Leo recommends the French experience

Roscommon student Leo Nally spent three weeks in Roscommon’s twin town in France, Chartrettes, last summer and this week is recommending the experience to local students who want to brush up on their French. Leo’s time in Chartrettes was divided between May and July, when he was one of a group of five students who experienced the French way of life as part of a twinning exchange. Highlights of the trips included going to school for a week in France and visiting Paris and Vaul de Vicomte Castle – where Eva Longoria got married just two weeks after the Roscommon students visited! The group also visited the medieval town of Provins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is just a half hour from Chartrettes. Leo was 16 at the time of his visit last year and he stayed with the Monnet family, making friends with Arthur, who had just turned 15 at the time. ‘His English was very good, my French wasn’t that good,’ recalls Leo. ‘Most of the time we spoke in French.’ So, what was the French experience of school like? ‘Boring’ is Leo’s reply. Just in case you’re bemoaning the life of a secondary school student in Roscommon, then think about the French experience where school starts at 8 am and finishes at 4.30 each day except Wednesday, when it finishes at 12. Also, classes are an hour long, compared to the Roscommon equivalent of just 35 minutes. Another major difference is that students are not allowed off the school grounds at lunch time. ‘There was a cafetiera there, but it was all fruit and veg, no such thing as chips or anything.’ However, it has its up sides. ‘The women were nice,’ recalls Leo with a grin and of course the co-ed experience was new for the CBS student. The school in Chartrettes catered for ages 12-16. Leo was one of a group of five local students who took part, the others being Niall Flanagan, Roisin McManus, Laura Ann Regan and Anna Keenan and they met up on a regular basis. Rosiin McManus was just down the road from Leo, and Niall Flanagan was 15 minutes walk away One year later and no doubt Leo’s French has improved immeasurably, which will be of great help when he tackles his Leaving Cert next year. He has also kept in contact with the Monnet family, and regularly emails Arthur – in French we presume! If he’s enthusiastic about the overall experience, it has to be said that the food was not his favourite part of the trip. He recalls the food as being ‘all salad and quiche’, apparently not top of his wish list of favourite foods. ‘I lost a half stone out there,’ recalls Leo. It wasn’t only the food that Leo found unusual. Kissing on both cheeks as greeting and the early bedtimes were also noted. ‘They go to bed a lot earlier and wake up a lot earlier. They go to bed at half ten and even on Saturday they would get up before 10 am,’ observed Leo. Trips to Paris were another memorable part of the experience. Chartrettes is 52 km from Paris and the train is the most popular mode of transport. One day was spent shopping, another included a visit to the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre where the Irish visitors saw the Mona Lisa. Another visit took in Euro Disney. Overall, Leo, who is now in fifth year in the CBS, recommends the experience. Student places are now available for the town twinning trip to Chartrettes this summer. For further information, contact Bill Cunningham at (090) 66 26729.