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Beth Cannes Review

Beth /  University of Leicester Student (French & Spanish) – Année à L’étranger.

Boursière in the French language school in Cannes with CESA

I have an endless amount of words (both English and French) to describe Cannes:  “jolie”, “incroyable”, inspiring, evocative, blue, “tranquille”, light-hearted, s l o w, “detendue”
… and here is the story of my 3 months in Cannes!

September.

The prospect of recounting an informative monthly blog has previously never been something I’ve perceived as difficult, however when wanting to share and convey as much as I have to express about Cannes – it seems almost impossible! Nevertheless, I’m going to attempt to give you a mere taste of the lifestyle I’ve been lucky enough to indulge and “habite” in and the place I now see as home here in Cannes.

So to start from the beginning …
Departure Day- The beginning of my year abroad, a new chapter of my life in Cannes. After an enormous amount of anticipation, apprehension and excitement I left a rainy Birmingham airport early that Thursday morning (Mum in tow to settle me in – you know the drill!) and landed on the immensely beautiful Nice terrain. Instantly, I was captivated by the truly magnificent, breath-taking views of the surroundings even on the runway itself, it felt as if the plane was landing into the sea, with the brightest blue sky and golden sand reminiscent of a postcard. Shortly after, Mum and I took the bus from the airport in pursuit of the infamous Cote d’Azur town Cannes.  Thankfully having had the pleasure of studying at the Collège as part of my A level studies, I was fairly familiar with the surroundings yet still had the constant butterflies in my stomach as I was embarking on my adventure. The four days that Mum stayed with me were spent enjoying the “typiquement francaise ambiance”. The relaxed atmosphere and the simplistic “facon de vivre” were and still are infectious, everyone is so content – a real rarity these days in the UK. In spite of the closure of the summer period, we were still able to enjoy perfect sunshine on the beach and happily browse the shops in shorts and tee-shirts. The time passed quickly and after saying our goodbyes, I made my way to the College for my first official day of enrolment into classes and work. (I had already moved into my room, simplistic but more than sufficient). After completing the test to ascertain my level of French, I was assigned with a group at level B2 which was more than satisfactory since my University had stated that I was at level B1. I met my teacher Carole, a truly exuberant and “vrai francaise” and I was instantly fascinated by the emphasis placed on both enjoying and achieving in the sound “apprentissage” of the French language. I was introduced to my classmates, instantly being acquainted with various international cultures (Swiss, Mexican, American, Libyan, Brazillian) that in itself highly intriguing coming from a small village in the UK.
I spent the rest of my first week settling in, adapting to the classes, trying to form friendships and interact with as many new people (both students and staff) as possible, it was hugely exciting, it felt like my first day in secondary school all over again – even down to buying new books and stationary for the classes! I was enthralled by the fact that everyone here at the college is so friendly, all eager to help you to get the most out of your experience – their energy is infectious and makes you develop a desire to achieve!  Similarly, I re-familiarised myself with the ‘Centre- Ville’, I enrolled at a gym in the hope of meeting new French people and keeping up some sport. I treated myself to numerous cappuccinos and indulged in people watching and simply soaking up the atmosphere and appreciating the wealth of the area – not just the people themselves, but the purity and beauty of the surroundings. Happiness and positivity are resounding traits all around the area, every one smiles and says ‘Bonjour’ even when you appear as apparent an English tourist as I do – Blonde hair, pale skin and a deep voice!

On the Wednesday, I had the pleasure of meeting a group of Americans (who were studying at the College for two weeks) with whom I got on extremely well, and proceeded to tag along with them. We did plenty of exploring in our new and sensational surroundings together as well as enjoying various aspects of the Cannoise culture.  Ensemble, we enjoyed plenty of ‘café au lait’ and ‘crepes’ and we took a boat trip to the idyllic  ‘Ile de Lerins – St Honorat et St Marguerite’ , I have genuinely never seen such beautiful landscapes, history and unforgettable views – I highly recommend you visit them if you ever get chance, definitely a MUST see spectacle when staying in Cannes!

