Lived in France understand - baguettes

10 Things Only Those Who Lived in France Would Understand

Those that live in France have a culture all their own. Their language is especially unique, with quick, clever phrases that you won’t hear in any English-speaking country. If you’re traveling to France, know these terms and it’ll be like you’ve lived there your entire life!

Please enjoy these ‘10 Things Only Those Who Lived in France Would Understand‘.

  1. La baguette

    Crédit photo : Bluefox Travel 2016

    French people are fond of bread. Going to the bakery to buy bread every day is part of the culture. The standard French bread used to be round. At that time, la baguette was an elitist bread that only aristocrats had access to. Then the French Revolution happened and the people demanded equal bread for everyone. In 1793, a law commanded every baker to make the same bread for all citizens. Also, during the 18th century, bread represented 90% of the French people’s diet – no wonder French people love bread so much!

  2. La bise

    Hollande and Merkel greeting hello

    crédit photo : Daniela Lapidous, Medium 2014

    If you travel to France, be prepared to get greeted with kisses on your cheeks. En France, on se fait la bise. This is how people say hi to each other. Depending on where you are in France, you could either give 2, 3 or 4 kisses. If you are a female, you may kiss both males and females. However, if you are a male, the custom is to kiss only females.

  3. Le déjeuner

    Le déjeuner, c’est sacré ! Lunch is an important meal for French people. Taking a one-hour break for lunch is common in France. People are usually able to leave their office or school to eat either at home or in a restaurant.

  4. Le dimanche

    Le dimanche, c’est le jour du seigneur. Sunday morning was historically dedicated to going to church. Nowadays, France is a secular society, but Sunday remains a special day. Most people do not work on Sunday, so don’t plan to go shopping on a Sunday, almost every store will be closed!Ferme sign

  5. Les vacances

    family jumping on beach on vacation

    Crédit photo : Keyword Suggest 2016

    The average French worker has the right to five weeks of paid vacation. Before 1936, very few French workers could benefit from paid vacation. It all started with the first law, promulgated in June 1936, giving every employee the right to two weeks of paid vacation. But two weeks was not enough! It became three weeks in 1956, then four weeks in 1969 and finally five weeks in 1982.

  6. Les bonnes manières

    table manners of the french

    Crédit photo : Quiz Biz 2016

    Every culture has social norms that dictate good manners. Some examples of French etiquette: don’t put your elbows on the table while eating, don’t cut lettuce but roll it with your knife and fork, saying good luck can sometimes be considered bad luck, and avoid having conversations about religion or money.

  7. Pain au chocolat ou chocolatine ?

    This is an endless debate in France — what do we call this pastry?

    Pain au chocolat

    Crédit photo : Couteaux et tirebouchons 2016

    Map of France - pain au chocolat vs chocolatine

    Crédit photo : Lescun Hier Demain 2012

     

  8. Le code de la route

    Paris' only stop sign

    Crédit photo : Ouest France 2013

    When driving in France, it is illegal to turn right on a red light. Fun fact: there is only one stop sign in Paris and it’s on the corner of the Quai St Exupery in the 16ème. The general rule is that drivers on your right have the priority.

  9. Canette ou bouteille ?

    Coca-cola at french cafe

    Crédit photo : Timothée Rolin 2010

    When ordering soda in France in a restaurant, don’t expect a free refill. You will be served either a can and a bottle, so choose wisely!

  10. Les soldes

    Les soldes - store sales in paris

    Crédit photo : Frederick Florin / AFP/Archives 2014

    If you want to get a good deal, wait for the sales to go shopping in France. The French Commercial Code set 2 sales periods: during winter (January and February) and during summer (from the end of June to the beginning of August).

Thank you for reading ‘10 Things Only Those Who Lived in France Would Understand‘!

5 top candidates

The French Presidential Election is heating up!

The French Presidential Election is heating up!

Le compte à rebours est lancé : dans moins d’un mois, les citoyens français iront aux urnes pour élire le 8ème Président de la 5ème République. Le premier tour des élections aura lieu le 23 avril 2017, à l’issue duquel les Français connaîtront les deux finalistes qu’ils devront départager lors du second tour qui se déroulera le 7 mai 2017. Le maître-mot de cette élection est l’indécision. En effet, 40% des Français interrogés par un sondage IFOP pour le Think-Tank Synopia auraient l’intention de voter blanc.

