Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Farewell to Lyon

PROGRAM: Language Immersion
WRITTEN BY: Stephanie Mireille

The 8th of December 2015.

The date myself, and all of my fellow Antipodeans were anxiously and excitedly waiting for. The day we would embark on a journey to the other side of the world!

With our passports in hand and group photo complete, we said a final goodbye to our families and headed to the check in desks.

The adventures had only just begun!

23 hours later and quite a few cups of coffee and Nutella to go's later, we had arrived at Lyon–Saint-ExupĂ©ry Airport at approximately 4:30pm.

With our bags in hand and hopeful smiles, we headed towards the arrivals gate, anxiously awaiting the moment we would meet the families we would be sharing the next five weeks with!

I don't think I have ever seen such big smiles in all my life as I did when the automatic doors slid open revealing our host families standing there awaiting our arrival and I knew in that moment, we all truly realised we had well and truly made it to France!

In the weeks that followed, I had the privilege of visiting the bustling city of Lyon with my lovely host family. I got to visit the famous basilica of Notre-Dame and see the Ancient Roman Theatre, walk the streets of old Lyon and eat some delicious Nutella crepes at Le Marche du Noel.

Fast forward a few weeks and myself, along with my fellow Antipodeans, had all completed a week and a half of school and were heading into a well deserved and anticipated Christmas break. With exciting plans to travel to Italy, eat as much dessert as possible and visit family in the Alps in Grenoble, we were all busy and enjoying every second we spent in the wondrous country of France.

To kick the Christmas celebrations off, myself along with the Cannie Family (my host family), all squished ourselves into a navy blue little Peugeot on the morning of the 24th and took off for Grenoble where we would be staying over Christmas with Grandma Alice, or as she liked to be called; Mammalice!

The next morning I was awoken by the soothing sounds of Dean Martin's Christmas album and as I tiptoed down the spiral stairs, I could smell Mammalice's signature oatmeal with raisins and honey (which is seriously my new favourite food ... aside from Nutella crepes of course!).

And before you could say; 'Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat,' we were all nestled around the Christmas tree ready to exchange gifts.

The remaining two days at Mammalice's consisted of lots of cheese, baking Christmas treats and going for strolls through the close by little mountain towns. We even ended up walking up one! 

The New Year was now right around the corner and as we made plans for our final weeks in France, New Years Eve approached quickly; some of us went dancing while others went to parties with our host siblings and their families.
I know for all of us, it was a New Years Eve we will most definitely remember!

As 2016 headed into full swing, myself and my fellow Antipodeans found ourselves back at school for the last time and ultimately, spending the last week we had with our new found friends at school and our host families.
The week seemed to fly by and before we knew it, we were packing our bags and setting out our Antipodeans t-shirts and beanies, ready for our trip back home early the next morning.

The next morning began well before sunrise for many, if not all of my fellow Antipodeans and our host families when we arrived at the airport at about 5:30am and with handshakes, hugs and teary waves we had said goodbye to the families we had grown to love over our five week stay in France.

Finally on the 9th of January 2016, my fellow Antipodeans and I reached Sydney Airport at approximately 8:30pm after 22 hours of flying!
And for the first time in five weeks; We were home!

And although my fellow Antipodeans and I have well and truly left Europe, I still have days that I wake up expecting to see my old bedroom or walk downstairs to see my host parents and sisters eating breakfast, or even to see my host families cat, Kiwi walk through my bedroom door in the evening.

It's crazy to think that only a month ago my fellow Antipodeans and I were on the opposite side of the world sharing all the amazing and exciting moments and experiences of a foreign place!
All the laughs, late night texting in the group chat, that sharing of stories and sending of selfies.

This whole trip has, in some ways, felt like a massive blur of moments which I still cannot, fathom have occurred But I cannot begin to imagine how truly privileged myself and my fellow Antipodeans have been for being able to go on such a life changing trip and have such a blast!

Every day of this trip begun with me rolling over in my oversized Qantas pyjamas truly amazed and in awe of the fact that I was on the other side of the world, staying with a lovely Lyonnaise family and going to a Lyonnaise school speaking a language I know very little about and making so many new friends and exploring the world around me. Honestly, I still cannot fathom it!

I have tried quite a few times now to truly express my gratitude to my Lyonnaise family, to my new friends, to my parents in Sydney and to Antipodeans in regards to this trip...
But what can I say?
This trip has been indescribable!

I would seriously encourage anyone who is thinking of or wanting to go on an exchange trip to go.
Even if you think you’re too shy or your language skills aren’t good enough, or even if you’re crazy anxious (like me), you can still go on a trip like this and have the most amazing and life changing experience.

So from myself and my fellow travellers; thank you to our parents for letting us embark on such an awesome journey and to our host families, thank you for making the time we spent in France so memorable - we will never ever forget you and we can’t wait to come back and visit you!
And finally to Antipodeans, because without you, we wouldn’t have been able to go on such a fantastic trip!

Merci et Au Revoir! xx

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