My Experience Going to School in France

By: Maya Schuab
Last Updated on: November 28, 2021
Photo by Jean-Baptiste D. / Unsplash

When I was 10, my family moved to France. We were only going to be staying there for a year, in the French Alps. My sister and I had been in French Immersion classes since grade one, so we knew enough french to get by. We were very excited to learn at the local elementary school that offered all classes in french.


At first, it seemed a lot different. The grades weren’t named one, two, etc… but something completely different. There weren’t any students more than 11 years old. My teacher was also the principal of the school. It was a little disorienting. But soon, we got the hang of things, and it was becoming familiar. Here are some contrasts between Canada and France when it comes to education.


“La Cantine.” In Canada, this might translate to “the cafeteria”. Every day, at around noon, half of the students would go and eat lunch in the cafeteria. However, this wasn’t a typical lunch. By paying a small amount every month, the students all had access to a three course meal prepared by the parent volunteers. Then, when the first group of students were finished, they would go outside for a recess break, while the other half of the students came in from their recess break and ate. It was an interesting system, but it worked very well.


The holidays were also a lot different. In France, they were all about spending time outside, and with your family or community. We had Wednesday afternoons off, and every six weeks there was a two week holiday. I enjoyed that you could participate in extracurricular activities in the afternoon on Wednesday instead of staying late after school.


The culture was more relaxed when it came to weather. Here, when the weather is bad, schools often conduct “indoor recess” and kids will stay inside instead of playing outdoors. In France, we would go out for recess even during a thunderstorm, because the teachers believed that it was still important to have some time outside of the classroom.


There were certain differences between the things kids would play at recess. In Canada, I was accustomed to playing sports such as basketball, or “tag”. In France, students would bring marbles to school, and they would battle against other students. One would try to hit the other marble with theirs, and the winner would collect the other person’s marble.


Lastly, the curriculum was unique as well. We were learning things in math, that in Canada, I only just came across in grade 9. We learned about the World Wars, and French geography instead of Canadian. I also noticed a big difference in the French I was being taught. In Canada, I had been learning Quebecois french. It was enlightening to see that there are so many ways to do the same thing: in this case, education.


I was thrilled to have been able to learn abroad, and I hope I will have a chance to experience that again some day.


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