Cette incertitude s’explique par le caractère exceptionnel de cette élection. La première particularité est l’absence de la candidature du Président actuel François Hollande, ce qui rompt avec la tradition républicaine de se représenter en défendant son premier mandat. Par ailleurs, des scandales sont venus entacher l’image de certains candidats. Celui qui en a été le plus affecté est sans aucun doute François Fillon, mis en cause pour détournement de fonds publics, recel et abus de biens sociaux. Il en résulte une volatilité de la base électorale du candidat des Républicains. Certains partisans, déçus par le candidat de la droite, iront voter pour Emmanuel Macron, d’autres pour Marine Le Pen ou encore Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, le 6ème homme de cette élection d’après les sondages.


Les Candidats

Cinq candidats monopolisent ainsi l’attention des médias :

Emmanuel Macron

Candidat d’En Marche !
Mesure phare : création d’un Fonds pour l’Industrie et l’Innovation doté de 10 milliards d’euros issus des actions des entreprises détenues de manière minoritaire par l’Etat.

Site de campagne : https://en-marche.fr/

 

Marine Le Pen

Candidate du Front National

Mesure phare : référendum sur l’appartenance de la France à l’Union Européenne.

Site de campagne : https://www.marine2017.fr/

 

François Fillon

Candidat des Républicains
Mesure phare : la fin de la durée légale du travail à 35 heures et laisser chaque entreprise décider de son temps de travail par la négociation.

Site de campagne : https://www.fillon2017.fr/

 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Candidat de La France Insoumise

Mesure phare : convoquer l’assemblée constituante et passer à la 6ème République.

Site de campagne : https://avenirencommun.fr/

 

Benoît Hamon

Candidat du Parti Socialiste
Mesure phare : mise en place d’un revenu universel.

Site de campagne : https://www.benoithamon2017.fr/


Les Sondage d’opinion 

Du côté de la gauche, les votes s’éparpillent également. Les candidats du Parti Socialiste et de la France Insoumise, respectivement Benoît Hamon et Jean-Luc Mélenchon, sont au coude à coude. De nombreux journalistes les ont interpellés en évoquant la possibilité de former une alliance afin de rassembler les votes de la gauche, mais les deux candidatures sont toujours d’actualité. Enfin, en tête des sondages se trouvent Emmanuel Macron et Marine Le Pen, suivis par François Fillon.

Current polling


La Suite

Cependant, onze candidats se partageront les votes des Français le 23 avril prochain. Cette situation met en lumière le rôle des médias dans l’élection présidentielle. Le premier débat présidentiel télévisé a eu lieu le 20 mars dernier sur TF1, la première chaîne française. Seul cinq candidats y ont néanmoins été conviés. La chaîne a été critiquée par les candidats invités eux-mêmes qui ont invoqué le principe de démocratie en dénonçant l’absence des autres candidats.

Si aucun candidat reçoit une majorité absolue au premier tour du scrutin, un second tour aura lieu le 7 mai où seuls peuvent se présenter les deux candidats qui ont recueilli le plus de votes au premier tour.

Qui sera le vainqueur de cette élection ?  Verdict le 7 mai prochain.

 

paris climate guide image

The Climate in France: A Seasonal Guide on What to Wear

There are a number of diverse climates in France, each featuring certain characteristics that you need to prepare for. Wherever you’re traveling to in France, packing accordingly will make your trip go better overall. Here are some general tips for what to wear depending on which season and region you’ll be visiting.

Geography of France

France covers an area of 248,573 mi², and is the largest country in the European Union. Metropolitan France has over 2,100 miles of coastline, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, North Sea, Mediterranean Sea and the English Channel. With the exception of its northeastern border, the country is mostly surrounded by seas, oceans and other natural borders like the Rhine river, and the Jura, Alps and Pyrénées mountain ranges.

Climate of France

In general, France has a pleasantly temperate climate. France is split into four distinct climate regions:

  • Oceanic climate (western France): This region sees normal rainfall scattered over many days and features modest annual temperature fluctuations.
  • Continental climate (central and eastern France): This region features cold winters and hot summers.
  • Mediterranean climate (south eastern France): South eastern France features warm and dry summers. Damp but mild weather and rainfall in October to April and steady sunshine throughout the year.
  • Mountain climate (at or above 600-800m altitudes): High amounts of rainfall, snow falls three to six months per year.

Best Time To Visit

Overall, France is a popular year-round destination, with an agreeable climate in most regions of the country. Summer (June-August) is the peak season for tourists, when it is warm and sunny at many of the popular destinations.

