Paris Plages

A Family Guide to Summer Traveling in Europe

Are you taking your family on the trip of a lifetime?

Europe offers all sorts of fantastic fun for your family’s upcoming vacation – from gorgeous beaches to historic monuments to ancient cities and more, you’ll have fun while making great memories at the same time.

If you’re searching for information on how to make your family’s trip a success, you’re in the right place. Here’s your guide to summer travel in Europe!

Tips for Traveling with a Family to Europe

There are several ways to have an enjoyable family vacation to Europe. Follow these easy tips when you’re planning your trip and on your adventure.

1) Don’t Try to Cover Everything

Unless you’re on sabbatical, you most likely won’t have the time to cover every amazing thing Europe has to offer – but that’s ok! You can still get in many of the major sites and a few of the hidden gems. You should pinpoint various spots to serve as home bases and then venture out to the surrounding areas on day trips. This will cut down on your overall travel time, which can be very exhausting, and may even end up ruining your trip with delays, cancellations and extended plane, train or bus rides.

2) Take Advantage of Free Activities

Traveling with three or more people can really rack up the costs of entertainment. If you’re trying to cut back on costs, but still want something the whole family can enjoy, there are plenty of free or discounted activities to take advantage of. For instance, the majority of European museums waive entry fees for children. If museums don’t quite pique the interest of your youngsters, there are festivals, spectacles and celebrations throughout the summer that are free to attend. Additionally, parks and playgrounds are always a fun and free way to spend your time.

3) Head to Family-Friendly Locations

Finding the best family-friendly location in Europe isn’t too hard – you will just need to conduct a little research on which locales have amenities specifically for families. London, for example, offers a dedicated kid-friendly section on their website; likewise, France also calls out family-friendly content front and center on their home page.

4) Make Sure Your Family Understands the Language & Culture

Cultural norms and languages vary from country to country, and can even differ from town to town throughout Europe. To ensure that your family is prepared, teach them some of the common phrases, manners and norms of the area you’re visiting. If one of your children gets split up from the group, how will he know how to ask for directions and navigate streets?

5) Save on Data

It’s no doubt your smartphone has become a main tool of navigation and communication for the members of your party. Just so you don’t have to take out a second mortgage on your house to pay for international data costs, encourage your kids to use wi-fi when available, as well as Skype, Google Hangouts or FaceTime as a cost-friendly way to stay in touch with each other. Maybe the most effective tactic would be to limit phone time to emergency-only use. Visiting Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime experience after all – you and your family should actually experience it in real life. If those options don’t work, there are also international data plans that will help you save on roaming charges.

6) Connect & Reflect

Kids have a tendency to forget things. To ensure the significance of a trip to Europe doesn’t go over their heads, have them keep a journal or diary of their day-to-day activities. Encourage them to record everything they’re experiencing, from the sights that they see, to the people that they interact with and the words that they learn. They may not be keen on the idea in the moment, but they will thank you later when they have a journal full of travel memories.

Best Family-Friendly Places in Europe

Now that you’re armed with some traveling tips, you’re probably itching to choose a family-friendly location for your upcoming vacation. Here are some of our favorite places for families to travel in Europe.

Paris, France

Paris is a spectacular city with plenty of affordable family activities. Simply wandering around the streets, avenues and town squares will offer plenty of exposure to the local culture, including street vendors, performers and painters, historic monuments, and gorgeous scenery.

The summer is an especially nice time to visit Paris, when the city gets a beach. Paris-Plages (Paris Beaches) is a plan run by the office of the mayor of Paris that creates temporary artificial beaches each summer along the river Seine in the center of Paris, and along the Bassin de la Villette in the northeast of Paris. These are the perfect place to layout in the sun and take a dip in the nearby pools during the hot months.

Another added benefit to visiting the City of Lights with your family is seeing the famous museums; the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay and many other museums in the city are free for kids up to 18 years old, with many also offering student deals to those a little older. It’s also free to tour the famous Notre Dame Cathedral.  There is a small fee to climb the tower stairs at Notre Dame, but perched among the stone gargoyles, you’ll have an incredible view of the city.

