For the first time 10 students from Mercy Regional College have travelled to New Caledonia for a French immersion experience.
The school's inaugural trip saw the French students from years 9-11 have real conversations and gain cultural awareness about the South Pacific colony.
French teacher Chamon Vogels was happy to leave the Victorian winter behind and head for the Noumea sunshine.
"For the majority of students it was their first time on an international flight so that was an experience in itself," she said.
"We had to go through applying for passports, changing money into Central Pacific Francs and leaving the safety of Australian home soil."
"But there simply is no better way in developing language skills further by experiencing daily life in a French speaking country."
In the early hours of July 1 the students and their two accompanying teachers packed their bags and flew to the tropical paradise.
Throughout the eight day journey the group took a sight-seeing tour in the Tchou Tchou Train, visited the Tjibaou Cultural Centre to learn of the indigenous Kanak history, completed a grocery shopping expedition to the local food markets to buy produce for their 'Bougna cooking lesson', stayed in pairs with their host families and spent their aday swimming with sea turtles and tropical fish on Armadee Island.
The incredible excursion was both educationally enriching and enjoyable for the students and teachers.
"It's an academically rigorous subject to study so it is a great opportunity for our students to utilise and build on the French they have as well as be rewarded for their hard-work in the downtime," Mrs Vogels said.
For Year 11 student Jordan Gray it was an experience of a lifetime.
"It is very difficult to pick just one highlight from our trip to New Caledonia," she said.
"It gave me an incredible insight into the New Caledonian culture, as well as the privilege of getting taught by a native French teacher.
"I feel this trip also brought the students and teachers much closer and developed new friendships between students who may not speak to each other usually."
After a previous language teacher retired six years ago Mercy Regional College was without a language program. Former principal Dr. Darren Egberts asked the teaching staff if someone would go back to university to study French in order to reintroduce a new program. Having studied French in secondary school, Mrs Vogels had a keen interest and completed a French language tertiary qualification while re-introducing a brand new curriculum at MRC.
Recently, she saw the need for an immersion program and jumped at the chance to introduce the travel experience for the students.
"There was a definite need for an immersion opportunity for our French students so they could live and breath French culture and language," Mrs Vogels said.
"We knew there was some interest from students wanting to utilise and extend their French in an authentic context so we were so pleased we could offer this to students who were undertaking further French study at middle and senior school level."
Already the students have thrived in their French lessons due to the opportunity.
"We've had great feedback from the students and by conversing in French with authentic French people and their French professor at the international language school the students pronunciation has improved.
"Staying with French families during the stay was also beneficial as some of the families only knew some limited formal English so they were encouraged to use their French where possible to converse."
The success of Mercy Regional College's inaugural New Caledonia immersion trip has paved the way for greater opportunities for the same experience in the years to come.
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