Bayonne est Belle – A Student’s Diary

This year, like many before, the Bayonne-Waterford exchange took place. But this particular year was special: the 10th anniversary. From the point of view of everyone that went on the trip it was the best exchange to date.

All twenty-three who participated in the exchange set off with Ms Prendergast and Ms Shanahan on October 11th. Even though it was an early start, the bus was buzzing from our high expectations. The flight to Bilbao went without a hitch, and the best part was the chance to look at everyone’s awful passport pictures because, let’s be honest, no one has a good passport picture! Thankfully, our entire luggage arrived with us and we set off for Bayonne. On the bus a French tour guide attempted to enlighten us on the Basque culture and get us speaking French. It helped us ‘get in the zone’ and without even realising it we were speaking en francais .Then the moment of truth came, we arrived at l’Argente, the host school, and were introduced to our French students. One by one we were paired off and the group shrank until the last awkward air kiss had been done. That was day one.

The following day we went to school with our correspondants under the impression we’d have to go to class; instead, we got an extra breakfast of croissants and pain au chocolat. Most were glad of this treat because we were just coming to grips with the fact we’d had to get up at 6 o’clock that morning to be in school for 8 o’clock. We were taken on a tour of Bayonne that morning, which took us all around the beautiful city, down the quaint streets and into the many artisan chocolate shops that dotted the town. For those who don’t know, Bayonne is the chocolate capital of France.

On day three we were given a tour of l’Argente, a compact but well equipped school that boasts a, wait for it, cafeteria! We attended 2-hour long classes that morning, and we were absolutely starving by lunch time at 12 ‘clock. Most girls had no clue what they asked for in the cafeteria, and to be honest we didn’t care. When you’re really hungry, food is food. In the afternoon we did some Basque dancing with our correspondents which was at least something to laugh about at the dinner table later on.

On Friday we got to ‘ditch’ class, and we were taken to a fabulous castle called Chateau d’Abbadia. The interior was extravagantly decorated with exquisite paintings in every room. However, the real fun began when we crossed over the border into Spain, into San Sebastian. There, we picnicked and sun bathed on the long golden beach before being let loose in the town to shop in stores like Bershka, Zara and Sephora.

Then the weekend came and we all went our separate ways, totally immersed in the French language because there was simply no one to talk to in English. We all spent the weekend visiting different towns and beaches and doing different things like ice-skating, shopping and watching rugby matches. France after all, was playing in the World Cup that weekend!

Day Seven, Monday, was a busy one because we went on a day trip to Biarritz. There, in this picturesque town, we visited an aquarium and spent time wandering around freely. In the afternoon we were taught how to play pelote de Basque, a sport native to the Basque region. It’s similar to lacrosse except the game in a wall and is unfortunately, not the type of sport to be picked up in a day!

Tuesday morning was spent sitting in on classes, but in the afternoon the school had a charity bake sale called Kermesse. We bought tickets and got to exchange them for drinks, food, the chance to listen to some music and various games.

Wednesday came and it brought morning classes and the afternoon off to spend with your correspondent. There was a feeling of dread in the air but we tried to ignore this feeling and focus on enjoying our last day with our correspondants.

Then it was Thursday, going home day. There were some tears shed, a lot of hugs and countless promises of continued communication. The mood was dull but Ms. Prendergast cheered us all up by leaving the beautiful painting given to her as a present for our school by the principal of l’Argente for our school in the cockpit of the airplane. I guess teachers are human too…                                                                                                                            The Bayonne trip was incredible, an experience to be remembered by all who were lucky enough to take part.

Written by Niamh Cotter, Evelyn Farrell, Laura Connolly and Elizabeth Kinsella-Kent.


Bayonne  -  Vive l’échange !

In October every year a group of approximately 20 Transition year students participate in an exchange with an Ursuline school in Bayonne. They attend school each day and stay with host families where they are immersed in French language, culture and traditions.

This year Ms. Shanahan and Ms. Prendergast accompanied 23 students marking the twentieth anniversary of this successful exchange.

Students were initiated into Basque dance, music and sport and thoroughly enjoyable and memorable experience for all participated.


French Exchange

Transition year students travel to Bayonne in the South of France in November on a French exchange. They stay in the home of a host family and go to school with them. Not only do they sample the French school and language they visit many interesting places like Lourdes, Biarritz and they cross the border into the Basque region of Spain . The host students come to stay here in Waterford for two weeks in March.

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