My journey to France began in the airport where I sat impatiently awaiting the boarding call. Before I had even left I had already quickly formed new friendships and participated in discussions about our excitement about traveling half way around the world with strangers, and staying with a family who may or may not speak English.
After the long ride to La Rochelle, I was greeted by my host family with open arms. Although they did not speak great English, I was determined to communicate through my translator app on my i phone so I could at least find out snippets of who they were. Although our conversations lacked in great depth due to the language barrier, I can now call them family and it is because of them that I learned what France is really about.
School was exciting because of the teacher. Sebastien taught us differently than the little french I had already known from high school. We looked at the slang and the cliches of the french language and all about the culture that I would not have discovered if it weren’t for him. We ventured outside of the classroom into the market where he showed us the cuisine. He encouraged us to go to the music festival and taught us the life in the eyes of a true resident of La Rochelle. Although classes were long, there was never a dull moment at the University of La Rochelle.
The town was small but the people were lovely. we were acquainted with students from the university who didn’t hesitate to show us what the city had to offer. We indulged in attractions such as the aquarium and the night life. We watched world cup games around bars with friends and even got to relax on the beaches or get lost in the market. Whatever we did, there was always someone near who was willing to help. Soon after arriving, I had already forgot that I was across the scary world and in a country where I did not speak the language.
After spending 14 whole days in the city of La Rochelle, my brain was filled with the visions of french castles, islands and caubble stone roads. I had formed friendships with both the residents of the city and my fellow Centennial College classmates. I had never been to Europe let alone Europe with 17 strangers so it was terrifying. After two weeks however, I did not want to leave. I had always wanted to see Paris which was a short three hour train ride away, but I was already dreading leaving the city where I experienced real french culture. After 14 days in the life of a La Rochelle student, I packed up my bags and said goodbye to the people of La Rochelle who I hope to see again one day in my life.
Spending only one day in Paris was certainly not enough to see everything, but the main attractions were surreal. Having crepes in a cafe down the street from the Eiffel Tower was amazing. I saw Notre Dame, the Louvre, and even got to put a lock on the famous love bridge of Paris. I feel in love with the city and I promise I will go back one day.
When applying for the trip, I was baffled that Centennial College offered such amazing opportunities to their students. I am so lucky that I was chosen to be a part of a wonderful journey of a lovely European city. Not only did I learn a lot about myself, I also connected with so many different people and made friendships that will last a life time. Thank you Centennial, I am forever grateful.
Written by Kaleigh Murphy
Photo 1: The Canal in Centre ville
Photo 2: Ile de re, famous for salted caramels 🙂
Photo 3: La Loire Chateau
Photo 4: The famous port of La Rochelle France
Photo 5: Paris France
Photo 6: The Love bridge Paris
Photo 7: Horse and Carriage on our bus route to school
Photo 8: Centennial College language culture team France