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30.09.2014 - One language trip, two cities and uncountable memories
Category: Vacation || Leave a comment?

You want to make a language trip but you don’t know what to expect? In this case you are in exactly the right place here! One week I spent learning French in Montpellier and one in Nice. With this article I want to show you what a language trip can be like. Host family or student apartment? University town or popular tourist destination? Maybe this article can help you to find your own perfect language trip!

Accommodation

Full of expectations I arrived at the airport in Montpellier and spotted my name on the sign of an elderly couple. In the car I could already start to use my (admittedly rusty) French skills. The family spoke slowly and helped me out when I had problems. It turned out they speak English and German fluently – but not a chance, this week we only speak French!  Even with my host sister, a student from Scotland, French was the language of communication – at least at home. ;) My hosts showed me the way to the supermarket and to the school, so I wasn’t lost at my first day. During the week they asked me about my day when I came home, but  I was free to do whatever I wanted.

In Nice I set off for the student apartment on my own. Someone from the school and my new flat mates were already waiting for me when I arrived. In no time all the rules were explained and all answers to my questions were found. The apartment was a bit badly soundproofed but equipped with everything that’s necessary to spend a good time. Without problems I connected with new people: in the kitchen there was someone to talk to most of the time and we did a lot together. French wasn’t heard very frequently here, English or German came more naturally to us and you know how that works, people are lazy…

So: host family or student apartment? To make learning progress a host family is very helpful, but in a student apartment you get in contact with other language students more easily.

School and lessons

In Montpellier I visited the school ILA, which is less than 5 minutes away from the central square of the city. The school is very well equipped and was renovated at that time. The first morning there was a general introduction after which the first lesson started. I had already completed the placement test via the internet in advance. The lessons are very well organized: at the beginning the teacher writes the target for the day on a little board on the door. With exercises, games and discussions each student is animated to talk.
The team of ILA is very friendly and ready to help anytime. They talk French with the students but offer English when you have problems to understand them.

The school Alpha.b in Nice welcomed me with open arms as well. Here the first day was used for a placement test, the lessons started one day later. The test comprised a little conversation as well to identify the level as correctly as possible. In class we focused on less grammar topics than in Montpellier, but repeated them not only in classical exercises, but also in conversations and role plays. The team of Alpha b is always approachable. The doors of the bureau are open to everyone and problems are solved in a twinkling.
The school is located very centrally, not far from shopping possibilities and the beach.

The schools offer excursions, but it’s also worth one’s while to discover the region together with other students on your own.

City and surroundings

Montpellier is a charming French university town. The lively car-free town centre with its classical architecture is a contrast to the newer quarter Antigone that impresses with massive buildings. The city is not located directly on the coast, but you get there quickly thanks to a well working tram network. On your way to the beach you get an impression of how fast the city is developing. Interesting apartment blocks are built which give Montpellier a different look again.
The surroundings are worth a visit. With cheap intercity busses you can reach coastal towns like Aigues Mortes or the rather futuristic La Grande Motte and old villages as picturesque mountain village Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert or the artistic Pézenas.

Nice relies more on “wow effects” than cozy Montpellier. Your camera will love the breath-taking beach promenade and the yacht harbour. Even if you are doing the intensive course, there is time to lie on the beach and enjoy the sea afterwards. In the old town there are many possibilities for long evenings. My personal highlight, however, was the Jardin Albert 1er with its (at night illuminated) trick fountains. In Nice even in the low season (I speak about September here) you will meet many tourists who fall for the charms of the Côte d’Azur.
Around Nice you can find many destinations that are worth an excursion. In Monaco, Cannes or Saint Tropez (which is a bit further away) you will sense the presence of money, but in small mountain villages like Saint Paul de Vence or Èze you find small streets and have impressive views. I was a bit sceptical at first, because here most people link Nice mainly to party, but the city and its surroundings can offer far more than an exciting nightlife!

I enjoyed my time in both cities. For a longer stay I would prefer Montpellier with its student atmosphere, for a few weeks Nice is a perfect holiday destination. One week is too short in every place, however! Once you discover what is possible in the region, you already sit in your plane back home. Also to learn the language at least 3 weeks are better. If you only want to refresh already existent language skills (like me), 2 weeks are okay… for real learning progress it’s best to be confronted with a language a bit longer.

The good thing with a language trip is that you get in touch with great people very easily, because most people travel alone. This is why no trip is the same. So what are you waiting for? Choose a destination and hurl yourself into your very own adventure! :)

Cheers,
Esther


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