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French Exchange Group to France

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

On 7th November, a group of Presdales and Richard Hale students set off on the sixth exchange visit to the Collège Gaston Serpette in the beautiful and historic city of Nantes. We rang the changes this year by flying from Gatwick rather than doing the journey by coach. This gave us more time in France and both flights were very smooth. The first full day in France started with a delicious breakfast of croissants and pains au chocolat in the school refectory and, as ever, our French colleagues had organised a varied and interesting programme of visits. This included a guided tour of the Museum of Nantes, located in the magnificently restored Château des Ducs de Bretagne, a visit to the memorial to the abolition of slavery (Nantes, like Bristol, Liverpool and London, was the main departure point in France for the slave trade) which former mayor Jean-Marc Ayrault has described as “an invitation to reflect on a dark chapter in the history of our city.” In contrast, this was followed by a ride on a giant mechanical elephant in the regenerated site of the former shipyards. This artistic project is described as being at the crossroads of the writer Jules Verne’s invented worlds (Jules Verne was born and grew up in Nantes) and of the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, and of Nantes’ industrial history. The day finished with a civic reception at the Town Hall of Nantes where warm words about the importance of contact and exchanges among the young people of Europe were to the fore. The following day was spent with the French pupils in the delightful mediaeval town of Vannes with its abundance of beautiful higgledy-piggledy half-timbered houses. On Thursday morning, the students had a very enjoyable visit to the nearby Léon Say Primary School. The younger French children were very excited about the visit and our students responded very enthusiastically and positively. The afternoon was spent in the city of Nantes where the students did a quiz with their exchange partners to help them discover the history and geography of the city. Presdales students and their partners got the two best scores and prizes. The 11th November is a public holiday in France and so students had a three day weekend with families and did a variety of interesting things, amongst which were a visit to the seaside, a visit to Paris and lots of shopping! On Sunday, we enjoyed a farewell buffet with the French families who had prepared delicious cakes, biscuits and other goodies. Opting to fly meant we were able to spend Monday morning in school and the students shadowed their partners, where possible, in their lessons. A straightforward transfer by tram and bus to the airport was followed by an easy flight and coach transfer back to Richard Hale. This was a very good visit and the students were fantastic ambassadors for the school and country and the feedback has been very positive. We would like to thank our colleagues and the families at the Collège Gaston Serpette for all their hard work and making us feel so welcome, and we are looking forward to the return visit in March.

“On Monday 7th November 2016 we travelled to Nantes, France. At first, all of us felt very nervous when we were waiting for our new families to arrive at the airport. When my French exchange partner walked towards us I recognised her from previously talking on social media. The next day, we went to their school for a nice breakfast. During most days of the trip, Presdales and Richard Hale both went out together to places like the castle, the museum, the markets in Vannes (with our exchange partners) and to the Primary School. In the evening, we were along with the families experiencing French life. Overall, it was a fun and beneficial trip.”  

Morgan Peacock (Year 9)