Southern France is balmy during its spring, from March to May, and during the fall, from September to October. These are less popular times to visit, meaning prices are considerably lower. Tourism picks back up from December to March throughout ski season at major resorts in places like the Alps and Pyrénées.

The northeastern region will see warmer summers and colder winters. In the western coastal destinations, the Atlantic affects the climate where the weather is generally mild with rainfall throughout the year. Prepare for hot and sunny summers if you’re planning on visiting this region, remember to pack sunscreen and a hat.

Required Clothing

For the summer in all areas, you should pack light, breathable clothing. You should bring waterproof winter gear if you’re visiting the mountains, all year round. In winter, even in the Mediterranean part, you’ll need a sweatshirt or jacket for the nighttime.

paris in winter

Paris during Winter under Snowfall.

Packing for the Weather

When packing for the weather in France, here are a few tips that you should keep in mind:

  • The weather in France can change quickly, so dressing in layers is important to fight fluctuating temperatures.
  • It’s always smart to pack a travel umbrella and a lightweight raincoat to fend off any rain that might suddenly appear.
  • Winter can bring sub-freezing temperatures, so dress accordingly by bringing your coat, gloves, hat, scarf and other winter clothing.
  • In summer, throughout the country, wear sunscreen, bring sunglasses and a sunhat.
  • In the cooler spring season, bring semi-warm clothing and dress in layers to protect from chilly days.

General Style Tips

France is the home of fashion – if you’re a tourist, you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. Follow these general style tips to fit in with the trends of style culture:

  • Go for a smart, chic, stylish look. Tailored or well-fitting clothes will serve better than baggy clothes or t-shirts with logos.
  • Black always is in style in France.
  • If you are traveling to any of the big cities, leave your swimsuit at home – there are few places to use it.
  • Beyond Paris and other cities, such as the countryside and the beach, dress is normally more relaxed, conservative and practical, but still smart and stylish.

Weather forecasts are available:

If you’re looking for the weather forecast, try one of these options:

  • by calling 0892 68 02 XX (XX: No department – 0.34 € / min).
  • by logging on to www.meteo.fr
  • Try the Weather+ app – it gives helpful six day forecasts for both night and day, which can help with planning. It also tracks all the places you’ve been to. Download for iPad/iPhone or Android
French language from a book

10 French Phrases that There’s No English Equivalent For

France is famous for its fabulous food, amazing artists, memorable monuments and much, much more. It’s also given the world the gift of the most romantic and arguably most nuanced language on earth: French. Here are 10 words and phrases with no English equivalents.

1) Dépaysement

The first word that doesn’t have a direct English translation, refers to a type of disorientation. More specifically, it means “the unsteady sensation of being in another country.” If you’re travelling to France, you might even experience dépaysement for yourself for the first few days. It also refers to a change of mental state or feelings as the result of some major life change.

2) Chez

This is a classic French word that you might not have heard before, but is indeed a versatile and useful word. Chez can mean that you are at a particular location (chez moi), or refers to a particular state of mind of someone or a collection of people (chez les français — “among the French”). Yet still, you could use it to describe an artist’s body of work (chez Matisse).

3) La douleur exquise

The literal translation of la douleur exquise means “the exquisite pain”, or the heart-wrenching pain of wanting something or someone you can’t have. This truly is a French phrase through and through. This phrase is so powerful, even a Sex and the City episode references the name in one of their episode titles!

4) Terroir

It wouldn’t be French without a hefty wine vocabulary. Although often used in the international wine and cheese industries, terroir is a notoriously tricky word to translate for the average english speaker. Terroir refers to the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate, as well as the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to a wine by that environment.

5) Ras-le-bol

As one of the oddest French phrases, this is impossible to translate literally in English. Used when expressing frustration, the most similar English equivalent would be something such as “I’ve had enough of…” or “I’ve had it up to here…” It can also be used to refer to the feeling of despair. It has recently been seen in the French media, in relation to new tax legislation, “ras-le-bol fiscal.”

6) L’ouest

Literally translated in English, this phrase means “in the west”. But actually, a l’ouest is normally used to describe someone that comes off as strange or different, or that perhaps thinks outside of the box. Additionally, you can use it to call someone a daydreamer. A more correct way to put it in English, would be to say a person is “on another planet”.

7) Empêchement

Describing something as an “impediment”, empêchement refers to the things that come up last minute that cause a change in your plans. Traveling to France, you may experience an empêchement if you’re not fully prepared – make sure to plan appropriately so you don’t experience it!

