RBAI welcomed 20 French students and three staff from our link school Collège du Bas Chablais from Monday 26th February until Sunday 4th March. It was a fantastic experience for all involved and I would like to thank all of our host families for giving our guests such a wonderful Northern Irish welcome. Two of our year 11 pupils, Jack Johnston and Jimmy Wilkinson, reflect on their week with Camille, Noah and Oan from Douvaine, France.
La semaine où les français ont envahi l'Irlande du Nord
‘The Geneva flight is delayed by an hour’ Mrs McGonigle’s email read. So what, I’d waited 4 months for Noah and Oan from France to come to Northern Ireland, I can handle another hour. Pupils from years 10 and 11 waited patiently in the 6th Form centre on Monday evening for the arrival of our French guests from le Collège du Bas Chablais, Douvaine near the Swiss border.
I felt a little nervous and awkward, especially with my dad cracking his usual corny and politically incorrect jokes and my mum’s animated enthusiasm, but when the French visitors arrived they seemed really nice. Following the introductions we all scoffed a few lovely sandwiches and buns, compliments of RBAI. We then headed up home to chez nous in Carryduff.
With a mix of French, English (pigeon varieties of both), many hand gestures and help from docteur Google we began to get to know each other well, or so we thought!
I had been extra lucky, as initially I was only hosting Noah, but Madame McGonigle offered us a ‘buy one, get one free offer’ – how could I refuse, hence we got Oan too. The craic was mighty!
Tuesday was an intro day at school, followed by a typical Northern Irish roast dinner complete with Yorkshire pudding – mum never had produced such a well photographed dinner – she thought she’d be getting a Michelin star! Apparently, however, it was for their ‘Irlande du Nord assignment’! They both looked pretty lean and mean, but boy could they eat! No bad thing perhaps as dad had decided we’d like a ‘night navigation’ by bike from Helen’s Bay to Bangor along the coastal path – “Just keep the sea on your left – à gauche, à gauche” he instructed. Noah and Oan weren’t sure if my dad was really serious until we saw his car tail lights disappear off in an easterly direction. Hadn’t he heard of the Beast from the East? He had, however, kindly fitted lights to each bike, but advised that if the batteries ran out, there was a big moon which should help, clouds permitting! A character building hour later we trundled passed Pickie pool having survived the east nor’easterly near gale, waves breaking on to the path and sub-zero temperature! After Noah, Oan and I eventually warmed up with copious hot chocolate and fire toasted marshmallows, we agreed that we’d enjoyed the challenge! Maybe dad was right referring to the beast as Hysteria from Siberia!
The whole week was pretty action packed, with a blustery but highly interesting visit to the Giant’s Causeway on Wednesday, followed by visits to the Titanic centre, Queen’s University, the Ulster museum and a tour of Belfast.
A more relaxing evening on Friday at the movies - Black Panther, was just what was needed for recuperation, prior to some serious kayaking the next morning at Belfast Kayak Academy’s Ormiston pool. Our kayak polo team avec Oan et Noah won a convincing 3 – 0 victory. Allez la France!!!
Mum’s home-made broth revived us again for some bike-ski-dooing (Carryduff style) in the snow, before a last Hurrah with all our French friends at the SSE arena for bowling & pizza – what a fitting end to a really brilliant week and one I’ll never forget.
Can’t wait for the away match!
Jimmy Wilkinson Year 11
Le weekend dernier avec ma correspondante française
Le weekend dernier c’était vraiment chouette car Camille, ma correspondante française du Collège du Bas Chablais, restait chez nous. Tout d’abord, le matin nous sommes allés au marché St. Georges où on a mangé le petit déjeuner. C’était délicieux ! Puis mon père et moi avons fait du shopping pour chercher un cadeau d’anniversaire pour ma mère, tandis qu’elle a bu un café avec ma sœur et Camille. Ensuite nous avons tous regardé un film au cinéma. C’était passionnant, mais avec trop de gros mots à mon opinion. Cependant, j’ai vraiment aimé le film. Après le déjeuner nous avons joué au bowling. C’était chouette car moi, j’ai gagné ! Après ça, le soir on a mangé de la pizza à Pizza Hut avec tous les correspondants français et leurs profs. Heureusement il y avait beaucoup de pizza pour tout le monde. Finalement, dimanche matin je n’ai pas du tout aimé me lever si tôt – à 4h du matin. On a dit au revoir à nos amis français, malheureusement. J’étais triste, et en plus j’étais très fatigué !
Jack Johnston Year 11