When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in France, ask nicely for un chocolat chaud et un croissant, s’il vous plait.
After having been promised by my lovely host mother that I would not have to eat snails during my stay, I settled down for a weeks of total immersion of the French language and French way of life. I was always made to feel very welcome both at home and at the school (école primaire) in the village just outside of Armentières where I was placed.
The kids, of course, were excited about the visitor. The fact that I spoke English just made me more interesting. I was asked to play at break and translate various phrases; anything from ‘vingt euros’ to ‘a million stars in the sky’, the latter of which was printed on a child’s T-shirt.
I also brought out my teaching props eg. biscuit/bribes to help with the weekly English lesson and a printed-out PowerPoint of the twelve days of Christmas (I made them sing as well).
For those in the group who didn’t fancy spending a week with children found placements in restaurants, a flower shop and a brewery. Everyone seemed happy with their placements when we met up on Wednesday to spend the day in Lille.
When we first saw each other in the morning, we had been so immersed in French that our first response was ‘bonjour’ instead of ‘hello’ and ‘d’accord’ had replaced ‘okay’.
Once we had remembered how to speak English again, we went to a café before being unleashed on the town. There were the Christmas markets and the year-round high street shops (which had a thing - moose, bears and stuffed animals in general). If shopping wasn’t your thing, beautiful architecture, the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle (a 20 minute walk from la Grande Place) and, according to someone else in the group, a small natural history museum (I don’t know where). We also saw someone dressed as Pikachu, and a pizzeria named after the book we were beginning to study.
In the evening, before heading back for crêpes in Armentières, we all had a drink and went on the 50 metre Ferris wheel (Françoise loved it).From the top, we could see the entire town, lit up under the winter night sky.
After Lille, we spent another two days with our host families – I was taught how to make quiche Lorraine, beat the host kid’s scores on just dance and watched Top Gear and Jurassic Park dubbed into French.
All in all, it was amazing. I actually didn’t want to come home to A levels again. As someone who hopes to study abroad for a year, the experience was invaluable, because it is so far removed from anything I have ever been able to do.
It’s different from going on holiday with your family; you live as part of another lifestyle for a week. The culture draws differences and parallels with that of Britain, and that’s half of what makes it so interesting; the other is the people themselves, ready to welcome you into it.