8) Cartonner

Use this word when describing a film, book or band that has been a huge hit. Cartonner is a verb meaning that something has hit a target, or been an overall success. This word is usually used to call out films that have moved a lot of tickets at the box office, books that have sold well or bands that have had a hit single.

9) Esprit de l’escalier

This French term is used in English for the predicament of thinking of the perfect reply too late. Known also as “staircase wit”, this term describes a witty remark that occurs to you retroactively, such as on the way downstairs after leaving a conversation.

10) Cache-misère

If you’re trying to conceal something unpleasant, use cache-misère to describe it. As a temporary fix to a messy situation, cache-misère might refer to a situation such as sweeping a mess under the rug.

Regardless of where you’re traveling to in France, you will see world-renowned monuments, famous pieces of art and eat delectable food. You may even come across one or two of these words while you’re there as well, and now you won’t be caught off guard. Have fun on your trip to France, bon voyage!

Saving for Trip to Europe

Student Strategies in Saving for a Trip to Europe

Are you dreaming of looking out over Paris at the top of the Eiffel Tower, or marveling at London’s legendary Big Ben? Perhaps you’re captivated by the Roman Coliseum or the Parthenon in Athens. Regardless of where you want to go, if you’re a student planning a trip to Europe, you need to have money in the bank to make your dream trip a reality. Don’t worry – Vistas in Education is here to help! Here are some useful money saving strategies for students so you can make your European trip a reality.

Create a Budget

Budgeting is extremely important when trying to save money. With a budget, you can lay out all of your planned and potential expenses. Try and think through what you’ve spent money on in the past month. Some of your costs may include gas for your car, food, cell phone bill and going out with friends. Whatever you’re spending your money on, it all adds up, ultimately detracting from your potential to save for your trip. A budget will help shed light on areas where you can trim excess expenditures.

Open a Bank Account

If you don’t already have a bank account, you should open one as soon as possible. A savings and checking account makes money management much easier. Consolidating your money in one place lets you track your savings progress and keeps it safe. Almost all banks also offer incentives to store your money in their vaults in the form of interest. If you’re new to banking, research your options – many banks offer a sign-up bonus, giving you a little monetary boost that you can put towards your trip.

Avoid Using a Credit Card, Use Cash (Sparingly) Instead

With a credit card comes the responsibility of self-discipline when buying. A credit card makes it easy to swipe away any items you want to purchase without thinking of the spendy repercussions. Another downside to credit cards is accrued interest. This means that if you don’t pay off your credit card balance every month, you could end up paying excessive fees, often up to 30 percent of your total expenditures. Instead of using plastic, try using cash instead. Physical money lets you reconsider if you really need to supersize that meal or purchase that expensive shirt.

Watch for Bank Fees

Bank accounts, while very useful, often carry certain fees that can be devastating to your saving efforts. For example, many bank cards won’t absorb ATM fees when you withdraw cash, which can vary from $2-5 every time you get cash. Try using your bank’s designated ATM, which should be free. Or, you can get cash back by buying something cheap, like a pack of gum at a cash register, using a debit card. In a similar vein, don’t overspend on your debit card. With overdraft fees, that apply every time you overdraw on your account, it can really eat into money that you’ve saved up.

Take Advantage of Student Discounts

Whether you’re buying school supplies, books, clothing or even coffee, there are tons of companies that offer student discounts. Take advantage at checkout by asking the clerk if they offer any discounts for students. For more information on which stores do offer discounts, check out this guide, 40 Stores that Give a Student Discounts.

Learn How to Cook / Don’t Eat Out

Even if your local sub shop does offer a student discount, avoid eating out regularly. Instead, learn how to cook a few good meals that you can store over the week and reheat as needed. And always pack a lunch, or at the very least a snack. The average meal when eating out costs an $12.75. It will add up quickly if you go out a few times a week, which really puts a dent in your wallet.

Get a Summer Job

If you have the summer off from school, look into getting a part-time or full-time job to help you generate some income that can go towards your trip. Whether it’s bagging groceries, mowing lawns or working at the movie theater, there are no shortage of jobs for high schoolers during the summer. Not only will you save up some extra dough, you’ll be able to get out of the house and away from your parents!

Lower your Cell Phone Use

Instead of chatting on your phone, try using free video calling programs like Skype, chat programs like Facebook Messenger, or the always classic email when you’re connected to wi-fi. Avoid watching videos, downloading large pictures, or talking on the phone for hours when you’re using LTE to decrease excessive data charges. As cell phones evolve from a luxury to a necessity, it’s becoming all the more important to monitor your usage of mobile devices.