If you’re traveling to Paris with small children, you may be delighted to know that there is a Disneyland located in the city. In many ways, Euro Disney has been adapted to suit European families and their cultural sensibilities, giving a delightful twist on an American classic that can be well worth the day trip.

London, England

As one of the oldest and largest cities in Europe, London offers endless amounts of activities for every family. A trip to London could last a few days or an entire year – and you still couldn’t fit in all of fun things to do. From fashion and music to finance and politics, London is a gorgeous city, so you want to try to experience all of the best things while you’re there.

If you’re travelling to London during the summer, something you must do with your family is the London eye, an iconic riverside ferris wheel located on the South Bank of the River Thames. You’ll witness stunning views from high above the city, and when you’re done, enjoy food from one of the many local vendors. Tickets can be purchased at a discount online, starting at £18.95 for children and £23.45 for adults for a 30-minute rotation.

Another great family-friendly activity is the London Zoo, the world’s oldest scientific zoo. Major attractions include the Lion Lodge, where you can sleep over at the park, the aquarium hallways, which makes you feel like you’re underwater, or let your kids feed the giraffes, monkeys and birds and watch their faces glow with wonder.

Try traveling the Chunnel of taking a EuroStar train to travel between Paris and London. With the ease and accessibility, you can see both stunning cities in the same day!

And what would a trip to London be without learning a little bit of history? Visit iconic buildings like Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and the Tower Bridge to marvel at some of the most famous architectural structures in the world. Wherever you go within the city, you’ll always find something amazing.

The French Alps

When you think of the French Alps, winter villages, intimidating ski runs and hot cocoa probably come to mind. However, the area can be even more fun during the summer, with unmatched outdoor activities like alpine hiking, swimming and biking.

If you’re travelling with young children, consider heading to Chamonix, France. It’s an adequately-sized town that has plenty of activities for visiting families. If the heat is getting to you and want to take a dip, head to Lac de Passy which reaches the perfect temperature during the summer, and it’s only a 30-minute drive from the town.

If your children are a bit older, you may score some brownie points by taking them to Tignes, which recently opened a mountain biking park and cross-country ski tracks with difficulty levels from green to double black. There’s even a resort right on the grounds for easy access to and from the park.

Of course, among all the things a trip to the French Alps offers, hiking remains one of the most popular activities – and for good reason. Surrounded by picturesque views, you will see the unique features and faces that make this mountainous region so famous. And you don’t have to be Bear Grylls to see it, either. There are a number of gondolas, chairlifts and cable cars that transport sightseers up and down the mountainsides so they can view the jagged peaks. Additionally, there are fantastic day walks that can be done from many main resorts, and guided tours available in most places.

Florence, Italy

As the birthplace of the Renaissance and once kingdom of the Medici family, Florence is home to some of the world’s most significant art and architecture. The city contains dozens of museums and art galleries that have influenced the fields of art, culture and politics alike. If you want to inspire a lifetime of memories for the entire family, take them to one of the most artistically-important cities in the world.

During summer, a peak tourist time, try the Oltrarno district, located across the river from the Ponte Vecchio. It’s normally less crowded, which is great for families with children. The area offers vendors serving up local cuisine, picnicking spots in the Boboli Gardens and musical performances in the Palazzo Pitti courtyard.

And, of course, you can’t visit Florence without visiting the Duomo. This is the city’s most prized architectural treasure, a grand cathedral toured by thousands of tourists every day. Your family will marvel at the breathtaking size, gorgeous dome and detailed design; something they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Zakynthos Island, Greece

This island tucked away on the southwest side of Greece in the Ionian Sea is a popular summer vacation destination. With several popular beaches featuring white sand, crystal-clear blue water and sheer limestone cliffs, many families head to this island getaway for much-needed rest and relaxation.

