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Teenagers earn trip of a lifetime to France

Learning experience: students, from left, Daria Symonds, Ywione Darrell, J.P. Didyk and Maya Leighton (Photograph supplied)

Four Bermudian students spent most of last month immersed in French language and culture, thanks to the L’Alliance Française des Bermudes.

The 3½-week programme, supported by the Christian Humann Foundation, sent teenagers Ywione Darrell, J.P. Didyk, Maya Leighton and Daria Symonds to Biarritz on the Basque coast of France.

The four, from Saltus Grammar School, Somersfield Academy, Mount Saint Agnes and the Berkeley Institute respectively, were winners of the 2018 Alliance Française des Bermudes’ annual student competition

Ywione, 15, discovered French during his Year 8 studies and found that it “painted an image in my head”.

He said: “I felt that French was truly a language in which one could really tell their own story, and so that is exactly what I did when I decided to enter the competition. I told my story of ups and downs, my successes and failures, but, most importantly, what I aspire to be.”

The e-mail notifying him of his win was “electrifying”, Ywione said.

He added: “This trip will really assist in my progression of learning the language and preparing for my GCSE French exam. I hope my skills with the language on all levels will be better.”

Maya, also 15, said she had wanted to see France from “a very young age”, and has studied the language for five years.

“The more I have learnt about the language and the culture, the more my interest has piqued,” she said.

She called the culture, language, cuisine, people and fashion “inspiring” and said she was “even game to try escargot”.

Maya also enjoys French music: Last Dance by Indila, and Papaoutai by Stromae.

“France has a very diverse culture and it is something that I have always wanted to experience for myself,” she said. “Now I can say that my dream has come true.”

She submitted her French essay at her teacher’s urging, and gave the L’Alliance committee an interview in French, but left the room thinking “there was no way that I won”.

The next day, elated to get her notification, she googled Biarritz and “fell in love” with the historic city of beaches.

Hoping to continue French in the future means taking supplementary classes after Year 10, and Maya would like to study either in France or Switzerland after high school.

Ultimately pursuing a career teaching French is “a very big possibility”, she said.

“Who knows, maybe I will get to do another French immersion again, as this has been a life-changing experience.”

Daria, 15, said she developed an interest in French during her last year of primary school at BHS.

When it came to a choice of languages to study at the Berkeley Institute, she did her research and chose French “because I wanted a challenge and I love the way the language sounds”.

Her essay was a chance to relate her experiences overseas representing Bermuda in gymnastics competitions.

Daria added: “I also described the exquisite foods of France including escargot, pain au chocolat, and the famous crêpes.

“Lastly, I explained that winning this competition would be the experience of a lifetime and now that I am here I can definitely live up to those words.”

She said she was “in shock” to hear she would go to France, taking classes and surfing with teens from around the globe.

Daria has made “lifelong friendships” with people from around Europe and Africa, and said the highlight was being in France to celebrate the country’s World Cup win against Croatia.

Her immersion will come in handy for French GCSEs, as well as returning to France next year with her parents.

Daria added: “This trip has helped me with becoming more fluent in my speaking and better with understanding verb conjugations.

“I thank L’Alliance Française for giving me this opportunity and for the memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”