Craighead student Danielle Schreiber featured in Attitude in November after she won a French-language competition and an all-expenses paid trip to New Caledonia.
Far north of New Zealand coastlines and miles above Pacific seas, I looked out the window and, far below, spotted the the isles and mountains that form the little island of New Caledonia.
The five of us - Astrid, Megan, Albert, Jonathan and I - disembarked at Tontouta with jittery excitement and trundled with our bags to meet our guides, Audrey and Marie-Christine. After a night in the luxurious Hilton Hotel, situated just on the waterfront in Nouma, we drove a winding four-hour route to Poindimi in the North, where we would spend the next two weeks improving our French and enjoying many unforgettable experiences.
Meeting our host families was one of the scariest moments of the trip - going to live with complete strangers is rather nerve-racking as I discovered, but the people in Poindimi were so friendly and welcoming that it was just like being with my own family.
My host mother Vittoria gave me free run of the house, and my host siblings, Marina and Lucas, were simply gorgeous. We shared many late-night conversations with numerous games of ' "Cache! Cache!" (hide and seek in the dark).
Marie-Christine and Audrey had organised a range of activities for almost every day, so after a weekend spent at home with our families, we set off at 8:30 every morning for our various adventures. We went snorkelling with Tieti Diving just off the coast of Poindimi one day, and on another, kayaked across the sea to the small island of Tibarama.
My personal favourite was the trip up to Hienghne to see the famous "Poule de Hienghne" and the huge Tao Waterfall.
This was followed by an evening watching bats fly about the top of the huge stone cliffs surrounding the village of Koulnoue.
Although pushing me outside my comfort zone, my trip to New Caledonia was one of the most enjoyable and worthwhile experiences that I have ever undergone. It has definitely made me grow as a person. Seeing and living life from the perspective of those in very different circumstances to your own is enlightening and has given me a true appreciation of the world in a wider sense.
Going to the wild north of the country gave me a glimpse of the true New Caledonia and her people, and is something that I would recommend to anyone thinking of travelling.
I would like to thank MASCOP, Alliance Franaise and Aircalin for making this trip possible. I would also like to thank my French teacher, Madame Field, for all her encouragement - Merci mille fois! (Thank you a thousand times!)
- The Timaru Herald