My first ‘Soirée’ in Cannes
When arriving in Cannes, all the summer students of the college are informed that the nightlife was going to be somewhat ‘tranquille’ for the winter months. However, my first encounter of ‘faire la fete’ here in Cannes didn’t disappoint. Together with the Americans and plenty of other students at the college we ventured to various bars and clubs, dancing on tables, singing karaoke (including some truly angelic French songs!) and generally enjoyed ourselves before walking back to the college together at around 4am! Granted – it isn’t the cheapest type of evening, drinks are around €9 for a vodka and mixer – quite different to what I’d accustomed to at the Student Union in Leicester. However if you’re a beer or wine drinker there are plenty of offers to entice you!

My First day working as a ‘Boursière’ -Brunch.
In spite of my rather late or perhaps early night, I arose at 9am to prepare myself for my first day working at Brunch. I was a little anxious but excited at the prospect of doing something new and becoming familiar with a different side of the college. I was introduced to the other two Boursières Isabel and Marya both of whom have a brilliant level of French which we used instantly to communicate with each other. Isabel is 20 and also at University in Germany, Marya is 26 and Mexican, they both live off campus but like me study at the college too. Together, we watched and worked alongside the previous Boursière Martina as she showed us where everything was, how to lay the tables and simply how to act around the chefs to prevent any confusion or frustration!  I thoroughly enjoyed it, engaging with ‘les femmes de ménage’- all extremely helpful and eager to encourage us to learn. Instantly I realised that work at the college was far from easy, you have to be attentive all the time and remain responsible acting as a role model for the other students. I was inspired by this aspect, a fundamental skill for a working environment and something I would very much like to perfect for any future prospects.

Brunch – all is very particular, there is an art to the way thing are placed, table cloths are laid, an aspect indicative of the respect worthy of food in French society.

Opting to keep myself occupied and wanting to gain as much from my first week as possible, I signed up to Monaco & Eze excursion organised by the College. It was my second visit to the beautiful region but yet again I was completely astounded by the immense beauty, cleanliness and tranquility of the area. Everywhere is saturated with history, its overwhelming and intriguing to be an innocent tourist able to benefit from just a brief insight into it all. First stop was Monaco, sights so perfect they almost look fake.

We amused ourselves by walking through the quaint old town, immaculate gardens and impeccable side streets seeing at first hand the Prince’s Palace in Monaco – Ville.  Also we caught a glimpse the beautiful cathedral where Grace Kelly was married and subsequently buried. En suite, we returned to the coach in pursuit of the infamous Casino Monte Carlo, we were privilleged enough to walk along the F1 track, such windy roads and tiny corners it’s crazy. (Instantly my brother became jealous that I had seen the renowned F1 venue before him!) On arrival at the casino, I was immediately astonished at the wealth and exuberance, a rarity to see one Ferrari in a day, let alone 6 lined up outside, as well as a Bentley and a Rolls Royce on a typical Sunday afternoon.

But this is the norm in Monaco where luxuries in this small city-state are vast. In spite of this, much like Cannes all the residents and workers in the area were pleasant and friendly maintaining the sophisticated ‘French Riviera’ mind set where nothing is too much trouble. The next stop was Eze, a quaint, small village that overlooks the South Eastern coast of France and the Mediterranean. The small winding streets were lined with artists and delicious little cafés much like the sights you see in Montmatre, Paris. In spite of the heat, we hiked up the minute streets to reach the top of the incline, the views simply rendered me speechless.

After what could only be described as remarkable weekend, I resumed back to classes eager to establish a routine and enhance my learning. On the Tuesday Marya, Isabel and I were introduced to Claude our supervisor for the Salle Multimedia room here at the college, the other aspect of our work here as Boursières. He gave us an insight into the workings of library and the tasks that we have to do whilst working in the room and we drew up a schedule both for the Salle and Brunch duties for the weeks and weekends we were to be working, organising and fairly proportioning who did what. The library is open at students’ disposal to come and study, use a computer, or merely chat in French to enhance the level of familial language amongst us. In total each Boursière works around 20 hours a week, in addition to the lessons we are so privileged to receive from 9-12 Monday to Friday. In addition, the college permits you to choose any other elective classes you desire so on the Wednesday.  I signed up to study Intense Grammar – Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoon as well, in an attempt to have sound foundation of all the intricate aspects to French grammar  for my final year at Uni. There are a variety to choose from, something for everybody – history of art, French society, Theatre etc. On the Friday 27th in class, as the only English student not only in my class but at the college, I was asked to do a presentation on our British Royal family, as a society the French are intrigued with the level of infatuation and fascination we have as British citizens with the Royals. It proved to be highly informative for me, I learnt plenty of facts about the history of the Royal family that I wasn’t previously aware of. It also provided a lot of humour for my class mates who rested firm in the judgement that the Royal Family were and still are a flamboyant aspect of British identity, coinciding with the fact that as a country internationally we have very little to be renowned for except Fish and Chips! (Smashing!)
On Saturday the 28th of September after finishing Brunch duties, the Americans whom I had been spending a lot of time with left. Although initially I felt pretty sad and at a loose end, it actually proved to be a positive thing as it facilitated my interaction with more people here at the college and subsequent friendships. On this sunny Saturday a Swiss girl Naomi and I decided to take the bus to Antibes as we had heard great reviews about the small town. We were not disappointed similarly to Cannes it was beaming with intrigue and history – beautiful castles, ports and quaint coffee shops. I really want to re-visit before I leave, there were so many things to do and see we ran out of time. Here are a few of the shots I managed to get:

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Journal: Octobre –  c’est incroyable, les jours passent lentement mais les semaines a passé vite…!

A beautiful sunrise run along the sea front – purely breathe taking!

After having enjoyed a rather exciting, and overwhelming first month here in the ‘très belle’ Ville Cannes, I was instantly intrigued as to what October could have in hold for me. As we ventured into a new month, ‘le soleil a continué à briller’ another rarity for me, ‘une anglaise’, to not only enjoying swimming in the sea, but in October, – a real privilege indeed! I wasn’t alone as I witnessed numerous people ‘en passant leur temps’ on the golden beaches daily. As the summer season was coming to a close in Cannes, things turned a little quieter and I relished my newly established routine. With classes daily until ‘midi’, followed by lunch (parmi tous les autres étudiants ici – pour moi, ca soi-meme est tellement enrichissant, en conaissant une variété de cultures différentes.) then with elective afternoon classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I was adapting well to my new routine. In addition, two days working in the Salle Multimédia and fitting in plenty of socialising and sport (both beach running and regular gym visits), I found myself more and more at ease in my new environment with the college becoming very much like a home. In the same way, I found myself thoroughly enjoying my French and I began experimenting with more of the newly learnt vocabulary, phrases and grammar where appropriate. Even if it was just in communicating in a relaxed, familiar environment with the other boursiers and boursières. Undoubtedly, the aspect I find hardest in learning a language is the ability to express yourself coherently in whatever the situation. It’s bizarre – I  have found that my brain has started to almost resemble a ‘thesaurus’ , I can easily relay numerous synonyms for a wide range of words yet when it comes to finding the confidence to freely express myself fluidly and accurately I struggle! I get part way through a conversation and then feel almost ‘frozen’ in thought. On the Wednesday (2/10), ‘j’ai eu de la chance en rencontrant une très sympa fille française, Angélique’, her room is in fact located ‘en face de la mienne’. She is staying here at the College whilst studying at a school in Cannes until June 2014. We chatted and indulged in tea drinking (very English – I felt instantly at home!) and together we watched various episodes of the French equivalent of sitcoms. I was able to practice my French whilst she muttered the odd word of English in attempt to extend her knowledge too. On her advice, in the pursuit of improving my French I took up the habit of listening to the French radio intermittently during the week, even if for just 10-20 minutes in ‘le matin’ whilst getting ready for class. I thought it would be a good idea with the hope of facilitating not only my understanding and articulation of the French language, but also in offering an insight into the news and current ‘actualités’ here in France. I wasn’t wrong, admittedly at first it was hard to get my head around the various accents and expressive language used by the presenters but with practice, I’ve begun to understand more and more. One thing that I have noticed during my ‘séjour’  here in Cannes which seems crucial when learning French, and living amongst the French culture, is that the French do expect you to not only have a thorough ‘connaissance’ of what is happening nationally in your own country but also in theirs too! It is instantly a great conversation too which suggests that you are keen to learn and broaden your knowledge of ‘la société francaise’. For example later on in the week, I had a particularly intriguing conversation with a ‘femme francaise’ whilst on the bus concerning France’s involvement in Mali – who would have thought it, I learnt things I’d never been previously aware of! Yet again, a real benefit and another enriching experience of my time abroad, being lucky enough to integrate into the French culture and, at first hand gain the perspective of ‘les indigénes’, whose existence is affected by the dominance, and importance of a president and his supporting political party. (A completely different angle to just reading the newspaper or watching the news!)