Avoid Impulse Buying Situations

If you’re prone to making impulse purchase, curb that behavior by avoiding shopping completely. Unless you’re buying something you need, such as food, don’t even put yourself in a situation where you could spend frivolously. If you happen to be in a situation where you feel like buying something, stop and consider how many hours you would have to work to pay for it.

 

Ready to See Europe? Start Saving Today!

Whether you’re dreaming of walking along the beautiful beaches of Croatia, watching a soccer match in Madrid, or seeing the Mona Lisa in person at the Louvre, it will cost you a pretty penny to make it happen. Follow these steps and in no time you’ll be well on your way to saving enough money for your dream trip to Europe. Bon Voyage!

Student Travel Deals

10 Student Travel Deals to Take Advantage of in France

Are you getting ready for the trip of a lifetime? Travelling in France as a student may seem a little nerve-racking at first, but once you get there, you’ll be creating memories that last forever. While being a student likely means that you’re strapped for cash, don’t worry. There are plenty of student travel deals to take advantage of once you make the trip across the pond. Here are 10 of the best ways to save money when travelling in France:

Eurostar Train

Eurostar is the only high speed train that directly links France, the UK and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel, or “Chunnel”. Eurostar takes travellers from city center to city center, and is perfect for students travelling on a budget in Europe. Prices are affordable, starting at £45 for a one-way ticket from London to Paris.

Discount Airlines

To save money when travelling in France and throughout Europe, consider buying plane tickets through discount airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair. Tickets can range from $50-$80 in most cases, giving you an affordable and convenient way to visit other cities. There’s only one downfall – these budget tickets are usually non-refundable and non-changeable, so make sure your plans are concrete when you book a flight.

Take the Bus

Buses are a quick and inexpensive option when travelling around France’s cities. The bus system in France is extensive and you can reach most places by a local or regional bus, normally for just a few euros. While the bus systems can be confusing, you can contact the tourism office of the region or town you’re planning on visiting ahead of time to ask for information, recommended scheduling and a map.

Consider Flying into one of the Cheaper Airports

There are 155 airports in the country of France, meaning you should have several options to choose from when purchasing your plane ticket. The main airports that usually offer the cheapest airfare are:

  • Lyon – Saint-Exupéry
  • Toulouse – Blagnac
  • Nice – Côte d’Azur
  • Paris – Charles de Gaulle
  • Paris – Orly

 

Buy Your Plane Ticket Before Peak Tourist Season

France experiences their peak tourist season from roughly mid-June through the end of August. Knowing this, you can save some money by booking your trip during the off-seasons. Booking from November through spring break in March can make a big difference in the cost of the flight.

Stay in Hostels or Try Airbnb

If you’re a student on a budget in France, hostels offer great accommodations, especially in Paris. You can find a common area, or dorm-style room in paris for just €15, while a private room is around €50. Another option is to check out Airbnb where you can find one-of-a-kind accommodations for fairly affordable prices.

Visit the Free Sights

France has many must-see attractions, like museums, churches, parks, and the Eiffel Tower. Many of these are free for tourists, such as the Maison de Balzac, and Maison de Victor Hugo (museums), the famous Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, or the beaches of Normandy where the Western Allies of World War II launched the largest amphibious invasion in history. If you want to visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris, we suggest walking to save some money; adults over the age of 25 willing to take the 704 stairs to the second floor pay €7, those aged 12 to 24 years pay €5 euros, and children 4 to 11 pay €3 euros. Admission tickets with elevator access to the second floor cost €11, €8.50, and €4, respectively.

Avoid Frivolous Spending on Shopping

If you’re travelling on a budget, especially in Paris, avoid frivolous spending on shopping. High taxes and labor costs can make material goods quite pricey for the average student. Instead, we recommend that you save your money and spend it on once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Head to the Grocery Store

Instead of eating out for every meal, head to the grocery store for a cheaper way to eat and refuel. Not only will they have everything you need to stave off hunger, you’ll find food that’s just as authentic at any restaurant. If you’re old enough, they have much better deals on wine as well!

Use the Bike Share Program

Many cities have bike-share programs that offer an affordable and active way to see the sights. For example, the Paris bike-share program boasts over 20,000 bikes at 1,800 stations located in convenient stations around the city. You can use the bikes by purchasing a one-day pass for €1.70 or a one-week pass for €8.

Take Advantage of Your Age

If you’re a student, most likely between the ages of 12-25, you’re in luck! In that age bracket, many of the aforementioned items are discounted even further, such as museum passes, metrocards, bus rides, almost anything. All you need to do is ask–and bring your ID to prove your age. Regardless of how old you are, many of these discounts are also available with a simple student ID (and most places accept international student photo IDs).