Navagio Beach, otherwise known as Shipwreck Beach, is an exposed cove on the coast of the island, and is the location of a famous shipwreck of the freightliner the MV Panagiotis. The ship was left there and still rests partially buried on the edge of the beach. Tourists can access the island by boat to explore the area and take photographs.

Another thing tourist families love to do while they’re visiting Zakynthos is to visit the town of Kalamaki, which is a nesting place for the endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtle. The turtles are most active during the summer and can be seen from both boats and the shore – they may even come up to you and say hello!

Best of Luck Traveling with Your Family in Europe!

Now that you know the best travel tips and family-friendly locations, you’re ready to plan your trip. Whether you choose to visit the famous museums of Paris, the sleepy summer mountain towns of the Alps or the warm sandy beaches of Zakynthos Island, Europe has something that every family member will enjoy.

Cheers to your upcoming trip!

Eiffel Tower Cloudy

STATravel Reviews: Is STA worth it?

As the self-proclaimed largest travel company for students and young people, STAtravel offers transportation, hotels, insurance, planning information and more for those youngsters who want to see the world.

Whether you’re traveling to China for the summer or exploring Europe during a gap year, STA may offer some of the best deals around – but is there a catch?

Let’s breakdown some of the Internet’s best reviews and decide whether or not it’s worth it to use STA Travel.

What is STA Travel?

STA Travel is a student and youth online travel company that consistently offers deals for destinations such as:

  • Australia
  • China
  • France
  • Germany
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

The organization offers low fares, group travel trips, insurance assistance, discount cards and more, that are structured to help young people afford to travel the world. Their site also features preparation information to assist students in planning their trips.

With all of these benefits, it seems like a no-brainer, but let’s take a look at what some people have been saying about the travel company.

Take a Look at the Reviews for Yourself

There’s no better way to see what a company is all about than to read their reviews online. So, we curated a few of the more informational ones to help you decide whether or not you should choose STA for your next trip.

Worst Customer Service Assistants Ever

1 out of 5, reviewed 1/7/2017

This is the last year I will use STA travel for overseas trips. All the customer assistance employees I have dealt with have been disinterested and barely helpful. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m a mature aged customer or they just don’t like their jobs much. I rang the STA I booked my ticket with to find out if my Qatar Airlines flight would be affected by the gulf state’s ban on everything from Qatar and they didn’t even ring me back! Judging by the poor reviews on this site, STA’s poor customer service is systemic and the head office obviously doesn’t want to rectify the problem. I’ll take my money elsewhere in future.

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It seems the majority of negative reviews mention STA’s customer service – or lack thereof. If something goes wrong with your booking, itinerary or payment, you may end up spending long hours on the phone, or possibly days to weeks waiting for a refund or response from a customer service representative.

Slow and Inefficient Customer Service

2 out of 5, reviewed 2/6/2016

We booked numerous flights with STA with a flexible pass which we thought would be great. It is not!! It is difficult to contact them to change flights and then they respond with the wrong information 3 days later! So stressful when you’re away trying to enjoy a trip! Its taken me nearly 2 weeks just to change one flight!

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Again, poor customer service is being reported, in addition to wrong information and communication difficulties. STA does operate offices in more than 20 countries across five continents, meaning their workforce is expansive. You’re always open to the possibility of chatting with a subpar customer service rep.

Make Sure You Scrutinize Your Itinerary Very Carefully

3 out of 5, reviewed 10/4/2013

I have used STA travel many times over the years and have usually had pretty good experiences with them. I recently returned from a trip to London; on the outbound connecting flight from Hong Kong to Australia I was very annoyed to find out that my flight was not as stated on my STA itinerary. Seems that I was making a stop enroute to my destination. This would not have been such a big issue, but the stop was not made clear to me when I booked, and this extra stop added many more unnecessary hours to the flight causing me a lot of confusion.

