January 2012 issue

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Fragrance of France

France is certainly a feast for all the senses with its rich cultural heritage, and world famous cuisine, wines and perfumes. Gillian Evans takes a tour of some French highlights.

Many study abroad students are drawn to France for the rich culture and the beauty of the French language. According to Clare Donnelly at Ifalpes, located in Annecy and Chambéry in the French Alps, France has something for everyone with its different coasts and climates, beaches and mountains, history, culture, castles and monuments. “There is so much to see and do,” she says, adding, “I think the French food helps [to attract visitors to France] too!”

With France being so well known for its outstanding cuisine, language schools throughout the country ensure students get plenty of opportunity to sample the local delicacies. Some schools such as Cavilam in Vichy and Aram France, offer French plus gastronomy courses, while most schools incorporate food and wine in their activity programmes. At LSF in Montpellier, an area renowned for delicious cheese and wine, students can go tasting at a local wine bar, while fellow Montpellier language school EAF-Etiquette à la Française offers champagne and foie gras tastings, as well as classes in French etiquette and perfume discovery tours to really get to know the country’s culture.

Thanks to 300 days of sunshine per year, beautiful scenery, nearby beaches and mountains, the university city of Montpellier exudes a relaxed atmosphere. According to Dorothée Lamy at Accent Français, it has a permanent vacation feel about it. “Montpellier has so many things that appeal to people with differing tastes,” states Andrew Kinselle at LSF. “There really is something for everyone here – the Mediterranean, the surrounding countryside for bike rides, wine-tasting, the café culture, music, cinema, dance festivals, and top sporting events.”

Another popular university city is Grenoble, where, according to Monique Garnier at Grenoble Graduate School of Business (GGSB), “anyone can find their origins”. Surrounded by mountains, Grenoble is located close to a number of ski resorts, and has attractive lakes nearby, including Lake Monteynard, one of Europe’s best surfing spots, says Garnier.

For a taste of Alpine France, students can choose to study in one of France’s many mountain towns and villages. Linda Larsson at the Institute of Foreign Education (Insted) explains that they established the school in Chamonix Mont Blanc because they wanted to “offer students a unique possibility to combine French language studies with their favourite outdoor sports in the action sports Mecca of Europe”. According to Larsson, “Chamonix is a small town with around 14,000 inhabitants. This number increases up to 100,000 during the summer and winter seasons to include tourists, local families, students, film crews, pro riders, experienced climbers and alpinists. It is this vibrant mix of people that makes Chamonix irresistible.” To cater to the buoyant ski industry, Insted has introduced a specialist French course for people planning to work in the Alps during tourist seasons, as well as French Teacher Training courses.

Just an hour’s drive away from the French ski resorts are the towns of Annecy and Chambéry, home to Ifalpes language centres. “Surrounded by lakes and mountains, our towns not only offer spectacular alpine surroundings but also centuries of history and a strong local culture. I personally love going to the Lac du Bourget in summer to swim and sunbathe but also in winter for long walks. It is France’s biggest natural lake and close to the Lac d’Annecy which is Europe’s purest lake,” enthuses Clare Donnelly. With their medieval town centres and castles, Annecy and Chambéry are, she says, the perfect size for overseas students to feel at home very quickly. “It is easy to settle in here and the locals are very friendly, helpful and open-minded.”

Another friendly town is Beziers, says Jacqueline Hobson at Centre Hobson in Beziers. “Every month there is a party in the centre of the town with tapas, cheese and wines,” she explains. “It is a get-together event where young people and adults meet foreigners – both visitors and residents.” Sandwiched between mountains and sea in the Languedoc region, Beziers offers Mediterranean beach life, water sports and the nearby Greek and Roman architecture, such as the Roman bridge and the city of Carcassonne.

For a snapshot of Riviera life, International House Nice offers students a rich experience of beachside life. “Nice and the French Riviera are ideal to study French,” asserts William Rubinstein at IH Nice. “The weather is nice all year round, the region is very beautiful, the cultural life has plenty to offer, for example with Picasso, Chagall and Matisse museums.”

Lyon, situated in the Rhône-Alpes region, is lovingly known as the French capital of gastronomy, due to the presence of many of France’s finest chefs in and around the city. It is also packed with culture and history. Describing Lyon, Géraldine Derycke at Institut Paul Bocuse School of Hotel, Restaurant & Culinary Arts Management which is housed in a 19th century castle just outside Lyon, says, “Lyon is a Unesco World heritage site situated at the foot of the Alps just north of Provence. Museums, exhibitions, concerts, cultural and sporting events…there are multiple activities to discover in this dynamic and modern city.”

Another centre of gastronomy is Dijon, famous for its mustard, but as Sylvie Wormser at Ecole Suisse points out, has much more to attract visitors. “Dijon is a town where it is good to live because of the beauty of the town, its quiet rhythm and atmosphere,” she explains. “Dijon is a town that can suit everyone of every age.” With old medieval buildings and plenty of museums that are free of charge, there is lots of interest in the city. What’s more, says Wormser, the friendliness of the Dijon people is one of the first things that students notice. “[The Dijon people] take the time to talk to you, to show you around,” she relates.

