After leaving my family on an emotional New Year’s Eve and travelling for a few days in London, I made my way to the picturesque town of Vichy, France to start my Intensive French course at CAVILAM Alliance Français.
The first thing I want to say is that this town is straight out of a fairy tale. If I could just find a chateau close enough, I would think I were in Beauty and the Beast. Everything you need is in walking distance. The shopping district is a four-minute walk, if that, in one direction meanwhile CAVILAM is a four or five-minute walk in the opposite direction. Most of the Christmas decorations are still up and around town, with twinkling fairy lights, it’s surreal to be in a French town. The shops that are here though, while you don’t have H&M in Vichy itself, there are some very cute shops that sell unique pieces, lolly shops for all your sugary needs and the holy grail- Sephora! There is always something to do.
Through my two weeks in Vichy so far, we’ve come to do a bit of a foodie tour to find out where exactly to get the best of what category. In terms of baguettes, Maison Jouainnet is by far a favourite of most AIM Overseas students, including myself. I don’t think that anywhere can come close to making sandwiches like the French. There is a special place in my heart for the coffee machines in the foyer at CAVILAM, so cheap, so good. Always a pick me up right when you need it. I’ve been told that the Cocoon Coffee Shop is also quite good, I’m going to have to put that one on the list of ‘to visit’ and report back on that one. The crêpes deserve their own award, but I don’t think I’ve sampled quite enough to be entirely sure who takes out the title yet. In terms of hot chocolate, a little café hidden away called Keck’s Nature store takes the cake (Le Petit Quebecois is my personal recommendation if you’re having something to eat.)
On arriving at CAVILAM, we all sat down and took the ‘teste de niveau’ to put you in the right class and chose between an oral or a written workshop as an elective for the afternoons. We all started to mingle during the tour and then we were off to class. We introduced ourselves, if not somewhat awkwardly and then started to play a game to practise our speaking and responded to some challenging questions, like what would you name your autobiography? We then had an hour and a half for lunch and then I went to oral class where we introduced ourselves once again and started a class discussion.
The rest of the week started a routine with Language class from 8:45am until 12pm then our chosen elective from 2pm until 3:30pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. There are no classes in the afternoon on a Wednesday at CAVILAM, and on Mondays, class starts at 11am and finishes at 3:30pm. In terms of what’s covered in class, all sorts of stuff; vocabulary, current events, discussions, debates and grammar. Intense is the correct word to describe this program, that’s how it feels being surrounded by French constantly. It is amazing to be learning so much and to be able to interact with people in your second language, but it seemed to all catch up with us by the middle of the second week.
View from Pôle
CAVILAM has an amazing cultural program ranging from excursions to movie nights. One night was the adorable film Les Choristes, which while emotional, is a highly recommended watch. Each week is different, with a range of activities to choose from to really immerse yourself in the French culture. In terms of excursions, while some chose to climb the volcano, a few of us decided to go to Clermont-Ferrand instead. Indulging in great cathedrals, a Duc’s house with a nineteenth century version of an early turntable so you wouldn’t have to reverse your horse out the driveway, fountains and then a little shopping. The weekend before that, most of us trekked out to Moulins to go and see the costume museum, where a few of us had some fun with the costumes we could try. We saw costumes from famous Broadway musicals such as Cats, Singing in the Rain, Grease, Phantom of the Opera and my personal favourite, the clothes made out of curtains for the Von Trapp kids from The Sound of Music. We then went to do a little exploring, visiting a nativity scene in a cathedral, and found some much needed coffee and pastries to indulge in.
Costume Museum in Moulins
One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had so far is meeting the people here. My host family is lovely and have tried their best to make me feel welcome. The teachers at CAVILAM are always happy to answer any questions or queries one might have. Our AIM Overseas group and the other students at CAVILAM are lovely, and I have made some friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise met. Although there is that irony in coming to the other side of the world, to a non-Anglophone country and the majority of your new friends and the people you meet come from Adelaide and go to the same university as you. It’s a small world.
Hi, I’m Jordan. I’m a student at the University of Adelaide completing a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in French Studies and Creative Writing at the beginning of my third and final year. I love coffee, wine, chocolate and makeup, along with being an avid Netflix binger. I love travelling and experiencing different cultures, and letting my creativity run wild when writing or experimenting with makeup. I adore how travelling gives us a new and broader understanding of the world that we live in and is full of learning opportunities to grow as people.