l’expérience à ‘très jolie’ Paris

Le Sacré Coeur, Montmartre
On discovering that I had the Saturday the 18th of October free from working brunch duties, I took the opportunity to plan a trip to see a university friend in Paris. She is actually French, like me she is on her year abroad and is currently partaking in an internship with the highly reputed UNESCO. It wasn’t my first time visiting the city of love, I’ve been lucky enough to experience the Parisien lifestyle several times previously but it never fails to have the same mesmerising and captivating effect that it does the first time you visit! We enjoyed many ofl the typical tourist attractions, exploring the city and all its well-known charms from shopping along the infamous ‘Champs Élysée’ to soaking up the quaint and infectious ‘ambiance’ in Montmartre. We indulged in plenty of incredible meals (her dad is one of the chefs at the Hotel Ritz – needless to say I certainly didn’t starve when I stayed with her!) and did plenty of catching up. Both of us having so much to tell one another, it was all so exciting but as always the time goes too quickly! (Oh and I had a Starbucks cappuccino- one thing I really miss from England as the coffees here in Cannes aren’t as good!

As well as meeting Tracey, I also contacted and successfully met up with one of the American girls whom I had the pleasure of meeting and forming a friendship with here at the college in Cannes – Carla. She is studying at the Sorbonne for three months and staying with a French family, it was great to meet up again – we have lots in common. She showed me round the ‘jolie’ arrondissement that she is temporarily living in, streets lined with ancient buildings and immaculately designed houses much like Cannes, and I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the French tradition and their tranquillity.  We visited various small museums, one of them being ‘Musée d’Orsay’, the unfaltering ‘Beaux arts’ and unique expositions were as ever incredibly impressive.

I was most intrigued by this statue, one of many – such talent!

After an amazing weekend, I returned early on the Sunday just in time to work Brunch duties having, along with the other Boursières, nicely adjusted to the work routine. I spent the rest of my weekend preparing for my classes and chatting with the other students. On Tuesday 22/10, a friend from my afternoon class  an Austrian, Alina  and I went to see the renowned film ‘La Vie d’Adèle’ having heard and read numerous positive reviews furthered by its glory in winning the Palme d’Or award at Cannes, we were both inspired to see it! It is a film that explores the life of the 15 year old Adele, an aspiring teacher, unsure of her sexuality whose life changes when she meets the blue haired Emma who instigates a romance. I won’t ruin the plot but I highly recommend it, it is however long  – 3 hours of concentration was difficult and, a few of the scenes are a little too explicit but all in all, I can see why it received such acclaim. Similarly, the French was fairly easy to understand with just a few colloquial words and phrases that I struggled to follow particularly in the school scenes. On the following Friday evening, I visited the cinema ‘une autre fois’.  Mayra, Isabel and I had arranged to have a ‘Boursière’ evening, we wanted to enjoy doing something together in a different environment to studying or working! This time, (as it was half price for students on Fridays) we watched ‘Neuf Mois Ferme’ on our professeur’s Carole’s recommendation of it being a film ‘typiquement francais’- that, it certainly was! It is a comedy based on the protagonist, Ariane Felder who is quite mysteriously found to be pregnant! This is all the more surprising since this examining magistrate is an old-fashioned single person. But even more surprising is the fact that, according to DNA tests, the father is none other than Bob, a criminal prosecuted for atrocious assault and battery. Ariane, who does not remember anything, tries to understand what happened… Comme genre, it was very different to La vie d’Adèle but I enjoyed it all the same. Although, I can’t say I fully appreciate the ‘l’humour francais’, les vrais Francais watching the showing were literally falling out of their seats with laughter and applauding at certain moments whereas, ‘nous trois’ looked at one another in real astonishment, clearly missing the point of all their hilarity! I think it’s fair to say I prefer the good old English sarcasm, even if at times I don’t fully understand it! After the film, we dined in one of the more affordable sea food restaurants here in Cannes; ‘Coquillages Brun’. Indeed, the food was simply out of this world – incredibly ‘délicieux’, possibly some of the best prawns and oysters I’ve ever eaten, I’ll definitely be re-visiting before I leave! Sufficiently satisfied, we further enjoyed the evening by conforming to the ‘Cannoise’ celebrity culture in visiting various cocktails bars. In spite of their price tag of on average 10 euros a drink, they were certainly worth it and the atmosphere was great, each of us relaying a bit about our heritage and the traditions in Mexico, Germany and England, all of which differ somewhat, it really was fascinating! As the night progressed, nous nous sommes très bien amusées enjoying in the ‘richesse’ of the Cannes nightlife and returning back to the College in the early hours- a memorable night for all!

