During the October Half Term break, a group of Year 11 students enjoyed an eight-day homestay in Montpellier, France. With the expectation of fully immersing themselves in the French culture, students attended classes taught in French and took part in various excursions and activities, including a day trip to Avignon, Nîmes, as well as cooking classes and pétanque. All involved came away having learnt lots of language and having had an unforgettable experience.
Read Eve and Munique's experiences below.
Eve, Year 11
The French Homestay was sold to me as a chance to improve French speaking skills, attend extra French lessons and explore Montpellier, and with my GCSE's coming up, I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain more confidence in the subject.
Before leaving, groups of two students were assigned to different host families and provided with background information, such as their names, ages and professions. I was assigned to Monsieur and Madame Akaal. They were in their early seventies, both university professors and had a dog, much to my excitement. Armed with a list of useful vocabulary and a Whatsapp group set up by the French department, we set off for Montpellier.
The 'only talking in French' rule was put into place before our first flight departed from Singapore, which somewhat prepared me for the next week. But I was still nervous I wouldn't be able to understand or say anything. My host family were very friendly and patient and made sure we knew that they were happy to help us. As the week went on, I was surprised by how much I understood by just listening to French radio stations, reading posters and signs and conversing with my host family. I found the French lessons to be extremely helpful and effective for learning trickier topics. Our teacher at LSF taught her entire class in French and expected us to contribute in French. As much as I enjoyed language lessons, my favourite part of the day was going on excursions and doing activities as a group.
The trip is an amazing, interactive way to develop your language skills and see new places. Living with a host family allowed us to explore beyond the tourist trail and feel that we were at a 'home away from home'.
My advice would be to remember that the trip is an opportunity to learn and experience a new language and culture and to do everything possible to block out English for the duration of the trip. Small things like changing the language settings on my phone, speaking to my host family as much as I could in French, and translating signs and posters made me feel that I was getting the best out of the experience. If, like me, you return to Singapore thinking and attempting to start conversations with your family in French, then the purpose of the trip has been fulfilled.
Munique, Year 11
When I first heard about this trip, I was hesitant but eager to see what would await us 10,695 km away from home. However, all my worries were dispelled when we set foot in the city to be met with crisp autumn air and the most welcoming host family.
Catherine and Ahmed were so accommodating and friendly; every morning we had breakfast with our families before getting onto the trams or buses into the town centre area. We had kept in contact via email before the trip and it was great to be able to put a face to the name. Catherine had heard I was a big fan of dogs and took us to her daughter's house to meet the cutest beagle and French bulldog!
We started each day with an hour and a half of French lessons at LSF quarters, then lunch break, with more studies before taking part in a different activity each day. Every day was a fresh experience and we rarely had the time to even miss home. All of us had to opportunity to venture the streets of the Montpellier town and buy little souvenirs or postcards to remember the trip by. Although we were surrounded by charming little shops and markets, heading to the creperies was a firm favourite amongst our group.
The trip boosted my confidence in speaking French. Aside from the obvious educational advantages of the trip, we were immersed in rich French culture every minute we were there. I feel lucky to have attended this trip with such a brilliant group of people. Despite the age differences, and never having met some of them before, we all supported and relied on each other. If you have the opportunity to go on this trip, take it! Looking back, I only have fond memories which I will treasure forever.