Holly - University of Queensland Intensive French in New Caledonia

B Science
Winter 2023
New Caledonia was also just generally a beautiful place and it was wonderful to learn about the history, culture and environment of the country during my stay.


I had an interest in doing some sort of French language exchange during my degree use the language skills that I learned in class in a real-life setting, and also to experience a culture outside of Australia. This experience seemed like a good option as it fit in snugly between semester 1 and semester 2, so it wouldn't interfere with my other study plan. The opportunity to live with a host family was also a valuable contributor to my choice to participate in this experience, as that made it a truly immersive experience into the life, culture and language of New Caledonia.

Personal Development

I gained so much from this experience! I met a wonderful group of students from across Australia whom I shared a class with every week day, we all became so close over the 3-week experience. Doing an exchange like this makes it almost certain that you will meet other like-minded, thoughtful individuals - anyone willing to go to another country and immerse themselves into another culture already has a certain appreciation for the world, and for learning, it made for some great conversations and shared experiences. I also loved my host family, they were so generous and patient with me during my stay as my French grew and became more confident during my stay, I will definitely be staying in contact with them moving forward. My French speaking skills definitely profited from this experience. I didn't really notice it during the time, but it has been particularly evident looking back. When I started this year in my first semester French class I spent a lot more time thinking about how to formulate a sentence and what words to use than I actually did saying anything, but this semester I have just been able to speak what I want to say, almost without thinking! So, this course absolutely improved my language skills, as I had hoped it would. New Caledonia was also just generally a beautiful place and it was wonderful to learn about the history, culture and environment of the country during my stay. Being a small island nation, a lot of people don't even know that it exists, but there was such a richness to the country that I had the privilege exploring.

Academic Development

It's a bit difficult to compare the academic experience of this program to a regular semester at UQ, as it was not a regular workload. Being an intensive French course, we had around 15 hours of French class per week, as well as 4-5 hours of other organised activities such as a visit to the Tjibaou Cultural Centre and the South Pacific Commission headquarters, and lectures about New Caledonia. So it was a very dense load over those three weeks, but our main French teacher was an absolute gem and made the hours fly by. The trick to enjoying the experience was just to balance the learning load with non-academic activities, such as exploring Noumea, spending time with new found friends and maybe even calling your family back home.

Professional Development

We had a number of opportunities to flex our professional muscles during this experience. One of the activities we had the option of doing was attending the climate seminar hosted by the consulate general of Australia, and led by a representative of DFAT that ran over two nights during our stay. We had the opportunity to practice our networking skills afterwards and get to know a bit about professionals in this sector. I would say this was also a very valuable experience in terms of adaptability. Being thrown into a foreign country with a different language forces you to adapt and grow in confidence rapidly. I definitely found it outside of my comfort zone at the beginning to try to communicate with native French speakers, but as I did it more and more it became more easier and more comfortable. I think I have a greater appreciation now for my own ability to cope with new and different situations with success.


Given that this experience was only 3 weeks long, and most of our expenses were included in the program fees, budgeting wasn't really a concern. Since we lived with a host family, our food and accommodation expenses were taken care of, and they drove me to class each morning. Other transport outside of being driven to CREIPAC (the language school) consisted of taking the bus. I bought a Taneo pass, which was their equivalent of a go card, because I worked out that that would be cheaper than buying individual tickets for every bus trip. In the end I only spent around $500 outside of the program fees, and that was on a few lunches out, bus fares, personal activities and a couple of souvenirs.


Quite simply I would not have been able to this program if it weren't for the New Colombo Mobility Grant, as I wouldn't have been able to afford it. There wasn't really any option for how to spend the money as the program cost $5000 and the grant was for $4000, so the grant covered most of my program fees, and other expenses came out of my savings.


I have already touched on this in my other sections, but during the stay I lived with a New Caledonian host family. The family consisted of two parents and their 15-year-old daughter. This was absolutely the best way I could have experienced this country, as at home we only spoke French, and I was able to have conversations with them about their opinions on various topics, and learn about the country straight from them. They provided breakfast, and cooked dinner for me each night, they even introduced me to some traditional dishes of the country. Now I also have a lasting connection with this family, and am planning to see them again when they visit Queensland later this year. The only challenge that came with staying with a host family was getting used to living with a family again. In Brisbane I live in a unit with a single housemate, and so I'm used to having a lot of time on my own to decompress at home. But in this household, I was once again living with "parents" and a "sibling", so I had to adapt once again to having a lot less personal time, and having to communicate with people during my down time. This was a bit of a challenge but in making the most of my home-stay, I got much more out of my three weeks in New Caledonia.


Honestly for me the highlights were the places I got to see. l'ilot Amedée was an absolutely beautiful little sandy paradise, la Rivière Bleu showcased the iconic red soil of New Caledonia and le parc zoologique that I went to with my host family gave me the opportunity to see the national bird of the country - the Kagu. But none of those places would have been as good if I didn't have my new friends or my host family with me. It was also great to be there on the French national holiday (14 July) as we got to participate in a lantern parade, see fireworks and celebrate the day with French people.

Advice/Top Tips

Get to know your classmates and host family well, they will be your best support network. Make the most of your time there: Organise your own activities outside of the scheduled ones, walk around the town, go to a bar (responsibly). It's only a 3 week program and it will go so fast. But also get enough sleep. Speaking a foreign language is so much more exhausting than you would expect. You will be tired the whole time, but don't let that stop you from participating and getting out there.