Lycée St Vincent School
Four years ago Newington embarked on an exchange partnership with Lycée St Vincent in Senlis, a town 50km north-east of Paris. Since then a number of students have benefitted from the immersion experience. The school offers a wide range of opportunity for academic, cultural, sporting and spiritual development in a wonderful setting.
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French exchange is a fulfilling and worthwhile experience. From it, one receives a significant boost in foreign language ability, as well as making lifelong friends and unforgettable memories.
In December-January 2012-2013, seven people from our school went to Senlis, a town 40 minutes northeast of Paris, an ideal location as we were able to experience a true, local French town whilst being less than an hour away from the major attractions in Paris. In saying this, Senlis had lots to see anyway, such as the Cathedral, the architecture and nearby attractions such as Chantilly Castle, as well as the local hangouts; typical French cafés such as Nina’s and Le Commerce.
Whilst in Senlis, we received an invitation into the homes of our exchange families, all of whom were incredibly hospitable, warm and enthusiastic to make our stay as memorable as possible. We saw first-hand the similarities and differences between Australian family life and French family life, such as how French families sit down as a family for lunch, whereas in Australia this is not generally so. Also every meal was sided with a baguette and finished with a delicious typically French cheese plate, yoghurt and chocolate. The food was exceptional wherever we went. Our families also took us on holidays over the Christmas break, with some going skiing in Switzerland, one going to Cannes and another going hunting in Nantes, giving us even more unforgettable experiences.
The most interesting part of the trip was attending Lycée St Vincent. The school is over 170 years old, and the style of teaching and classes taken differed greatly from Australia, which was interesting in itself. The school instantly made us feel at home, and organised classes for the Australians in French, trips on Thursdays to Paris and allowed us to participate in many school activities. We also made many friends at school who we keep in contact with.
Apart from the tourist side of the exchange, there is also something to be said for the cultural learning experience. Each of us, after 5-6 weeks saw an exponential improvement in our French speaking, writing and listening abilities, which has transferred back to our marks in Sydney. The experience enabled us to communicate in French with everybody we met, giving a view of different perspectives on personal and international issues, as well as allowing us to see how similar people really are, across all types of cultural boundaries.
From all of us who have done an exchange already, our advice is to seize the opportunity, and discover what’s possible. French exchange has created some of the best experiences of our lives, and we recommend that anyone who has the ability to do it, should.
Sean Hatten (8/ME) and Joey Faux (11/FL)