The time I went on a French exchange

I was about 14 years old, I think. No, younger. I guess 12 or 13. I signed up to go on the French exchange trip at school. Goodness knows why. I wasn’t any good at French. I was in the third set of five in my year so I was by no means a high flyer. Anyway, I think it was partly because a friend, Sarah, said she was going on it so maybe I thought it’d be way fun.

The girl I stayed with (maybe her name was Collete or Marie or something, I don’t know) lived on a little farm thing and they didn’t lock their doors or worry about leaving the car running. It baffled me. Collete/Marie must have thought us dirt-poor when she came to stay in England and was given a small room in my Mum’s flat.

There was a lamp thing in the room I was given at Collete/Marie’s house which you touched and it turned on or off. This was the highlight of my French exchange.

As I was at a girls’ school, we combined the trip with the local boys’ school and we all went on a coach together with a few of the teachers. God, they must have had an awful time with us pre-teens, all giggling and working out which boys we fancied the most.

There was one boy on the trip called Stephen Fanning. I think that was his name. Anyway, we all teased him. I forget why. He must have shown a weakness that we, predictably, jumped upon. He was getting on quite well with one of the French students on the exchange and so we teased him about that too.

On the coach ride home, he finally flipped. Like, absolutely… flipped. And he said something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t care what you all think because I’ve got a girlfriend in France and we love each other!”

Well! Readers! I don’t even need to tell you how that story ended! Needless to say, the teasing increased. By 500% percent.

Another thing I remember was a guy called Seb telling me he’d been given coffee in a bowl by the family he was staying with. I spent the rest of the trip praying I wouldn’t be handed coffee in a bowl by anyone.

We also went to a little theme park. They had a pirate ship ride and as the place was empty, we kept shouting, “Encore!” once the ride had finished. We stayed on there for 11 cycles of the ride. When we got off, a girl called Danielle vomited next to a bin. Next to. Not in. Next to.

I didn’t really learn any French. Collete/Marie had good enough English that she translated for me. I did, however, learn the French version of the Macarena dance and develop a crush on a boy called Graeme who I saw five years later walking down the street and his jaw was all square-y. Had it always been square-y?

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