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Because it is a large company, and customer service appears to be below average, you should ensure that you scrutinise your itinerary meticulously when booking through STA. If you notice something seems off, call customer service right away, as it could take some time to get it modified or cancelled.

Great Site for Travel Deals for Anyone under 27

4 out of 5, reviewed on Apr 21, 2008

Great site for travel deals for anyone under 27 – you can qualify for most of the deals on STA even if you are not a student (you can also easily lie about being a student if they ask you). Before you book your trip on any travel site, you should check here first — there are deals on plane tickets, hotels, rail passes, etc. Also, some of the group trips are fun if you want to meet other people on your trip.

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As this reviewer said, some of the deals on STA Travel are simply unbeatable. Those students traveling to Europe on a budget can certainly benefit from the reduction in costs on plane, bus or train fares, as well as low-rate insurance and discount cards. If you want to meet new friends, they also offer group trips for affordable prices.

Couldn’t have Asked for Anything More

5 out of 5, reviewed 7/31/2014

I booked my Europe & America gap year with STA Travel Bondi Junction. The woman sat with me for as long as I needed, answered every question and if she couldn’t, she called a friend who had been to that place. She hooked me up with an ISIC student card, gave me discounts on everything possible and booked me into some awesome Busabout adventures. When I received confirmation, all the prices and procedures for cancelling and changing dates were explained. And to top it off, a comparative website said that my 5 flights would cost over $4,000 and STA managed them for $1,700 (great airlines too like Virgin, Emirates & Qantas). I plan to use STA Travel for my Summer trip to Asia. Great business!

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This happy traveler has the opposite opinion on customer service as the one-star reviewer, however this person also went into the local office and met with someone in person. Again, this reviewer is raving about the deals they received and how much money they saved ($3,300 isn’t bad!) The discount card is also a nice perk, letting you receive deals at stores across dozens of countries.

 

Is STA Travel Worth It?

Overall, our analysis is that STA Travel is worth it – for most people.

STA offers good information for the world traveler and better deals for those traveling on a budget, but you may end up getting ripped off, or deal with underwhelming customer service once in awhile. For what it is intended for though, STA may be the right option for someone in college who wants to have some of the complexity of traveling abroad simplified for them.

With even more factors and unpredictability at play with group travel, having a trusted partner with a long-established reputation and in-country expertise can make all the difference for educational travel to France. Choose Vistas in Education if you want to make sure your experience is well-planned and hassle-free – as VIE focuses solely on making student and group travel to France excellent and authentically enriching.

map of france's cities

The Students Guide to Exploring Different Regions of France

Are you getting ready for the trip of a lifetime? For students travelling to France, you’ll be embarking on an adventure that you won’t soon forget – full of history, art, architecture, and of course food.

Every region in France is unique and features different opportunities for days of sightseeing and adventures. If you’re hopping the pond and heading to France, be sure to research the country’s most popular areas so you can make the most of your time abroad.

We’ll help you out by highlighting some of the top regions and départements (the French equivalent of an American state) that we think you should explore.

Île-de-France

Surrounded by rivers including Essonne, Epte, Aisne, Eure, Ourcq, and the region-spanning Seine which separates the two sides of Paris, the Ile de France region is where the country as we know it was born. In this temperate basin, the most popular cities for student tourists include Paris, Versailles, Fontainebleau and Giverny. With lively culture abound, you’ll find trendy bistros, quaint cafes and quirky bookshops mixed with medieval monuments and ancient landmarks around every corner. If you’re looking for old-world charm and the epitome of French culture, Ile de France is the region for you.

The Loire Valley

This region boasts two ancient provinces, Anjou and Touraine, which were adored by French royalty and nobility. Before Henry IV moved his court to Paris, kings, princes and barons built the most gorgeous castles in the Loire Valley. Some of these castles include Chambord, Cheverny, Amboise, and Villandry. Many are available to tour for a small fee.

Brittany

Extending into the Atlantic Ocean, Brittany occupies the westernmost region of the country, where rocky coastlines, celtic heritage, rainy weather and a regional language and history define the culture.