Best of Luck with Your Trip to France!

While travelling to France on a budget may seem tough, it’s more than possible to see all the sights when you’re a cash-strapped student. Just be smart with your money by finding public transportation, avoiding tourist traps like expensive restaurants and clothing stores, seeing free attractions, and taking advantage of student discounts. Once you’re in France, you’ll realize that you don’t need that much money to find student travel deals and create memories that will last a lifetime. Bon courage et bon voyage!

B2h&n1std

Why you should stay with a family in France

From guest blogger Elise! See her earlier post “How a Séjour en France Can Change Your Life” 

Why you should stay with a family in France

When I first decided to go abroad to France, it didn’t actually register that I would be living with host families. It wasn’t until after I received my location, the small village of Ploërmel in Bretagne, learned about my new school, and had to write my first introductory letter to my new “parents” that I realized that I was about to step into the real lives of other people. If you are anything like me, this reality made me a little nervous. But while it may seem daunting to live with a family different from your own, the fear and any negatives are far outweighed by the positives of such an adventure.

Language acquisition

Living with a host family is one of the best ways to become fluent in your target language. Being fluent is not just about correct grammar, and an extensive vocabulary. Fluency requires an in-depth knowledge of colloquial expressions, cultural nuance, and accent. All of these come naturally when living with a host family. Host brothers and sisters make sure that you are using trending expressions. Younger siblings have an innocent yet direct way of correcting the way you pronounce words and parents are quick to offer alternative ways of saying otherwise delicate things. As you spend time with locals, you’ll naturally begin to imitate the way they speak which eventually leads to a loss of your own American accent. By the time I left France, strangers didn’t actually know where I was from! They would start talking to me and then a cloudy look would come across their face. “Et d’où viens-tu mademoiselle?” “And where are you from, miss?” they’d say. To this day, I get a certain amount of pleasure of asking them in return where they think I’m from. People have all sorts of explanations for my accent- “you must come from the north of France,” “maybe Belgium,” “oh I know, one parent is Swiss, and the other German.” To see the looks on their faces when I tell them that I was born in the United States to parents who didn’t speak any French at all, was the best!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Relationships

Living with a host family is by far the easiest way to become part of a community. When you are in a new place, there is nothing more intimidating than knowing no one and having to make all new friends. Staying with a host family helps a lot! Their friends become your acquaintances, if not your best friends. Their social calendar becomes your social calendar. On the second day of my year in France, my host family arranged for me to spend time with the friends of their daughter who was studying in the United States at the time. On day two, you can only imagine how poor my French was but somehow I got through the day and came away with some new friends! I got to know other people during my year but my first friends remained my best friends– and those are friendships I still hold dear.

Personal Growth

Being a part of a local family meant an amazing opportunity for participation in local cultural events. I joined my host family for Friday evening community dances, Red Cross fundraising events, and my host dad even ran for mayor. At 16, I had a front row seat to local French politics! How thrilling! For holidays, I joined the family for their traditional celebrations which included dinners that lasted 4-5 hours and many delicacies that were new for me. I experienced life at their rhythm and pace. This inevitably left me to reflect on my experience. I spent a lot of time thinking about differences and similarities between me and them, between Americans and the French. Perhaps, one of my fondest memories in my host family were the conversations I had with my host dad each evening. We would spend an hour or two after dinner discussing events of the day, and world news. We talked a lot about nothing and everything all at the same time. I was surprised by the number of similarities between our two cultures. And perhaps more importantly, I learned to laugh at our differences as opposed to 1) fearing them or 2) assuming my own superiority. People and cultures should never be subjected to a ranking system, but despite their differences, can co-exist harmoniously.

I don’t pretend to suggest that living with a family abroad doesn’t come with its own difficulties but every time I think back on my experience in France, I am reminded of how essential the home stay was in developing me as a person. It’s worth it.

Until next time… A bientôt!

Student Tour Company

30 Tips to Choosing the Best Student Tour Company

Are you taking a student group on a trip to Europe? There’s so many things to consider that it can be confusing at first. Logistics can be a nightmare when it comes to traveling internationally, especially with a group of teenagers. From finding a reasonable cost of tour packages, hunting down the most educational destinations, and preparing students to travel internationally, there’s no shortage of things you need to prepare for.

