‘Alors, faites l’échange année 9, pourquoi pas vous!’

The arrival of our French exchange visit from the ‘College Elisee Mousnier’ in Cognac has been eagerly awaited; the chance for so many of our pupils and staff to build on their existing friendships made across the miles.  Funded by ERASMUS+, our French counterparts finally arrived on March 18th for an action-packed week.

After a good night’s sleep, the pupils and teachers of College Elisée Mousnier set off to the Waitrose cookery school in Salisbury. Here our French visitors saw and helped make such English delicacies as Cornish pasties, Scotch eggs and Bakewell tart.  All were pronounced ‘délicieux’ and two hours flew happily by until it was shopping time.  Our walk through the Salisbury city centre was quite beautiful, and the French pupils were particularly impressed by the Cathedral and its stunning setting.  Once inside the cathedral our guides were both informative and amusing with cries of ‘squashey-vous mes enfants’ as we tried to fit all 28 pupils into the small tent that houses the Magna Carta!

The middle of the week was spent in and around the School and local vicinity. With activities ranging from a history quiz to a joint culinary experience at Cookykids where the pupils worked together to create and sample a delicious afternoon tea consisting of four types of sandwiches as well as a Victoria sponge cake. Whilst being served tea in china cups, our pupils showed their French peers how to lift their little finger when drinking from their teacup – watch out Cognac for some British etiquette heading your way.

Another highlight of the week was the fantastic Warminster International Committee display in the library organised by Mrs Sustek. Our French pupils entered into the spirit of it by dressing up and bringing authentic display materials to wow the visitors. 

Their final cultural trip was to Westcombe Dairy where, according to Miss Lavergne, they spent longer in the shop than on the tour where there were many energetic exchanges about the differences between our Somerset cheddar and the distinctive Maroilles cheese our guests had so kindly brought and shared with us.

Our language exchanges are an unforgettable experience for all involved however they do require an enormous team effort from the catering department to academic staff, parents and their families, who all recognise just how important these experiences are for our young pupils as we help them to become well rounded and outward looking members of our community.  A huge thank you to everyone involved. Although the smell of the Maroilles cheese still lingers in the Languages Department corridors, the exchange has taught us to look beyond the stereotypes; although we are different, we are fundamentally the same. What is important to us is important to others and when we step out of our comfort zone, we surprise ourselves!

Mrs Coldwell, Head of MFL

The French exchange was one of the trips I knew I definitely wanted to go on. Having had such a great time last October when we all went over to Cognac to see our French pen pals for the first time, we returned the favour by hosting them here in England. Even though the week is so busy and tiring, it’s still so much fun. The school organised loads of activities for us to do during school hours in the week, much like we did in France. However, we also organised to meet up out of school hours and this meant we all bonded as friends that much more. The whole experience was so interesting because we got to see the French pupils’ culture and they got to see ours; I discovered that our lifestyles differ in many ways but are also so very similar. The friends I have made will hopefully be friends for life. I would like to thank Mrs Coldwell and the whole MFL department both here at our School and in Cognac for organising the trip.

India Morgan-Nash, Year 10