When I was in my last year of high-school and I saw all my friends choosing what to study in University, I decided that I was not going to follow that same path and began planning my Gap-year. And so a year later at the end of September, when all my friends went to their universities, I got on the train to learn French in the beautiful Montpellier in the South of France! When I said goodbye to my family I felt a bit stressed. But as the train drove me through sunny France, my nerves eased and I started to feel really excited for my upcoming adventure.
The French courses
Even though I had been learning it for the past eight years in school, I felt like my French wasn’t nearly as good as I wanted it do be. This is one of the most important reasons as to why I wanted to do French courses. Studying French in a school in France seemed to me the best option, so I could really immerse myself in the language. That’s why I came to Montpellier. After my registration I did a language test and got placed in level B1. When I had my first school day, I immediately felt I had been placed in the right group! I could understand the teacher very good, but the French courses weren’t boring or too easy. My teacher was very nice and he really took the time to make sure we understood everything. We did writing tasks as well as oral and listening activities that really helped us practice the French we learned.
When I signed up for the French courses in France, I immediately knew I wanted to stay in a host family. What could be a better way to practice French than to speak it daily with real French people? My host mother picked me up at the station when I arrived and instantly made me feel comfortable. She always tried to speak on my level and repeated things for me when I didn’t understand what she said. After I had stayed for a week, I got more confident in my French and our conversations got more complex (One time we even talked about politics!). The food was also good! I’m a vegetarian and she always did great with making me vegetarian dishes. I really enjoyed my stay with her.
The beauties of Montpellier
Already on my first afternoon after my French courses, I decided to explore the old city of Montpellier. As I walked in the little streets, I felt euphoric and happy. The city gave me a certain sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt before. The public transport is well-regulated and easy to navigate and will bring you everywhere in the city. My favourite thing to do was take the tram, get off at a random spot and explore that part of Montpellier! There’s also a tram that brings you from the city centre to the Mediterranean sea in only 25 minutes.
Montpellier has a very rich culture. I would definitely recommend Musée Fabre with it’s beautiful permanent collection of artworks from all time periods and it’s cool temporary exhibitions. I used my ILA student card to get free access to the museum! There’s also a nice amount of green in the city. One of my favourite place to go were the botanical gardens or the “Jardins des Plantes” where a lot of beautiful exotic plants can be found. Something else I also really enjoyed, were the little cafés and restaurants! One afternoon after my French courses I went to a cat-café and another I would get lunch with my friends in a little vegan restaurant. Like a true Mediterranean city, Montpellier is almost always sunny and warm. At the beginning of fall, it was still more than 20°C almost every day!
Making friends in a strange city can be tricky. Luckily, when learning French in Montpellier with ILA French Language School, you will get the chance to do so. My advice would be to try and connect with the people who are in the same course as you. The fact that you have a similar French level, already gives you a foundation for a friendship. The trick is to put your shyness aside and to find similarities or differences to talk about. All the other students are also looking for friendships, so you really just need to go for it! My friends and I tried to speak in French as much as possible so we could really practice what we learned in the French lessons! This lead us to some funny situations but it also encouraged us to keep talking French in shops and restaurants. Especially to locals we would almost never speak in English! I really enjoyed my stay in Montpellier and my French courses at ILA. The courses helped me to get better and more confident in French, which I believe is an important language to master.