Ever since I arrived in Montpellier to work as an intern at a French school in France, I’ve seen this event on meetup – language exchange and party at the Casa Cubana – and since I noticed it, I really wanted to go. Somehow, (probably because I find Tuesday a bit early in the week to start going out) I didn’t manage to make myself go until my fourth week in Montpellier. In fact, I decided to go the evening of my first full day of work, probably wanting a drink.
I got there around nine, and even though the event started at seven thirty, and when I entered, I thought there was no one there apart from a few stragglers at the bar. At this point, I was fully contemplating going home and backing out of trying to socialise. However, I just had to look around the corner to find an extra room, used for the event, that was so crowded that you could hardly walk through the doorway.
At first I didn’t know how to join in – everyone was stood up and talking in pairs or small groups. Right next to the entrance, I noticed a girl from ILA French language school, so I chatted with her and a man she was with. She was also here to learn French. I found out that they were both Dutch, from Amsterdam and studying in some way or another. I was starting to realise how many internationals there were in Montpellier, all here with the goal to learn French in France. When we had exhausted most conversations, I wanted to move around a bit, so I could speak to other people and learn French a bit but it seemed like it would be a bit awkward leaving a group. So obviously, I decided to get a drink.
It was five euros for a beer if you were part of the language exchange. So, along with my liquid courage, I made my way through the gathering. Amongst others, I met a man from Peru, a guy who kept saying he was a real Montpellier-man because he was born and raised here, and a couple who had lived and worked everywhere, from Melbourne to Lisbon, and now in Montpellier to learn French. It was fun and exciting talking to so many people from different places. I also met other students from different French schools in France. By then I’d plucked up the courage to join a group, so I went over to three people in the corner who were chatting around a table and who looked around my age. It seemed as if they’d already known each other for ages, but when we got talking I found out that they’d met that same evening. We hit it off, took a table outside and I now have a friendship group made up of a French girl, a German boy and an Iraqi boy and we’re going to the beach together on Saturday. What was nice, was that they were all young and they had all, like me, come to this event alone to learn French. And that’s something I’d be too self-conscious to do at home – go out in the evening by myself without having planned to meet someone in particular. In the end, I was so glad that I’d managed to make myself go out that evening; it was definitely worth it and it’s also a nice way to finish off your day of classes at a French school in France.
If you’re thinking of moving to a foreign city for a language stay, then Montpellier in the South of France is definitely the place to go. I came here four weeks ago to learn French, not knowing anyone and now I have a weekend full of plans and a group of people I can start to call friends. In Montpellier there are so many language exchange events like this one – if you wanted to, you could go to Casa Cubana exchange on Thursday, Yellow Chatters on Wednesday and an exchange at the Panacée on Thursday. These exchanges are a fun, easy way both to learn French in France and to meet people: they’re a great supplement to a linguistic stay at a French school in France. They’re also free. Apparently Casa Cubana also do free Salsa lessons. And because the events are so well attended, you always have an opportunity to learn French outside of your French language classes, even if you speak English like I do. This kind of event in the same popularity, atmosphere and variety doesn’t exist anywhere else. And if you’re doing a language stay, in a French school in France, in the city of Montpellier, you couldn’t avoid meeting new people if you tried.