Isabelle - New Caledonia Intensive French Virtual Program

Bachelor of Music, Diploma of Languages
January 2021

My experience

This experience has given me more confidence in my spoken French, which has both personal and academic impacts - after all, mastery of a language enables you to express your identity and personality. I feel that I was able to hone my research and presenting skills through delivering a 30-minute presentation on multiculturalism in New Caledonia and answering the questions of my peers.

Culturally, I learnt so much through the music, art (especially of Lorna Grenier), and graphic novels of New Caledonia. I learnt about the cultural values of Kanak culture, including sharing and respect. In fact, while I asked a question of each presenter (as I had made it my goal to do so), I kept this value at the front of my mind, especially surrounding divisive or painful topics such as the impact of French colonialism on Kanak culture or the role of women in Kanak culture.
Personally, I forged friendships with the other participants in the course, as we connected over our simultaneous discovery of this amazing territory. I also believe that this course has made me more empathetic, as I have been lucky enough to hear from a diverse range of people of different ethnicities, genders, and cultural groups, and hear about their experiences living in New Caledonia in 2021.

Favourite memory

In class on the last day, after drawing up a plan including mostly grammar exercises, we began by sharing 5 artists that we could listen to exclusively for the rest of our lives and 3 objects we would take with us if banished to a desert island. While I initially doubted the merit of this task, they were really great questions to force us to open up and be vulnerable with one another. I felt closer to knowing the personality of each of the other participants after I knew what music or objects meant a lot to them, and the fact that we joked and laughed so frequently, even in our second language, really made my day (and week). The other benefit was that we were practising hypotheses and the conditional mode, despite being oblivious to the task as a grammar exercise.

Top tips

A virtual exchange is a great way to get to know a place and its people better, so don't be deterred by the online nature of classes. You will eventually be able to visit the place and connect further with the people you have met. Also, you will get out what you put in - so make an effort to ask questions, do research, and participate in class!