French Exchange

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French Exchange 2019 

On the morning of March 8th, 21 Hartstown Community School students gathered at Dublin airport to meet their French correspondents. We took a quick pitstop for breakfast in Burger King and rushed to our gate, arriving just before it closed. 

After a 2-hour flight the plane landed in Bordeaux. We were greeted by our correspondents who were impatiently waiting for us upon arrival. We collected our luggage and went to meet them. This is when we came in contact with ‘faire la bise’(the French’s custom greeting where they kiss either cheek), which we would later use on a regular basis. 

Each student went home with their correspondent and we were split up. We all got tours of our new houses and met the family which we’d be spending the next 9 days with.  

The first few days we had free time with our correspondents. We thought it would be best to meet up with the other students for these days and so our partners brought us to Bordeaux town where we got to experience the city. 

On Monday morning, we were brought to the school ‘Comprehensive School D’état Montesquie’. It was like we had just landed at Hogwarts. The place was huge. We were split into 2 groups; the first went to play table tennis and the second took part in a science experiment in which they made Indigo dye to make blue jeans. The groups then switched so everyone got the full experience. 

The next morning, we met back up at the school for our day trip to ‘Dunne de Pilait’. This is the highest sand dune in Europe which we struggled up. Once at the top, we realized how rewarding it was… That is before we were all rugby tackled down it and got sand everywhere. We ended up rolling to the bottom anyway so it didn’t really matter. After we recovered from our climb, we got back on the bus and went to Arcachon, where we learned about the long process of Oyster making. Many of the students tasted these oysters. An interesting experience to say the least, involving a lot of people getting sick. 

On Wednesday, we once again met up at the school to watch a French film and then activities with Mr Hassler. We had an early finish, so Omar, one of the French students, invited us to his music class. In this class, he gave us a performance of Kodaline’s ‘All I Want’. His voice had many of us in tears. We then listened to some more of his friends singing. Afterwards, we went to the gym with Helena, another French student. Once we finished there, we met with our own partners and had a free afternoon where we all baked cakes and other treats for the upcoming party in the school on Friday. 

The next day was a day for baking. We went to the school and made crepes in the ways of lots of different cultures. Not only were there sweet crepes, but we also made French savoury crepes and Moroccan crepes. After we walked to Rue Saint Catherine where we had a tour of the Grand Theatre and got the rest of the afternoon to shop in the street’s many department stores. 

Friday was a very busy day, with an early start. We met at the school, as usual where there were strikes for climate change. While waiting for the other students, we took part in some of these protests. At 9am, we piled onto the bus and went to the Vineyards of Saint Emillion. We learned how wine is made and got to taste some of the finest wine in Bordeaux. The reviews were very much mixed, most people only enjoying it when it was paired with a raspberry chocolate from Lindt. After the vineyard, we went to the town of Saint Emillion where we got a historical tour.  

We returned to the school where there was a rush for us all to get ready for that nights party at the school. There were lots of baked treats provided and we danced the night away. That is until Kyle Egan managed to dislocate part of his elbow while dancing. A quick call to his mam and the use of Ms Kelly’s scarf as a sling and he was fine. 

The next day was our final day of activities with our partners. A lot of us met up during the day to go to the carnival in Bordeaux centre. However, this wasn’t the main event. The French had organised for all of us to go to a restaurant for dinner. So, 42 of us piled into the restaurant ‘La Chaudron’. This celebration was for St. Patrick’s Day but we were heading home and so celebrated a day early. 

We said goodbye to the families in the early afternoon of the next day. The airport saw many tears and emotional goodbyes as we departed from the students we had become such good friends with. 

Overall, we can all agree that the experience was great, and are eagerly awaiting our correspondents return on April 5th. We really recommend the trip to anyone who is given the chance as it was a lot of fun to experience the culture of France and pick up a few phrases here and there. 

Au revoir. 

~ Jodi Mc Ardle & Aoibhean Kavanagh