 

The following week, I received an email from another course friend of mine Matt who is currently, whist on his year abroad, working as an assistant in a school in St Chely, South France. Whilst on half term, he was travelling around France particularly the Southern regions, wanting like all of us to benefit from every opportunity to practice more of the language and increase our cultural knowledge. I was very fortunate that he happened to drop by Cannes for a short stay. Again, it was lovely to see a friendly face, we chatted for hours about our experiences and indulged in yet another scrumptious meal. I showed him the college and we walked along ‘Le Croisette’ completely in awe of the extreme wealth and luxury of the glamorous shops, cars, hotels and buildings! (One day I will win the lottery and treat myself to an item from each of the shops along the Croisette, Gucci, Chanel, Céline, Armani…. Heaven!) Afterwards enjoying a meal in ‘Le Suquet’.

As the month drew to a close, we approached the ever popular occasion of ‘Halloween’. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of it as I find it a little too commercial. I’m not sure if that’s due to growing up on a farm where there wasn’t the fascination of trick or treating, but it doesn’t really have much of an attraction for me. However, given that there are several groups of American university students here and that Halloween is a huge ‘fete’ in the States the College organised a ‘Soirée Halloween’ for our enjoyment. It was actually great fun, a group of us went to the market during the day to buy materials, hair dye and fake blood to create terrifying costumes – I ended up being a zombie bride and Bruno another boursier was the joker from Batman. All the college staff dressed up too, we played games and danced to music before going out to other bars and clubs to continue enjoying the ‘thrilling’ evening. ‘Heureusement’, the following day (01/11) Saint’s Day was Bank holiday in France so we had no lessons and were all able to indulge in a well needed ‘Grasse matinée’!
A la prochaine fois
Beth or ‘Bes’ ( my newly acquired French name given that the French struggle with the ‘th’ !)

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November/ December Journal

A mere continuation of my amazing experience here in ‘incroyable et tellement beau’ Cannes.

What a month! I can’t believe I am sitting writing this final journal in my penultimate week here at the College, it really is surreal where the time has gone! It doesn’t seem like three months since I first stepped foot into the incredibly enriching and welcoming College. No two days have been the same, I really have packed a lot into my enriching ‘séjour’ in an attempt to gain as much as I can from the experience, integrating with ‘les vrais francais’ and being eager to enhance my learning process and fluidity in speaking as much as possible. Aside from my independent travel and work, I genuinely have to say that the lessons here at the college are simply incredible, I have learnt so much through the flexibility employed by the teachers in order to ensure that each individual student gains the necessary understanding ‘quelque soit le sujet’. In classes, much alike school and University you address all the focal points of learning a language ; speaking, listening, reading and writing, the most essential being speaking and understanding – the sooner an individual can develop those skills along with a solid foundation of grammar the quicker they learn. After three months, I can really notice an apparent change in my French, I have more clarity when expressing myself and my writing has improved to a large extent.

1-3rd November
After an exciting end to October with Halloween amongst work and study, I was fortunate enough to have (given the bank holiday I worked the Friday 1st) the 2nd and 3rd off from Brunch duties. As I am due to be spending a month in Lyon in January I seized the opportunity to take an early visit to suss out the area with another of my colleagues here at the college, Marion. I was instantly infatuated with the city known as the region for ‘les étudiants’, it certainly was that – far cheaper than Cannes and there seemed to be greater population over a wider surface. We did plenty of walking, indulging in the differing French cultures, visiting numerous museums and simply soaking up the ‘ambiance’ in a variety of the quaint side streets lined with cafes and amazing vintage shops. We also enjoyed various delicious meals, as an area renowned for its gastronomy and being the heart of the French cuisine, it would have been rude not to! I’m certainly excited at the prospect of studying and working there for a month next year, it’s ideally located – many of the students said that they go skiing in at the weekends in the winter months as it takes 30-60 minutes to get there, literally incredible!

