College Students Visit New Caledonia

October 28, 2014 at 10:33 AM

With thanks to student reporters, Isabella Cockell and Francesca Armstrong

During the Term 3 holidays, a group of students from Years 9-11 left for a ten day exchange to Noumea in New Caledonia. It was an incredible experience; we learnt so much about not just the language but about the culture as well. Every day was filled with new activities to give us more of an understanding into the French lifestyle.

Being immersed in a country is a very different experience to just taking an ordinary holiday; it allows you follow the typical daily routine of a French family and to become accustomed to a completely different way of life. A typical day in a French family proved to be quite different than the New Zealand routine we were accustomed to. The first culture shock came with the realisation that the school day begins a lot earlier for Noumean students! Classes begin at 7.00 in the morning and run through until 4:30 in the afternoon. The French school system is purely focused on academics leaving no time for co-curricular activities such as sports and music  - a huge contrast to Saint Kentigern!

The immersion with the families we were billeted with and being surrounded by French teens allowed us to pick up the language extremely quickly. Their enthusiastic approach towards hosting us meant we felt at home straight away. The students took on the roles of our tour guides, teachers and friends, showing us their favourite aspects of their island and helping us to develop our French speaking skills, teaching us the use of French slang and helping us to adapt to their incredibly fast speech. Being similar ages to our billets meant we all bonded exceptionally quickly; connecting over typical teenage craze’s such music and hobbies. Our relationships with our billets continued to grow over our two week stay as we learned more about each other and experienced more things as a pair.

There was a new plan each day, involving new sights to see and new foods to try. While experiencing the tropical island we spent a lot of time at the beach, snorkelling, freaking out about the Tricot Rayés (snakes - who in reality just slept in the sun), swimming and enjoying the heat which, at 25 degrees, was a dramatic comparison to mid-winter Auckland. Other days were spent visiting markets, going on cultural tours and experiencing the local culture of Noumea. Each day was exciting in a different way and there was something for everyone, even if just enjoying a nap on a lounger while soaking up Phare Amedee’s sunrays is your thing!

We quickly adapted to the French diet of pastry upon pastry, the extensive buffets, our billet family’s cooking and, of course, the new discovery of Nems. By the end of our ten day stay none of us were ready to leave and return to Term 4 and exams! The goodbye at the Airport proved to be an emotional experience and a few tears were shed on the way through security checks. We will never forget the experiences and friendships we created and shared on this experience and are thankful to have had the opportunity to take part in this exchange.

French Immersion Experience for Cameron and James
This year a new initiative was trialled with two Year 11 boys, Cameron Low and James Hansen, staying an extra 10 days in New Caledonia for an immersion experience.   They left earlier and returned later than the rest of the group, flying on their own. They were hosted by families from Georges Baudoux College, attended school, wore their uniforms and took part fully in the life of their billets.  

Cameron and James report: During the Term 3 holidays, we were fortunate to be selected to travel to New Caledonia to immerse ourselves in French. We stayed in Noumea with our billets for a week before the other Saint Kentigern students arrived. This gave us an amazing opportunity to discover a new culture and language. We arrived to Auckland-like weather but it quickly improved.

The sudden culture change was shocking at first; the new food, interaction between people and, of course, the different language.  During the time we were there on our own, we went to every class with our billets. The school day in New Caledonia is much longer than that of New Zealand, as they begin the day at 7am and finish at 4:30 in the afternoon. The early morning starts were definitely a shock to the system, especially when travel time was entered into the equation.

At the college, the students don’t have a designated morning tea but they have a 15 minute break between their first two and second two periods before lunch. Canteen food is the normal choice but a few students choose to return home during the two hour lunch break to eat. While we did eat the canteen food for a whole week, we cannot say that we miss it!

We had another four lessons after lunch and that brought us to the end of the school day. While there, we noticed a few differences and a few similarities to school life here in New Zealand. We certainly had the normal mix of teachers, both the nice kind and the stricter kind, much like here in New Zealand. However, there was a lot more dictation and less practical work, especially noticeable in the more hands on subjects such as chemistry and technology. We found it difficult to understand what the teachers were saying most of the time for the first few days but the improvement was rapid and by the Friday we could follow the course of the lesson, although not word for word. On our last day of immersion, we sat their end of year math exam which we didn’t find difficult but the word questions stumped us a little. Overall the immersion stay in the school was a definite worthwhile experience that we both would recommend to anyone thinking of coming on the trip in the coming years.

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