The area is home to many ancient archeological wonders. In fact, one of the oldest hearths in the world has been found in Plouhinec, Finistère, and is still standing at an age of 450,000 years old.

Carnac, the area’s most historic city, is home to one of the most extensive Neolithic menhir (ancient, massive standing stone) collections in the world. Celtic tribes inhabited the region following the prehistoric era, and ties to the Gaelic tongues of Wales and Ireland can still be heard in the local language of Breton.

This region is also a popular destination for French vacationers who visit the sandy beaches, jutting cliffs and relatively affordable lifestyle.

Normandy

Since we’re on the subject of historical places, Normandy, located in northern France, is home to one of the most famous sites of World War II: the D-Day landing beaches. But with over 370 miles of coastline and a thriving tourist industry, there’s plenty to see beyond the 1944 invasion site. It’s a favored getaway spot for those retreating from the congestion and pace of cities, and many hotels, restaurants and shopping centers are frequented by tourists year-round. A few other fantastic attractions in the region include the Rouen cathedral, the abbey of Jumièges, the island abbey of Mont St. Michel, and medieval Bayeux with its famous tapestry.

The Ardennes & Northern Beaches

Often overlooked by American tourists, this northern region is known for its beach resorts and historic sights. This region, bordering Belgium, features one of the most embattled areas in France, with its best known port, Calais being a contested military stronghold for centuries.

Today’s port is more peaceful, filled with ferries instead of battle ships for tourists to travel along its waters. If you’re interested in historical architecture, try visiting the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Amiens, the medieval capital of Picardy, featuring the highest nave in France at 138 feet high.

Lorraine

Located in the northeast corner of France, Lorraine borders Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg. While Lorraine is the famous for being the birthplace of Joan of Arc and the countless wars it has experienced, those aren’t the only things that draws students to the region.

The peaks of the Vosges forest is the nearest thing to an extensive wilderness area you’ll find in France and offers pleasant hiking trails for the outdoorsman.

With renowned cuisine — especially the signature foie gras et choucroute (fattened duck or goose liver and sauerkraut) — wines and beers, Lorraine is a hotspot for foodies from all over the world.

Champagne

Champagne offers historical sightseeing like no other region in the country. A significant amount of France’s history is tied with the region’s holy site of Reims, where every French monarch since A.D. 496 has been crowned. Any invader wishing to take Paris would have to first go through Reims and the Champagne district. Even all the way up to World War I, the region has been exposed a large amount of brutal battles.

If you’re a student of age (legal drinking age in France is 18), here’s a fun fact: The 78-mile road from Reims to Vertus, one of the Routes of Champagne, is home to a trio of winegrowing regions that produce 80 percent of the world’s champagne.

Burgundy

If you’re looking for leisurely time off from your studies, head to the Burgundy region of France, which is filled with incredible cuisine – local specialties include dijon mustard, boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, and wines coveted the world over.

You’ll also find stunning old-world cities, like the capital, Dijon.  Known as the “City of a Hundred Towers”, Dijon  was once the Roman crossroads between the Mediterranean and northern Europe and was home to the mighty Dukes of Burgundy.

If you’re interested in religious history, head to the region’s Fontenay Abbey, where churches, cloisters, dormitories and more have been preserved for centuries. This gives visitors a chance to glimpse into what life was like in a medieval Cistercian abbey.

Wine Regions of Bordeaux

Another area that sees fewer American tourists is the wine regions of Bordeaux. While the area mostly offers flat, fertile land, it is home to towns that were pivotal in French history. Saintes, for example, has noteworthy Gallo-Roman, medieval and classical heritage, making it a popular tourist destination and a member of the French Towns and Lands of Art and History.

Active in wine and liquor production, the area’s villages also produce such celebrated libations such as Cognac, Margaux, St. Emilion and Sauternes. With abundant wine growing areas, varying widely in size and sometimes overlapping, the region is centred around the city of Bordeaux.

