St. Genies de Comolas, France – French Immersion Course, Part I


The very first thing I decided to do with my gardening leave was to take an immersion language class.

I wisely chose a program surrounded by vineyards,

It is something I’ve always wanted to do, and as it can be called a CV builder, I’m hoping to include it into a tax write-off.

After much web research, I selected a program at Millefeuille in St Genies de Comolas. A number of things about their programs appealed to me, including the very small class size (2-4 people) and the option to live at the school, a former wine estate, rather than doing a home stay. It isn’t that I dislike the idea of a home stay, but I read a few too many discouraging stories to want to do it without a bit more planning time.

Getting to Avignon from London was pretty straight forward; Eurostar to Paris, TGV to Avignon, and then a taxi ride to the school.  Getting there was likely the easiest part.

Up until being collected by the taxi, I had been feeling pretty good about all this. I don’t  think I’ve spoken a word of French in ten years, but I managed to buy a book and a sandwich, find my train, etc.

Then I arrived at school and felt a bit daunted!

Upon arrival, I checked in, and had a bit of time before dinner at eight, when I met the other six students for the week.  We were all bit a quiet that first evening, which was a bit of a relief for me. Left to my own insecurities, this had every opportunity to be my most silent week, ever; however, for every ounce of insecurity, I’ve one of stubbornness.  I did come here to learn, after all!

After an excellent night’s sleep, the program began…

The schedule is demanding, as promised:

The view from my bedroom window.

  • Breakfast: 0830-0900 (cereal, fruit, yogurt, bread, cheese, happiness)
  • Lesson I: 0900-1030
  • Coffee/Tea: 1030-1100 (always with cookies and fruit)
  • Lesson II: 1100-1230
  • Lunch and Coffee/Tea: 1245-1400 (salad, quiche, and of course, cheese for afterwards!)
  • Lesson III: 1400-1500
  • Lesson IV: 1500-1600
  • Coffee/ Tea: 1600-1630
  • Lesson V: 1630-1730 (writing- based exercises, thus far)
  • Break: 1730-1930
  • Dinner and Post-Dinner Socializing: 1930->

The other students are of varied backgrounds, which makes for interesting dinner conversations. Among them are people who work for government ministries (Lithuania and Guinea Bissau), an Engineering PhD Candidate, a couple (he has a corporate job, she teaches piano) from Germany, and a Canadian woman who works in Afghanistan with Francophone Canadian military personnel.  The students range from beginner to advanced, and there are two others at my competency level.

My room was very comfortable, and yes, I did my homework at the desk.

The first day of study, Monday,  the first lesson period consisted of a placement exam, after which the rest of the day’s sessions focused on grammar, specifically verb tenses, one my two big weaknesses. By the end of the day, my brain felt full, as did my stomach, following several simple but excellent meals prepared by Marie, one of the two chefs. I used my breaks for homework and practice exercises, and I ended the day around ten o’clock.

The second day, Tuesday,  was a bit harder, as I had a lot of difficulty sleeping, possibly because my brain was full and I was excited. Despite my room and bed being very comfortable, I woke up many times and struggled to fall asleep; thus, i felt a bit like the living dead all day. The morning was packed with revision and practice around verb tenses and usage, reinforcing Monday’s material, and towards the end, pronoun usage (my other big weakness) was introduced. After a  lunch of tomato salad and a savory tart with tuna and my failed attempt at a nap, there were further lessons on pronouns, and a session to practice writing.

A view of the chateau from the side yard.

During the evening break, I joined two other students on a walk around the village of Saint Genies des Comolas. The village is tiny and quiet. It is, from what I can gather, home to one small market, a pharmacy, a pizzeria (closed on Friday nights, supposedly), a hair salon, and a chocolate shop. It seems like a very nice place to live, albeit very, very calm.

After the break, we enjoyed an excellent dinner of cous- cous with a beef stew of sorts containing beef vegetables, and chickpeas, cheese (of course), sorbet,  and the company of a local woman who I believe is an economics professor. I’m not completely certain because I was late to dinner due to my relying on the clock on this laptop, which is set to UK time. The school periodically has local people join the students for dinner for conversational practice and for educational presentations. I’ve been advised that there will be on one wines next week, and I am  quite disappointed that I will miss it.

Thus far, I’m very much enjoying the experience.  I think I’d like to come back for another week, later in the fall. We’ll see how I feel later in the week, after even more grammar lessons!

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One thought on “St. Genies de Comolas, France – French Immersion Course, Part I

  1. You should blog in French, or at least tweet. I have a twitter account in German as well as one in English — it helps keep me in practice (that and watching the news broadcasts on SF Zwei).

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