transition year student from CBC Monkstown, Dublin. At the end of august I embarked on my mission to learn French. I am staying with a very nice French family in the small, secluded town of Mazamet situated in the southern Midi-Pyrénées region of France.
I remember when my parents gave me the opportunity to go to France during transition year, as they feel it’s imperative to learn another language. I said “no, not a chance!”, but the idea eventually grew on me as I needed to get out of the old comfort zone and I knew that greatly improving my French could open up new opportunities for my future.
I remember the first day I arrived. I had the familiar “butterflies” feeling like I’d never had it before. I was full of fear. However, as soon as I met the family I was put at ease and the original feeling of fear was replaced with excitement and awe of the new experience ahead of me. Indeed, that day was quite the baptism of fire as I went to a soirée with the family, in which there were at least 30 relatives. The hardest thing about the evening, however, was trying to shift my thinking process to French, something I’d never previously done. It was especially difficult as the French speak so fast, slur their words and don’t have Irish accents! I’ll be the first to tell you a lot of communicating was done with hand expressions that night!
I’m a serious rugby fan and I knew that I’d have to give French rugby a go during my stay. I’ve been playing with the Junior team here in Mazamet with anyone born in 1999 or 2000 eligible to play. The players and coaches have been very welcoming. The standard here is slightly worse than Ireland but the players are bigger and the games are more physical. We’ve currently won one of our first four matches but I think the group has a good togetherness and a lot of potential. The rugby has been a good experience as I’ve been able to meet people, improve my French and play a sport that I enjoy greatly.
The family I stay with are big rugby fans and often go to see Castres, their team, which is about 20km from Mazamet. So far I’ve been to the Stade Pierre Antoine three times with Castres losing to La Rochelle in the first game before comfortably beating Grenoble and Northampton in the Champions Cup. I’m really looking forward to when Leinster come to Castres in what could prove to be a pivotal encounter in January. I’ll be there in my ‘ster jersey belting out the lyrics to Molly Malone!
I also get on very well with London, the family dog, and Ponpon, the family cat. London is absolutely massive and could probably eat my King Charles back home! It’s very funny when we go somewhere and we bring London. I practically have to use all my force to lift him into the boot. Ponpon is very friendly and has tried to sleep in my room a few times!
Ponpon and I
School’s been going quite well. Of course, the classes are very difficult to understand and follow but I feel that I’ve made a gradual progression since I got here. I would now love to be able to have just 1 dream in French before coming home! During the week, I stay in the boarding school except Wednesday when I have rugby training. I get on well with the lads in the boarding school, who all come from the surrounding towns like Castres, Albi and Toulouse. We often use the small room in the boarding school with some gym equipment and that’s been good for me to get on with the others, and lose a few of those unwanted kilos! At night, we have a bit of a chat and eat some lovely French chocolate which is always a bit of craic.
Although I have no complaints, and am enjoying the French life here. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to get home for a while before coming back to finish my French adventure. Who wouldn’t miss Mammy’s cooking, the sea and most of all the unmistakable taste of a spice bag!
I’ll finish with a little tip. I’d tell whoever’s going on a trip like this to make the most of their time here and try to always speak in French even if someone speaks to you in English as the time goes by in a flash.
Catch you on the next blog.