With the magical power of Felix Felicis (Harry Potter reference :3), I was able to go on a 2-week cultural trip in France, sponsored by the French Embassy in Manila. First and foremost, thank you so much for still giving me this opportunity! I think that they figured out that I needed to learn French now since I wasn’t able to speak/write/listen well in my student exchange back in 2010. Like Tiff, you should stop putting learning French off, get going! This time, I’ll be going alone and it’ll be my first legitimate solo trip. I’m finally doing it. I’m just going with me, myself and I. Here’s to finding myself as well!
I was given the freedom to choose a language school anywhere in France with a budget of 1,200 euros that should cover the tuition and the accommodation. After researching for weeks, I finally settled on 2 schools based on reviews – French In Normandy (FIN) in Rouen and Accent Français in Montpellier. Both have excellent reviews on EducationStars on the teachers, environment and accommodations which were the 3 most important aspects in choosing a school for me. I wanted to SERIOUSLY learn and it shouldn’t just be all fun and games. I also wanted to be with like-minded people who thought the same and most of all, I wanted a host family who didn’t just view this opportunity as money-making tools. I wanted an authentic experience. These schools also accepted short stays (like mine) so I knew they got that covered. If I could only stay for months, I would! But I needed to work and I had my business. Money doesn’t grow on trees you know? They actually have a joint program as well which allows you to study 2 weeks in FIN and 2 weeks in Accent Français but… again time! Would have been perfect!
After narrowing it down to these 2, the deciding factors for FIN were:
- It was located in Normandy. I’m a history nut and the fact that D-Day beaches were located here and Rouen was the place where Joan of Arc was put on trial and executed… I just couldn’t help latch on to some affinity to Normandy. It was also cooler and coming from the sunny Philippines, I figured that I had enough of sun and Montpellier being located in the South of France, would be just too hot. I needed the cold air, not beaches! And did you know that according to my host mom, Normandy cuisine is one of the best gastronomical experiences in France. It’s famous for its apples (please get Apple everything, EVERYTHING!), apple cider, calvados (it’s like apple brandy), camembert cheese (coz Camembert is in Normandy, it’s a tad too strong for me though), and seafood. Oh glorious food! No brainer, I was going to Rouen.
- It had almost 100% positive reviews on host families. I was really scared at this part. Being an introvert, I am quite shy when meeting new people for the first time. What more if I have to live with someone who is a total stranger to me at first. I considered staying at a student residence at first but my last experience in my student exchange dormitory was not the best (maybe French residences weren’t really the best in general) and I didn’t want the hassle of searching food everyday. Plus if I was with a host family, I’d definitely eat and breathe French. Throwing insecurities to the wind, I chose staying at a host family and I consider it one of the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. NO REGRETS! My fear of not making friends, acting like a fool because I didn’t know the language, all disappeared because I got the best and kindest host family in the world! Well arguably. Shoutout to Mme. Valerie!
- Most of the reviews were in French. That could only mean that they really learned French right? Man, couldn’t believe that I was going back to school after 4 years!
- Class size was perfect. There were at most only 8-10 people in a classroom and in my experience, the smaller the class size, the better you learn! They also had weekday and weekend activities. I really wanted to do something other than staying in a classroom and this was perfect.
But trust me when I say 2 weeks is too short. If you are going to learn a new language and being a total beginner, 2 weeks might get you to give you conversational skills but you would have a hard time grasping more vocabulary and grammar. Just keep practicing if you can after 2 weeks or take my suggestion and study for at least a month or 2.
FYI, not sure if this will be a big factor for other students… but FIN uses a LOT OF COMIC SANS. Don’t ask me why. I was at first put off by this but I shrugged it off. They put Comic Sans in EVERYTHING. I’m glad I did shrug it off though coz that really didn’t mean anything. I think it just shows the wackiness of the teachers and I’ll talk about it after you scroll down.