STS High School 14–18 years of age
Discover You in a new language

"Being an exchange student is a once-in-a-lifetime experience"

Wed Aug 30 2017

We had a quick chat with Amelia, who recently moved back to Austria after her exchange semester in France. Amelia told us about the reason she chose France as her exchange destination, the best way to improve your language skills and about the struggle making new friends at first in her new country. Happy reading!

Name: Amelia Navarre
: 15 years
Villach, Austria
On exchange in
: Vienne, France, Jan – July 2017

Amelia, what made you become an exchange student in France?

Ever since I started studying French at school, I wanted to speak it fluently. I loved the way that it flowed together, I had a fantastic teacher and what I had already seen of France really motivated me to reach a level where I could communicate with the locals and immerse myself in their culture. At first, I thought that I might go to France for a few weeks in the summer, but I quickly realised that a few weeks would not suffice for what I wanted to achieve – so then I decided (along with my family) that I would go live with a host family in France for 5 months!

How was it to study French?

The summer before I went to France I was focused on studying French with a tutor, and I had already been studying French for 3 years at school, so when I arrived in France, my skills were not too shabby. I could communicate with my host family and friends at school, but after a while you just start to use new vocabulary that you hear all the time and new grammar structures that you had never known beforehand. My French definitely improved during my semester. I would just advise students who are abroad to not speak their native tongue or English at all, or very little. This will really force you to improve your language and communication skills.

What was the best part about your time abroad?

Wow – this is a difficult question. So many things are coming to mind! I would have to say my host family. They were such a welcoming, typical French family and I really felt like a part of the family. They were there for me at the beginning when it wasn’t so easy, and stuck with me through everything. They really wanted to make sure that I had a great time and felt at home.

Was it easy to make friends?

The short answer is no. At least, not for me. I tend to not talk people that I don’t know, and with teenagers it’s even harder, because they judge very harshly and don’t let go of their opinions. I did however make 3 or 4 very good friends that I still stay in contact with.

Did you like the city you lived in?

I lived in a relatively small town (30,000) called Vienne. Vienne was a very simple town – not anything special. I didn’t mind though, I got to know Vienne (specifically the boulangeries) very well and appreciated the public transportation. It was quite a gorgeous town, and very close to Lyon, which was nice if I wanted to do some shopping.

Would you recommend people to become exchange students?

I would 100 % recommend being an exchange student to outgoing, eager, curious, open-minded students and students who have a passion for languages and are willing to put in a lot of hard work for a result that comes pretty slowly. Being an exchange student is a once in a lifetime experience that really changes you for the better. You learn to become more independent and open to different opinions. It can be very scary though, so make sure that you are sure that you are ready. If you’re ready, you will have an amazing time.

Would you recommend other people to choose France as their exchange destination?

If you love cheese, baguettes and churches – yes! I think that it depends on the person, but France is a pretty amazing place, so I would definitely recommend it.

We thank Amelia and wish her the best in her French speaking future!

Click here to find out more about a high school exchange in France