So I’m writing this after spending the most wonderful time of my life overseas in France. I met so many amazing people with the same interests as me, visited scenic places and most of all, discovered how to live like a real French woman!

For the last week of Intensive French, our class moved up another level from B1(1) to B1(2) which was fantastic since it had only been three weeks since we started learning French, and we were already making so much of an improvement. After our morning class, we were all very much looking forward to enjoying sunny, Vichy which was quite rare because it was winter. The CAVILAMbs also shopped for some snacks to celebrate Australia Day. We found some Doritos at Monoprix (a French supermarket), and believe it or not, saw some Tim Tams! We could not believe our luck ! After this, I decided to go shopping with Sherli and for me, it was time to buy souvenirs before going back home.

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On Tuesday, we talked about happiness in class in the form of a game where we had to explain ourselves and give solutions to fix our problems. Then, aided by Romain, one of the Culture teachers, we had Club du Monde (a small room) to ourselves where we celebrated with Aussie music, dance (the Nutbush) and food in time for Australia day! We had Vegemite scrolls, which were the bomb, scones and of course- Tim Tams! It was a fantastic time as we had the opportunity to share what it meant to be Australian with Romain, and also Sarah, the other Culture teacher who tasted scones for the very first time. We then headed off to the spot by the river to continue our celebration by listening to Triple J’s Hottest 100, with our snacks and of course, our pavlova made by Liz. There was also enough wine and beer to go around with the weather being reasonably warm for winter. We were quite lucky!

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After an exhausting day of celebrations, it was time to head to uni where we had another debate, and this time, our class was separated into young people versus old people. It was fantastic because our French was finally good enough to help us express ourselves and more than that, we learnt phrases that were handy to use. While there were no winners, we did learn that practice makes perfect and that the more we hone our understanding of a language, that the more we get better at it. During lunch, I ate at the local boulangerie and talked to Jessie, a fellow Australian about life and all things in between. Then I met up with Mickey and Louise where we tried to rent bikes but only to find out that the bond was 100 euros, so instead we ended up having a walk around and shopping.

Another day this week, we went to FNAC (a store that has everything, kind of like a JB HI-FI) and had hot drinks at Le Petit Pot. We also tested out Mickey’s polaroid which he hadn’t used before. As we waited for the pictures to appear on the film, we talked about the controversial name that the French give their sugar. Sucre Daddy. Yup, you read that right. It really doesn’t work well in translation and Kelsey, one of our CAVILAMbs even had to explain why that was to her host parents!

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Then, for our night activities we played a game of pool at L’Académie. We also met two Frenchies named Matt and Jeffrey who spoke English to us and gave us a great pool show after we had finished our game. They were complete pros as they hit with such accuracy that they hit at least two balls in the one go!

The next day, we had another debate in class and we were getting quite pro at it. We also watched the news and presented like news anchors for our class presentation (thanks to Jakub for the video)!

Then to celebrate our second last day, we met up at the Gaulois for drinks and happened to meet not only other students at CAVILAM but also Romain! It’s not every day you see your teachers in the same bar as you! It was so hilarious, especially the part where he sang for us a song about a drinking game! During the night, I also joined in to sing Let it Go in French, in fact, it wasn’t just us Australians but the whole bar!

On my last day, which I still remember clearly, as well as the route to CAVILAM from my host parents’ home, the room that I stayed in, my host family, the surroundings and everything else that I saw. I can still also remember the smells, even the smoke and especially the sweet smell of the boulangerie and the hot chocolate from the vending machine. All these are memories that I know I will forever cherish. On the last morning class, we had the best fête (party) ever where we had lots of food and music. It was sad because we were all like a family where we helped each other grow not only in speaking the French language but also as people; we learnt how to express ourselves better, how to be more confident and also to break cultural barriers and accept that the world is different but that we are all one and the same. Later that day, I said goodbye to my host family who were the best host family you could ever ask for. We did goodbyes for the very last time and there I was off on the train exiting Vichy and entering Paris where I would go to my hotel ready to return to Australia the next day. So long France, you were wonderful!

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On this note, I would like to thank the whole of the AIM Overseas team for this excellent opportunity, without which I would have never experienced all the things that I have. Thank you for being with me almost every step of the way and for providing me the support that I needed. You have been the best! And to the great, genuine people that I met over at Vichy, thank you for the memories. I’m sure we’ll see each other again, whether in this continent or another!

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