Back to school, but in France

JOANNE BENNETT
Last updated 07:29 29/11/2013
timaru french students
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ

MONTPELLIER BOUND: Timaru Boys' High and Timaru Girls' High French students from left, Sophie Elliott, Tim Colson, Kyle Ward and Harriet Waldron are taking a trip to France.

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They've just finished their French exam, and now they're off to France.

Text book French is about to come to life for year 12 students Sophie Elliott, Tim Colson, Kyle Ward and Harriet Waldron, who left for Montpellier yesterday morning.

For their New Zealand summer school holidays, the group will be attending school in the middle of a French winter.

Harriet is the only student who has first-hand solo French experience, having recently returned from a six-month AFS exchange.

She says her classmates are in for a surprise when they arrive.

"They will find it a bit of a shock. Before you get there you think you know a lot, but it is really hard for a start. It takes about two months to get started, which is a shame because that's all the time they have there," Harriet said.

Four students came to Timaru from Montpellier earlier this year. These four are going back to stay with the students they hosted then, which will complete this year's exchange.

It is the first in what French teacher Susie Matheson hopes will be a long-running relationship between Timaru Boys' High and Timaru Girls' High and Lycee St Jaures (the school the Timaru students will attend).

"In terms of language, the benefits are obvious. It's sink or swim, and the language becomes relevant for survival and quality of life. But in terms of personal growth, it's an amazing experience," Ms Matherson said.

The French school has about 2000 pupils, and none of them wear a uniform.

Harriet says school in France is much more disciplined.

"It's really academic. They study 10 subjects each and go to school for eight hours a day, apart from Wednesday when they have a half-day. The schools are normally co-ed, and are much larger than ours.

"The students are more disciplined, and never ever disrespect any teachers. They never chew gum or listen to music in class. The relationship between students and teachers was a struggle for me - it's very different."

There's a lot to look forward to for these intrepid travellers.

Sophie says she is looking forward to trying the cuisine. Tim and Kyle are excited to see all the famous sights, and experience the culture.

It won't be the first time Tim has tried French delicacies like frog's legs and snails. "Snails taste a bit like paua, but they're more earthy."

They will return on January 30.

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