I have notched up another thing I have wanted to do for a time but never organised: I did an immersion week at Alliance Française in Rouen and stayed with a host family. I chose Rouen because I would be travelling in Normandy and it is easy to get to by train from Paris into which I would be flying. It was well worth it and I would love to do it again.
I registered and requested my accommodation choice online through Alliance Française, Rouen; the confirmation was emailed and I paid the deposit through their portal. Once booked, rather than wait to do a comprehension test on the first morning, I took the test online and the staff then suggested a level commensurate with my result in the test. As a visiting student, I entered a class that was already operating. I was curious how this would work but I slipped seamlessly into the program which included grammar, language and pronunciation. The classes usually have 6 – 12 students of all ages and professions. We had a 16-year old Australian boy visiting with family for a month, an American nurse to me who I am sure was the eldest. We were a polyglot group from everywhere, including Australia, America, Bulgaria, China, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia.
I also participated in two workshops each day to get additional speaking and listening practice. The curriculum revolved around cultural, economic and geographical topics and included interviews, debates and games with activities such as an interview with a professional, a wine and cheese tasting (delicious) and Zumba dancing. It was low pressure and fun throughout the week and of course the more I participated the more I gained although I am not sure my movements in Zumba were strictly what our tutor was suggesting in French. Additional outings to cultural and tourist destinations including Giverny and Monet’s garden, Mont Saint Michel, Bayeux, Paris and Versailles are organised throughout the term.
Alliance Française was also one of the few places in France where I saw a take-away coffee machine which was heavily frequented as it offered over a dozen options for coffee including espresso, long and short black, cappuccino, mocha and tea with or without sucre & lait. Alongside was an enormous machine offering a variety of snacks, chips, chocolates, biscuits etc to feed the perpetually hungry hoards of young students. I would also take advantage of the free WiFi to touch base with the family every day during the lunch break.
The entire week was spoken in French with both the staff and the host family that made it quite exhausting but by the end of that period my ear was starting to tune in. The administration staff were so patient and encouraging during our conversations that I didn’t feel embarrassed by my inadequacies. The classes are held in a traditional French building just around the corner from the Rouen Rive Droit (train station) and it is only a 5-minute walk into the old centre that has museums and parks in which to wander and spend the lunch break.
I had requested the ‘La demi-pension en famille’ accommodation option which includes breakfast and dinner. Once arranged, the Alliance Française emailed me the contact details of my host family suggesting that I touch base with details of my arrival and any dietary needs. The family who lived 800 m from the school were charming and welcoming. Madame took great pride in providing a four course traditional French meal each evening that would always include an entrée or soup, a main dish, a salad, cheese and desert plus of course French wine. She and her husband went out of their way to ensure we were comfortable and happy in their home. I had a fabulous week and wished that I could have stayed for longer.