What were the highlights of the academic experience during your time in the French Summer School?
The discovery of the Kanak culture, the incredible hospitality of everyone involved in organising the program and all the New Caledonian people we met along the way, the fact that that we were in a French environment, fantastic outings (both touristic and cultural by nature), really interesting subjects covered in conferences/presentations…
Were there any activities that were unique to your host country or university that you would recommend?
The 2-day stay in a village with members of a local tribe, and also the visit to the spectacular ‘Park of the Blue River’
What were the most significant takeaways from your experience with this programme?
Learning about other peoples, the way they live, and their traditions/culture is a valuable exercise to help us appreciate and at the same time, re-evaluate our own values … and the Kanak people and traditions certainly made us (the students) feel very humble … there’s a lot that western society can learn from their ways. Of course, the opportunity to be immersed in a French-speaking world was also important, and I loved being in that environment again, having previously lived in Paris.
How do you find out about the opportunity?
Via the University of Auckland French Department.
What was the accommodation like?
The accommodation was fine. Each student had a separate room (with fridge) with their own separate shower, & a shared toilet with a neighbour, and there was a shared kitchen & common room (with TV). As it was the summer holidays, the University & the residence were largely empty. There were fans in rooms, but rooms were very hot, especially at night, and bugs/mosquitos came in if the windows were open.
What was the Orientation like at the host university
We had a good campus tour on Day 1.
What did you think of the courses/professors during the programme?
The course was great, with morning classes & afternoon cultural excursions. The teachers were generally fantastic. Everyone was so welcoming & friendly. An excellent way to experience French language & culture immersion so close to home.
What was the host city/country like?
A mix of Pacific Island & French cultures. Lots of French vibe and culture in town. Beautiful countryside, with the blue sea everywhere. Great weather too. People were VERY friendly!
What was the cost of living like compared to Auckland?
We had very little costs as accommodation was included in the prepaid cost, & there were 3 cheap places to eat on campus (Mon-Fri, during the day only) with great food.
Did you partake in any extracurricular activities?
Many: visit to the ‘Parc de la Rivière Bleu’, a 2-night stay with a tribe, beach visits, city tour, dance classes…
What was life like on campus?
We were quite busy with morning classes & afternoon outings, & working on our ‘portfolio’ (like a reflective journal), required for course assessment. As there were only 12 students, we all got to know each other very well and became good friends.
What were the local food options?
As mentioned, there were 3 restaurants/cafeterias open Monday to Friday during the day, with very good/cheap food. Otherwise, we cooked our own meals in the evenings with periodic supermarket visits to stock up. The course organisers also provided a few unexpected free evening meals at the Residence.
What were your overall highlights?
Learning about the Kanak culture and their customs/traditions, but the real highlight was the friendliness of everyone we met!
Did you experience any challenges preparing for the programme or during your stay?
Some lack of organisation and information/communication, and the wifi was down over the whole campus for 1 week in the middle of our stay. The challenge for me personally was that the French level of most the other students was not good, so I had to adapt by speaking as much as possible with the teachers & assistants in order to speak lots of French at the right conversational level, but it all worked out fine in the end. In future, if they have more students, there should be a better mix of levels in the class.
Any advice or tips you’d like to share for future students thinking of joining the UNC French Summer School?
Do it !!!!