Whether you’ve received a recommendation from a fellow teacher or you’re just starting from scratch, you need to make sure you do your research. To assist you in answering your questions about student travel companies, we created this guide. Here are 30 tips for finding the best student tour company to Europe.

1) What is included in the starting-at price?

A starting-at price will include some sort of package that includes a number of different offerings such as activities, meals, travel insurance, accommodations and airfare.

2) What isn’t included in the starting-at price?

What will you be paying extra for that isn’t included in the initial starting-at price? This could include optional excursions, drinks with meals or local transportation when you arrive at your destination.

3) Does the program handle flying arrangements?

Flying to Europe with a group of students can be stressful, there’s no doubt about it. When a travel company handles the flying arrangements, you won’t have to worry about the finer details. For example, you don’t have to collect payments from students, you’ll have more flexibility with the itinerary, and support when there’s a delay or flight cancellation.

4) Will your group be met at the airport upon arrival?

With so many things happening after you land, and in a foreign environment nonetheless, it’s easy to get lost or confused. It’s best if your tour company has someone that meets you at the airport to help you find proper transportation and take you wherever it is you’re going.

5) Does the tour company provide a finalized itinerary before departure?

Will the tour company plan out everything beforehand? Having a tour company that plans for all transfers, reservations and guided visits will help you avoid uncertainty when leading a group of teens.

6) Is your itinerary flexible?

Understanding if you can tailor your itinerary to your group’s interests will make everyone’s trip much more enjoyable. If it is flexible, will it cost extra? Plan on budgeting ahead of time for additional excursions or experiences, such as a visit to Versailles when your group is staying in Paris.

7) Where will you stay?

This is very important, especially when traveling with a student group. You need to have some form of oversight to keep track of your students. Make sure that wherever you’re staying is in a safe area for tourists.

8) Will your group be staying in youth hostels?

If a student tour company is offering accommodations at youth hostels, you might want to think twice about signing up. Youth hostels are loaded with noisy coeds that might cause trouble amongst the youngsters in your group.

9) Where will you eat?

If meals aren’t included in your travel package, what will you do to feed you and your group? Are there affordable restaurants at your destination? Research the area you’re visiting to understand prices and availability.

10) Who is your tour guide?

Finding out as much as possible about your tour guide is paramount for a successful student trip to Europe. How many years of experience does he or she have? Are they fluent in the language of the country you’re visiting? Will they stay with the group or have separate accommodations? What services are provided by the tour director?

11) Does the company employ certified tour guides?

This could mean the difference between a great experience and a poor one. A guide that’s certified is much more qualified to talk about the history and culture of your country of destination.

12) Which destinations does the travel company have the most experience with?

You undoubtedly have a few desired destinations in mind. How many years of experience does the travel company have at those locations?

13) Are membership fees applicable?

Does the student tour company charge membership or registration fees? These fees can sneak up on you and quickly suck up extra cash that you’ll want for your trip.

14) What type of support does the tour consultant provide?

If you’re traveling to Europe with students, your tour company should provide support to you and your group. This will keep your mind at ease in case something unfortunate happens.

15) Is there permanent bilingual staff in Europe, 24/7, to support you on your trip?

If you don’t speak a foreign language, make sure that the student tour company is bilingual so you can actually communicate with your support system should an emergency arise.

16) Will your student group be combined with another tour group?

If your group combines with another group, will they be compatible? Two different groups could have opposing opinions on preferred activities when traveling abroad, meaning your students might not see all of the attractions that they want to.

17) Does the program price include fuel surcharges and airport taxes?

Along with hidden fees, fuel surcharges and airport taxes will really cut into your budget, leaving you with less money to explore Europe.

18) Will members in your group be participating in an exchange program?

If you’re participating in a student exchange program, how are the host families qualified? Many times, these families are not paid by the tour company and host an American student out of their desire to learn more about U.S. culture as they teach the young students about their own.

19) How are host families chosen?

Host families normally fill out an application that is sent to the tour company for approval. The tour company then conducts interviews with the potential host families to determine if they are suitable candidates to host an American student. Make sure there’s a given process when searching for a host family.

20) What will students do during their exchange program?

Students that want an immersive experience should try to do an exchange program during the school year so they can visit a European school during their stay. This gives the student a taste of day-to-day life and expands their cultural awareness.

21) Is there a plan in place should a problem arise with the host family?

Should a problem arise, ensure that the tour company has a plan in place to diffuse the issue. Find out whether or not there is a backup plan in place for the potential student that faces a problem.

22) What language skills are necessary when travelling abroad?

