Are you debating whether or not you should complete an exchange program to France? I can’t recommend it enough. Doing a study abroad will honestly be one of the best experiences you can be a part of.
Travelling has become such a normal thing to do in our society. Visiting a country, experiencing a new culture. But there is still a difference between travelling and being fully exposed to a different country.
One of the most mentally and culturally stimulating things to do is not just visiting a new country, but really exploring and learning the depths of the culture, lifestyle and way of life.
Completing an exchange program is the perfect opportunity for you to learn the depths of another culture. It will mentally and culturally enhance your learning, giving you an experience you’ll cherish forever.
There are so many places to complete an exchange programme or a study abroad programme – you can really travel to the other side of the world if you want.
But this article will specifically focus on completing a French exchange programme. I did a fully immersive three-week exchange programme in Nice, France and I can’t recommend it enough.
Doing an exchange program to France will help you learn French
There’s only so much you can learn about grammar and vocabulary. Learning a language is very theory-based, but constantly learning the grammar will only get you so far. Visiting France, or a French-speaking country will multiply your understanding, because you’re putting those theories – those skills that you’ve learnt for years into practise.
Doing an exchange program to France will give you the opportunity to speak French – to be immersed in the French lifestyle. Being surrounded by the language will allow your mind to start thinking in French.
By living with a local host family, you’ll be directly interacting with native French speakers. Being exposed in such an immersive setting for 3+ weeks will truly allow you to develop your French skills and your confidence in the language.
Even if you don’t feel like your French skills are enough to get by – you’d be surprised how quickly you can learn French when you’re surrounded by it 24/7.
Within weeks your French language skills can double if you really believe you can do it. Besides being immersed in the language, if you put in the effort and actively listen and try speaking in French, your confidence will be enough to improve your French at the end of the day.
Besides learning the language, another benefit to doing an exchange program to France is learning about the local culture, lifestyle and norms.
Learn more about appreciating cultures, lifestyles and ways of life
Studying abroad in France, even if it’s just three weeks will give you a better understanding of cultural differences. Every country has its own culture, and France is no exception.
France has such a unique and special culture that you won’t find anywhere else.
Studying there will expose you to the day to day lifestyle of the locals. This will expose you to differences and help develop your mindset.
There’s only so much you can learn from reading books and talking about culture. The special thing about culture is that it’s individual.
You and the locals in your area know the deep culture of your country. You know how people function, you know the unwritten rules that visitors wouldn’t know. That’s because you’ve been immersed in your own culture that it becomes a norm.
But, it’s also important for you to know of and be aware of differences in cultures.
There’s two main parts to culture – the surface culture and the deep culture. This is known as a cultural iceberg first invented by Edward Hall.
The surface culture is the part that you can easily find in books, tv shows and newspapers. It refers to things like the language spoken in the country and the local food.
That’s the surface part of the iceberg. It’s the part that floats above water. The smaller part.
The other part of the iceberg is hidden in the water. It’s the deep culture that is hidden.
The deep culture is the more important part – it’s the day to day way of life of the locals, it’s the behaviour of the locals and it’s their beliefs.
This deep culture you can’t see easily. You can only see this if you experience it yourself.
Doing an exchange program to France will give you the opportunity to really learn about the deep culture in France. It’s not the fluffy culture you think you experienced by being a tourist for three days.
You can’t say you know exactly what the culture of a country is if you only saw it through tourist eyes. You will have seen the surface culture – but you missed the deep culture.
You can’t truly immerse yourself in a culture by being a tourist. You learn it by being a part of it.
That means speaking the language, living with locals and learning the culture and lifestyle from the inside.
Knowing the deep culture is what will make your experience so unique. You don’t just know the superficial layer.
Being exposed to this environment will develop your mindset – you’ll appreciate how these differences make us as a whole flow.
Being exposed to differences and appreciate them
One of the fundamental reasons why people discriminate and judge is because they don’t know better. They choose not to educate themselves about differences. They don’t try to think out the box. They don’t try to understand.
Coming from a mindset completely different doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep learning.
Doing an exchange program to France will let you learn and become more open-minded and accepting. Differences are important – that’s what makes us human. And understanding that is vital.
The more you travel, the more you realise that differences are everywhere. There is no one right way to live.
And being a part of a study abroad will allow you to understand the way the locals think. You’ll start thinking differently and that’s what will develop your mindset.
Maybe, just maybe you’ll even implement these new cultures into your own.
You’ll travel more
Doing an exchange program to France gives you the opportunity to travel more.
Chances are, you’ll be staying in one city during your study abroad. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t still travel. During the weekends, you can travel to different cities and towns. It’s the perfect opportunity to see the rest of the country or even neighbouring countries.
I was based in Nice, France for my three-week immersive study program. Three weeks. And I learnt so much. I went to school every weekday and travelled every weekend. I went to neighbouring cities and towns and met so many wonderful people. Here’s a list of the best day trip destinations to visit in the South of France
You won’t have the opportunity again. Being a part of an exchange program to France is an opportunity in itself. And making the most of it – learning, travelling and everything in between – that’s all the opportunities you’ll be exposed to. It’s up to you to embrace them, make the most of them and appreciate everything.
Frequently asked questions
How much French will I really learn?
Honestly, it really depends on your mindset and how you interact with the people around you. If you choose to study abroad, you’ll have actual classes during the morning or afternoon on weekdays. Participate in those. Try speaking to everyone in French whenever possible. It will be challenging at first, but that’s how you develop your thinking. As time passes, you’ll automatically be speaking in French.
Is there a specific study abroad program I should take?
There are loads of study abroad programs to choose from. I personally went to France with EF (Education First). It’s a company that has exchange programs in loads of countries. I went to Nice, France and had classes in the morning or afternoon every day at the EF centre. You’ll get to meet loads of other international students learning French.
But there are some schools that can provide you with private opportunities. If you attend university, chances are your school will have study abroad opportunities available – usually they are summer programs or one year programs.
What exactly does it mean to live with a host? Is it really necessary?
Living with a host essentially means you live with a local family. This local family will be native French speakers. Living with them will give you the chance to practise your French. A host family usually also provides you with food.
I personally lived with a host when I was in France. My host family couldn’t speak any English at all, so it forced me from the beginning to practise and use my French. I also had some traditional French cuisine that you wouldn’t get living in a self-catered accommodation.
Living with a host is not necessary. But it is useful. It will help you immerse yourself better.
I’m not sure if I want to go by myself… Would you recommend going with a friend?
I know it seems really daunting to go to a foreign country by yourself but I really think you should try. Going by yourself will give you a bigger sense of independence and will stop you from sticking to just your friend during a time where you should be exploring and meeting more people.
Do you have any questions that I didn’t answer? Let me know and I’ll get back to you.