Another attractive region is the Loire Valley, often referred to as the Garden of France because of the vineyards, fruit orchards, artichoke, asparagus and cherry fields which line the banks of the Loire River. It is also known as the cradle of the French language, said to be where the purest French is spoken, and this, says Philippe Minereau at Elit Saint Denis in the town of Loches, is a major draw for students. Loches itself lies below the impressive Château de Loches, which is encased by a four-metre thick outer wall. There is lots to do and see around the town. “Personally, I never grow weary of seeing the Châteaux de Chenonceau, which is a majestical feature of the Renaissance period.” According to Minereau, the Tourainne province has welcomed visitors for centuries including “kings and queens of France, Joan of Arc, and major authors like Rabelais, Ronsard and Balzac himself”.

Situated in the central Auvergne region is Vichy, a popular spa and resort town of around 80,000 inhabitants, and home to Cavilam language school. “Vichy is a charming calm and green town with an architectural heritage from the 19th century. It has a lake and many parks where it is very pleasant to walk,” says the school’s Christine Barge. “Students are surprised by the architectural beauty of the city, the fact that it is a small city but with lots of activities.”

Paris is France’s premier language travel destination, as Francois Pfeiffer at Accord in Paris, says, “It is the capital and is known worldwide by its name, so there’s no special marketing to do as Paris is Paris and will always be Paris.” The city’s many highlights include the Louvre and Orsay museums, the Champs Elysées, Montmartre and the Sacré-Coeur, Notre Dame cathedral and its world famous icon, the Eiffel tower. With so much to discover in Paris, Joëlle Lamouroux at Centre d’Echanges Internationaux in Paris, says, “I would recommend choosing a theme for each day, so that you don’t miss a single aspect.”

Agent viewpoint

“We send students to Nice, Antibes, Paris, Rouen and Chamonix at present. Most popular is Nice all year-round as it is easy to travel to, has the reputation of being a beautiful city on the Cote d’azur and everyone knows the name. Antibes is very popular for our school group trips as it is safe, relatively small and easy to get to. Chamonix is popular in the winter months due to the skiing on the doorstep and also because of the prestige of the resort. Students are often surprised by the late meal times at night which is often a cultural challenge! We try to prepare our students as well as possible in advance of their trip so that there are no surprises in store."
Kath Batemann, Caledonia, UK

“Generally students’ parents want to send their kids to France of course first for the language but also to discover the culture and the country. The first destination chosen is of course Paris. Paris is the city to be in and to visit but in my mind not a city to stay too long (it’s maybe because I have spent 25 years of my life in Paris!) For those who are used to the Aegean climate in summer and of course in winter I prefer to send them to the Cote d’azur or the southwest so that they don’t suffer too much of the weather. I prefer to send them to Montpellier, Toulouse or Bordeaux. In summer those cities stay French and are not overrun by tourists as much as some other cities in the country.”
Fulya Canak, EgitimAL Education Counseling Services, Turkey

“Students love French food, the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts and the French way of life. Students usually choose to learn French in France because they like to go on holiday there, have a house there or because they do business with French people. Our most popular destinations are Paris, Nice, Biarritz and Montpellier. Montpellier is very popular with groups and juniors and our partner school there offers great value for money. My highlight is Biarritz – I just love it! It’s a fairly small city, which you can walk around, the surf is wonderfully consistent, the beach is beautiful, you have the Pyrenees within easy access, the atmosphere at the rugby matches is electric and the market offers gastronomic and oenological delights!”
Alex Wolfson, Cactus, UK
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The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Study Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.






Feltom Malta  
Groupement FLE  
International House World Organisation  
MEI Ireland  
Perth Education City  
Study Gold Coast  

Perth Education City  
Study Gold Coast  

Braemar College  
Greater Victoria School District  
ILSC - International Language Schools of Canada  

Alexanders International School  
Cambridge Education Group - HO  
Camp Beaumont  
EAC Language Centres and Activity Camps  
INTO University Partnerships  
Kaplan International Colleges  
LAL London  
London School of Business & Finance  
London School of English  
Malvern House College London  
Mont Rose College of Management & Sciences  
Queen Ethelburga's College  
St Giles International  
Study Group  
Sussex Coast College Hastings  
University of Essex - International Academy  

Cambridge Esol  

Alphe Conferences  
SR Events  
International Educational Forum  

Accent Francais  
Alliance Française Lyon  
CIECE - Groupe ESCE, School of International Busin  
Ecole Suisse Internationale  
French in Normandy  
Groupement FLE  
International House Nice  
ILCF Institut Catholique de Paris  
Langue Onze Toulouse  
LSF Montpellier  
Lyon Bleu International  
Paris Langues / Club CEI des 4 Vents  
Universite d'été de Boulogne-sur- Mer  
Université de Perpignan  
Dr. Walter GmbH  

MEI Ireland  
Clare Language Centre  

Capital Education  

Otago Polytechnic  

STM Star Awards  

Colegio de Espana  
Inturjoven Spanish Courses  

EF International Language Centers  
Eurocentres International  

Malta Tourism Authority  

Open Hearts International College  
California State University San Marcos  
Columbia University  
ELS Language Centers  
Global Language Institute  
New York Language Center  
Ross School (The)  
Saint John's University  
Sara's New York Homestay LLC  
UC Berkeley Extension  
University of California San Diego  
Zoni Language Centers  

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