Having a good background in the language of the country you’re visiting is helpful, but not a requirement in most cases. Regardless, it’s very helpful if your tour guide is bilingual so he can better guide you.

23) What is the tour company’s cancellation policy?

There are a number of different scenarios in which your trip may be cancelled. A tour company should have policies in place for both a normal cancellation, such as someone changing their mind, and a forced cancellation, such as a terrorist threat. Trips to Europe can be quite pricey, so if something happens, it’s nice knowing that you’re covered from any major losses.

24) How much extra money should students budget for the trip?

It’s recommended that students plan on a minimum of $40 (£37) of spending money per day. This money will go towards meals or snacks, ground transportation, souvenirs and other miscellaneous costs not included in the program price.

25) Can students call home from Europe and can parents contact their children?

Although it detracts from the immersion experience, students should be able to call home if the need arises. All you do is dial 001 before the area code. If a parent needs to contact their child from the United States, they dial 0 – 11 – 33 and the last nine digits of the number.

26) Does the program include medical and trip insurance?

There’s always risk involved when traveling to Europe with students. Finding a program that offers full insurance coverage will help should a medical emergency arise or your trip be interrupted.

27) Does the program offer a payment schedule?

Many families might not have the necessary funds to pay for their child’s trip all at once. That’s where a payment plan comes in handy. This gives the family more flexibility with their finances, while ensuring the child can participate in the trip of a lifetime.

28) Does the student travel program offer a teacher’s grant?

A teacher’s grant can drastically reduce the price the teacher has to pay out-of-pocket. Check with the program about what they offer before you agree to anything.

29) Are there positive testimonials about the tour company on their website or the Internet?

If the student tour is legit, they should feature a number of positive testimonials, from both students and teachers, on their website. But do a little more research on the web to see if any reviews counter those testimonials published by the company.

30) Does the student tour group offer a truly educational experience?

After all, the students are there to learn as much as they can about European culture, history and lifestyle – so, what kind of educational experiences do they provide?

 

While planning a student trip to Europe seems daunting, you don’t want to miss out on the trip of a lifetime and the educational benefits for your young group. Follow these tips when choosing the best student tour company for your needs and all should go smoothly – safe travels!

Bienvenue Ismaïl !

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Meet Ismaïl, VIE’s 2017 Intern from France!

Ismail

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF…

I am a 22-year-old business student. I was born in Morocco and grew up in a suburb south of Paris.

During the last year of my bachelor’s degree, I had the opportunity to study and live in London for 6 months. It was truly a life-changing experience. I particularly enjoyed sharing an apartment with 7 roommates from all over the world. This experience made me realize how important it is to discover other cultures and languages.

 

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So here I am, starting my 6-month internship at Vistas In Education, living in the United States for the first time and more importantly, taking part in this amazing project aiming at bringing different cultures closer together.

LET’S TALK TRAVEL!

You have spent a big part of your life traveling, what keeps drawing you towards travel?
I enjoy experiencing different ways of life. Traveling enriches my own lifestyle because it allows me to develop new habits, to see the world from a new perspective and to challenge my own way of thinking.

Which region in France is your favorite and why?

C215 - Vitry - Avenue Guy Moquet - Octobre 2010I would definitely say Paris and especially the Parisian suburbs where I grew up. The suburbs have
a very multicultural identity and street art is everywhere. Vitry sur Seine, my home town, is called ‘la capitale du street art’. The municipality offers spots to young artists to express their talent in the streets and to contribute to the beauty of the city they live in. One of them is the internationally renowned stencil artist C215.

C215 – Vitry – Avenue Guy Moquet – Octobre 2010

What is one of your fondest travel memories?stencil3
It was 2 years ago, when I went to a small city in Germany called Karlsruhe. It is not a famous city, people were very simple yet particularly welcoming and therefore made my trip unforgettable.

What area do you consider the world’s “best hidden gem”?
The Atlas Mountains in Morocco for the incredible landscapes.

 

c215

FUN FACTS COUNTDOWN

5 words to describe you?
Curious, foodie, calm, accommodating, ambitious

4 hobbies?
Cinema, photography, traveling, writing

3 obsessions?
YouTube videos, lasagna, chinese collar shirts

2 favorite places?
Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris for the architecture and La Croix Valmer in the south of France for its beautiful beaches.

1 secret?
I am shy… but shhh, it is a secret. 


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Ismaïl with his Host Family upon arriving in Minnesota. He had the double good luck of arriving on a Friday the 13th and the coldest day of the year — bienvenue !

 

 

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