PUPILS from John Taylor High School are in the midst of a culture clash, as they take part in a French exchange with their peers across the channel.
Young people from the Barton school have joined with students from Thomas Alleynes High School, in Uttoxeter, and schools from around Staffordshire, in the Staffordshire-Limoges Experience programme, which organises annual exchanges with the city, in central France.
The English students have already made the trip to Limoges, and, next weekend, the French youngsters are due to make their way over here.
During the Easter holidays around 45 students from schools in Staffordshire travelled to Limoges. I arrived at a bus depot in Stafford at 4.45am and we drove to Liverpool airport. There were only six students from my school, John Taylor, and none of these pupils would be attending the same school as me when we were in France. It was nerve-wracking, but I knew it was a fantastic opportunity to make new friends, not only from France but also from Staffordshire.
When we arrived I met my French partner for the first time, following only short conversations in a mix of French and English over Facebook. Before I went I thought my French was reasonably good, but when my host family were talking over dinner on the first night, I found I couldn’t understand anything they were saying.
I was lucky because my host family was very considerate and often spoke slowly or in English – which was extremely good – so that I could keep up with conversation. I also got along well with my partner and, although it sometimes took a long time to have a conversation, we were both patient with one another. Often we acted out words or phrases that we didn’t know. It felt like we were in a constant game of charades.
Whilst I was in France I went to my partner’s school in Limoges. It was similar to my school, although the days were much longer. I also went to many museums in Limoges and learned a lot about the culture in France.
My French had improved dramatically by the end of the visit and I was able to hold a conversation with the family. One of my friends told me that by the end of the visit she was thinking in French, and I know a lot of the students – myself included – continued to speak French after returning home. I made many friends, both French and English, whilst on the exchange that I will hopefully stay in touch with.
The French students are coming to England on a return visit on July 12. They will be staying in our homes and will attend lessons with us in school. At John Taylor, we have careers mornings during the week they are going to be in school so the French students will be able to participate in that as well as an organised visit to Shugborough Hall.
I am also taking my partner to Alton Towers for the day with some of my other friends taking part in the exchange. I am looking forward to seeing my partner and other friends I made on the exchange again very soon and hopefully we will stay in touch when they return to France.