4th- 8th November
After indulging in a touristy and thoroughly enlightening weekend, I was re-invigorated to continue with my classes and work. Since being at the college and being in a group where each individual has a different level of comprehension/articulation or simple awareness of the French language, it really has been a necessity to keep up to date with all class work as well as doing additional grammar and practice for self-improvement. I have found myself reading the newspaper frequently (I attempt to do it daily), they have free ones here at the college which are concise and easy to understand but at the same time they facilitate your understanding and provide clarification of the grammar you learn in class. E.g. the press is littered with the use of ‘la voix passive’ something I had never been previously aware of when learning the rules of the grammar point itself. In addition, whilst working in the library during the week I took it upon myself to have numerous conversations with some of the French pupils staying here at the college in attempt to help boost my confidence and simply just to appreciate listening to the ways they articulate and the rate at which they speak. However, since being here at the college as my French has developed, I feel quite confident in saying that I can now on the whole understand a conversation with a native francais. This is helped by the fact that all of the students and staff are all so friendly, eager to help you get the most out of your experience so even if you don’t fully understand the first time, they are more than happy to repeat or rephrase the sentence in order for you to gain a better comprehension. Essentially, it’s up to each individual to implement the structures which they need in order to facilitate their learning process, it really is true that you can’t just learn a language in a month, year, two years – you need to live in and among the native culture for a long period where you are forced to put into practice all that you know and at the same time you can be familiarised with the rate of speaking and the numerous familiar phrases used in day to day existence.

On the 12th of November, after much discussion with my very dear professeur Carole, I moved up a group to be in the top set here at the college. I felt things were a little too easy in her class and we were repeating various grammatical points I had covered at University in great detail, so in pursuit of stretching myself and to maximise my linguistic experience I decided to ask to move up. I am so pleased I did, since being here I have learnt so much and my French has really improved. Admittedly, I have been the weakest of the group being amongst native French speakers and very elite C1 students ( the equivalent of graduates or more) but all the same it’s been so inspiring to listen to them express themselves, key phrases and familiar expressions have become infectious (helping with the pursuit of the French like identity). In addition, we have covered various fundamental skills (things new to me) in relation to contraction of texts and translations, all highly beneficial as I now approach my fourth and final year where accuracy and concise structures of texts are essential in striving for the higher grades. My new professeur Serge is very accommodating and eager to help each student gain as much from the experience as possible, we get homework regularly where we have to complete exercises that put into practice the rules we have studied in class. I spent the rest of the week adjusting to the new lessons and studying various structures and grammar elements in order to maintain pace with my classmates, that in itself is great in encouraging independent learning.

Emma’s visit – England visits France
On the weekend of the 15th of November, I was lucky enough to have a friend from England, Emma, come and visit me. It was a spontaneous arrangement but it proved to be yet another memorable occasion. Thanks to the glorious weather with bright blue skies and warm sunshine along with Marya we went to Antibes in search of the ‘célèbre’ Picasso museum.  We strolled around the area in awe of the splendour and tranquillity, we were astounded by the wealth, the size of the boats and properties, and it was really overwhelming even to a greater extent than here in Cannes. After working Brunch duties on the Sunday, on a gloomier day I enjoyed showing Emma all Cannes’ attributes in the way of fashion with all its designer brands and attraction to ‘la richesse’ of society. We walked past the Carlton, along the red carpet in front of the Palais de Festivals feeling like real celebrities, even to the extent of trying on a minx jacket in Gucci for the small price of 20,000 euros! It was a dream indeed!

At the beginning of the following week, we were informed that we were to make oral presentations based on a two sided argument, i.e. something relevant and current in the press. I chose to do mine on the presence of the French language – whether it is becoming more of a dying language given the evolution of the Chinese language and other multicultural languages in the world of commerce. It proved to be most interesting, it took time but I really enjoyed doing the research, finding the necessary newspaper items and forming the exposé. At the same time, it was eye-opening questioning various members of staff at the college – gaining their opinion on the presence of their ‘quotidienne’ language on a global scale. Needless to say it was a highly intriguing week hearing students’ thoughts and opinions on subjects from the importance of ‘le marriage pour tous’ ‘le polygamy’ and ‘l’évolution de delinquance et la drogue en France’. It was a daunting task for me being amongst such eloquent and near fluent speakers but I managed in spite of a few nerves to relay my speech fairly confidently and convincingly. Afterwards we had group discussions on the topics, it was most informative to gain an impression of the theme/societal issue from so many cultural backgrounds.

