Having hosted our exchanges four months previously, it was now our turn to experience life in a foreign country in the amazing Southern Region of France; Marseille.

We started our French adventure with a trip to Cassis, a picturesque, quaint village perched between rolling hills and the sea. The village was beautiful and its location even more remarkable; a must-see! After free time roaming the village, we set sail on a boat to explore Les Calanques, a stunning set of coves lining the Blue Coast. With the sun shining, the turquoise ocean gleaming, the cliffs looming over us, it really was an unforgettable experience. After the boat trip, we headed to a Savonnerie, a soap factory in Marseille (famous for its soap). We got an inside look into how soap was made and got to explore the multitude of tools. An action-packed Friday took DCGS to the historic inland town of Avignon. Walking through the cobbled, narrow streets we made it to Le Palais de Papes (Popes Palace), a grand Palace which is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After our tour, we walked a short distance to Le Pont, an incomplete bridge spanning through half of the river. Apparently every time they tried to build the arches it collapsed, so they left it. Many of us had never seen anything like it before.

Over the weekend I managed to visit the Vieux Port in the centre of Marseille, a famous port built by early Greek settlers. I was also invited as a special overseas guest at a “rallye”, a type of social gathering with 50-80 French boys and girls of a similar age from across Marseille. We walked as a family along the beach, went grocery shopping, watched a French film and tucked into a traditional French dish of garlic butter and parsley snails (if you're wondering, it had a similar texture to pasta). The weekend for me was the most enriching part because I spoke only in French, which improved my vocabulary range and fluency.

A rendezvous with friends on Monday gave us the time to catch up over the weekend. Activities ranged from bowling and shopping to visiting islands and extended family and friends. It seemed as though everyone had a fun-packed weekend. Our next trip was to Les Baux-de-Provence, considered one of the most beautiful villages in France and Les Carrières, an artist quarry. The idyllic, remote village of Les Baux-de-Provence, is angled on the chalky cliffs and quarries surrounding it. The orange brick roofs and cream-plastered walls gave a Mediterranean feel, and walking through the narrow streets felt like Avignon, just quieter, calmer and more scenic. We had some time to walk around a huge fort and saw some stunning views. Then, as a group we walked down to the village and through the cliffs, until we arrived at Les Carrières, translating to The Quarries in English. This is because they recycled old quarries into exhibitions for amazing art shows. Projections of famous art shone on the powdery sediments as we stepped into the quarry. I could see many of my GCSE Art friends looking for inspiration in art, whereas I enjoyed the pairing of art with classical music. I had never seen anything like this before and it was another highlight of the trip. Further trips to the magnificent Notre Dame de La Garde, a grand cathedral built in 1883 and one of Marseille’s most famous icons and Conquer Caves rounded off our time in Marseille.

Sadly, the final day dawned. Goodbyes were made and upon arrival at the airport, you could see everyone had mixed emotions. The thought of returning home brought joy, but the thought of leaving our new French homes brought a tinge of sadness. Flying back from Marseille gave us all an opportunity to think about the trip, how much we had learnt, how our language had progressed, the new friends we had made and of course how much fun we had had. I know how privileged we at DCGS are to have these opportunities as not many schools in the UK take part in exchanges. To anyone reading this and thinking of going, I would 100% recommend taking up the opportunity! It’s an experience that you will never forget.