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Occupying the lower-eastern portion of the country, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is a newly-formed region that features the country’s second-largest metropolitan area, Lyon. Just a short, two-hour train ride from Paris, it’s relatively easy to get to the place known as France’s “Second City.”  As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lyon is known for its historical and architectural landmarks and its role in the history of cinema.

A good time to visit the city is during its famous light festival, Fête des Lumières, occurring every December, allowing Lyon to claim the title “Capital of Lights.” From Lyon, you can travel north to explore through the Rhône Valley toward Provence. Travel south of Lyon and you’ll be able to see medieval villages and ancient Roman ruins in Pérouges and Vienne.

The French Alps

Bordering the Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions, the French Alps offer some of the world’s best skiing. With snowcapped mountains, ancient glaciers and crystal-clear alpine lakes, the French Alps also feature some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery. While the region attracts some of the most affluent people from all over the world, if you’re a student on a budget, we’ve got some good news. Lift ticket prices are a fraction of the price that they are in the United States. Chamonix, a famous ski resort facing Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain, has one-day passes that range from $47 to $67. If you’re travelling to the French Alps during the summer, you can visit indulgent spa resorts including Evian and the relaxing 19th-century resorts at Lake Geneva.

Provence

Home of the French Alps and bordered by Italy on its eastern side, Provence has often been considered the playground of the rich and famous. With premier destinations like Aix-en-Provence, associated with Hemingway and Cézanne; Arles, the city known as “The Soul of Provence” and captured in a famous painting by Vincent van Gogh; Avignon, the 14th-century capital of Christianity; and Marseille, the country’s third largest city, after Lyon and Paris. The unknown beauties of the region include Nostradamus’s birthplace of St-Rémy-de-Provence and Les Baux de Provence.  Nature enthusiasts will find a myriad of options for hiking and camping.

Côte d’Azur – The French Riviera

The majesty of the Azure Coast makes it a tourist hotspot in the country of France. It’s an affordable option for students who want to travel to its famed beaches and coastal resorts. Nice, the region’s biggest city, is a popular destination for French tourists that want to visit the Mediterranean Sea.

Since the Renaissance, the picturesque surroundings of Nice have attracted not only those beach-goers and sun-bathers, but some of Western culture’s most notable painters like Henri Matisse, Arman and Marc Chagall. Their work is proudly displayed in the city’s many museums, including Musée Marc Chagall, Musée Matisse and Musée des Beaux-Arts.

The Dordogne

The land of delightful foie gras and delectable truffles, found in southwestern France is also home to some of Europe’s oldest settlements. Dordogne offers gourmet eating and wine-tasting, gorgeous chateaux, villages and historic sights, making it one of the most popular vacation destinations in France. In the Périgord, the cave paintings at Les Eyzies have shown traces of Cro-Magnon (first early modern human) settlements.

The Pyrénées

Located along the border with Spain between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, southwestern France features one of Europe’s most unique cultures. The region’s hidden villages, beach towns, and culinary traditions are ripe for discovery for anyone travelling through France.

Biarritz, on the Atlantic, features some of the best surfing in France. Toulouse, a major city and the regional capital of Occitanie, boasts two UNESCO World Heritage sites — the Canal du Midi and the Basilica of St. Sernin, the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe and an important stop along the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.

Throughout the year, millions of Catholics make annual pilgrimages to the City of Lourdes, located on the edge of the Pyrénées. In the small mountain villages and towns, the old folkloric traditions, filled with Spanish influences, are still prevalent.

Have Fun Travelling to the Regions of France!

Crossing these regions off your travel list will give you the chance see everything France has to offer as a cultural and historical destination. There is so much history and culture to learn by visiting the towns, villages and homes of the French people. Now that you know more about these regions and départements, you can pack your bags and plan your travels accordingly.

For students travelling to France, we hope you have a fantastic trip — Bon voyage !

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‘!

Presidential Election France 2017

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!

Restaurant France

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!

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