Rome
Yet another cultural visit but this time to Italia! For myself and Bruno it was the first time we set foot on to Roman terrain and on arrival I was as the French call it ‘tout a fait bouleversée’. The instant acquaintance with an overwhelming surrounding of history, architect and pure beauty of the area was sensational. In spite of the torrential rain for the four short days we were there, with umbrellas fixed in hands we used our time appropriately visiting the majority of all the tourist attractions. From the Vatican, to the beautiful Fontana de Trevi, the ancient Colisseum and Piazza d’Espagne. The amount of tourists around was surreal, in reality such a sparsely populated area purely dominated by excessive tourism. By the end of the weekend in spite of being soaked to the bone and shattered from all the walking, I genuinely felt mesmerised by the place and it is certainly a capital I would like to re-visit in the near future.

The preceding week I resumed my studies having been given texts to write as homework on my experience in Rome as well as the power of the publicity for my classes. Here at the college, the teachers really promote the importance of independent learning; an intrinsic and essential skill especially when studying a subject at a high level. Personally the methods they have used to encourage us to study for ourselves, to read, write, speak constantly to better our own experience has been most beneficial. It has been difficult here in Cannes when shopping or spending time in the town centre, all the natives know you are tourists no matter how well you speak French. But I have found myself saying ‘Non, il faut parler en francais’, if you let waiters/assistants speak to you in your own language I feel it impedes the learning process. In order to learn and develop your non-native language you have to use it in all kinds of spontaneous situations, it is essential to start changing your thought process to a French one, that way you can speak confidently and coherently in a ‘melange’ of situations.

Wow DECEMBER! It’s nearly Christmas (although it really doesn’t feel like it here in Cannes, what with the blue skies, the sea and the subtly, in comparison to England, of the consumerism) it doesn’t have the same feel to a build up to Christmas in the UK. Three months have really flown by, the things I’ve done, the people who I have met and most importantly all I have learnt not just for my French but also the confidence I have gained in independent living have been phenomenal. I don’t want the experience to end, it has been such an exciting chapter of my life I’ve loved every minute. As Christmas approaches, the college is now pretty empty with international students returning to their own cultures for the festive period after a semester abroad. Decorations have slowly started going up as have items in stores (not like the ridiculous UK situation where things are out in the shops from September and embellishments everywhere!). In the same way, Thursday last week (5/12), the Christmas markets started here in Cannes with numerous gift huts, roasted chestnuts, vin chaud and plenty of tasty treats (specialty being the pates d’amandes – delicious dates with marzipan instead on offer. I’ve already been twice with friends here at the college (and I’m sure I will go again before I leave), yet another infectious and heart-warming Cannoise ambiance, it’s great to see how other cultures view festivities, I have learnt that the French attach more importance to the ‘Nouvel An’ as opposed to Christmas. It’s made me realise how excessively commercial the UK is in relation to Christmas,  for the French the importance remains in the togetherness of family and the significance of religion as opposed to gift exchange and enormous gourmandy! There is plenty on at the College as the semester draws to a close, imminent theatrical performances, a cheese and wine evening, numerous Christmas class ‘fetes’ and plenty to enjoy. I feel very nostalgic, it’s hard to express but being on this year abroad is hard in some ways. You get used to a new surroundings especially one as incredible as Cannes, learning plenty, meeting and forming friendships and then before you know it, time progresses and you’re off on another chapter of your life -next stop Lyon! Undoubtedly, Cannes has been three of the best months of my life so far – an indescribable and ‘tellement inoubliable’ experience, I will certainly be re visiting again soon in the very near future. There really is no better way to learn a language, immerse yourself into a culture with such a finesse and uniqueness as the Cote d’Azur and you truly feel/are blessed. It’s an irreplaceable experience that I would highly recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to indulge it, seize it with both hands!I am flying home on the 20th of  December, classes and work finish on the 14th but then I am hoping to go travelling (once more!) to Florence with one of the boursier’s Alex from Brazil who is unfortunately staying here by himself for Christmas. I suggested we did some travelling together so it reduces the amount of time he has alone, he doesn’t speak any English so yet again it provides another opportunity to build on my French and I am very excited to see another side of Italy culture.

Il n’y qu’une vie – c’est mon esprit pour année à l’étranger!

Jusqu’ca la prochaine, Bes/Bet