Self-confessed Francophile Realises French Dream

30th March 2022

Astrid Johnston (12 Millward)

Year 12 (Millward) student and School Vice Captain, Astrid Johnston, will be pressing the pause button on her VCE studies at the end of the first Semester to take up a World Education Program student exchange for twelve months in the south of France.

In a Year 10 careers lesson, Astrid contemplated her future with friends and discussed her desire to undertake a French exchange, which led her to dig deeper.

“I have known for a long time that I wanted to spend time in France studying.

“I love the language and I love learning it so much. Even though it is not my strongest area of study, it is my favourite subject and I can’t wait to be immersed within the French culture.

“I think it is important to be aware of other cultures and expand your horizons. In the last two years, we have learned that change is a good thing. Living through experiences like the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us not to stay in our comfort zones if we wish to continue developing and growing as people.

“I have been saving money for many years to support some kind of exchange to France and have three part-time jobs that I knew would help me get there, probably at the end of Year 12.

“I am now going on exchange sooner than expected and could not be more excited,” Astrid said.

Astrid will be invoking the “interrupted study” allowance under VCAA rules, which means she will complete her current Unit 3 VCE studies and resume Unit 4 studies when she returns to Girton for the second Semester in July 2023.

When asked how she feels about graduating with the current Year 11 cohort and having to recall VCE Unit 3 knowledge for examinations one and half years from now, Astrid is typically optimistic and candid.

“I know some girls in the year level below me and they are lovely, and a lot of my teachers have also been really supportive so I’m not too worried.

“I am working hard now to create a strong knowledge of my Unit 3 subjects, so I hope the recall next year for Unit 3 /4 examinations will be OK,” she said.

To be accepted as a World Education Program exchange student, Astrid was required to compile a written application to introduce herself to a potential host French family. She had to submit grades for all subjects from the previous three years and Ms Tonkin and Ms Paul provided teacher recommendations for Astrid. At a UN Youth Camp Victorian State Conference last year, Astrid met another student who had been on a World Education Program student exchange and was inspired to apply. When she received the recent acceptance letter, things suddenly became very real.

La Fare-les-Oliviers

“I can’t quite believe I am going to France for a year. I am looking forward to absolutely everything.

“I am so excited about experiencing a whole different lifestyle. I’ve not experienced anything else this big in my life, and while I know there will be days and weeks where I will want to be home, I am not expecting to be homesick, “Astrid said.

Astrid will be hosted by a family who lives in La Fare-les-Oliviers near Marseilles in the south of France. She will be living with two French “brothers”, Matteo and Timothe, aged 15 and 11, plus two cats! She will have a bedroom and a bathroom of her own, the private bathroom being a first for Astrid, and a garden and a swimming pool.

“I will be getting the bus every day to school with Matteo, so it will be lovely to acquaint with my brother and the village surrounds as we travel to school each day.

“The school is about twenty minutes away and just like Girton, it is a Prep to Year 12 independent school called Lycée Viala Lacoste.

“I will be doing normal, full school days, the only difference being, of course, all classes will be in French, so we will see how that goes.

“My host family usually go to Paris at least once a year to visit exhibitions and they have extended family in the northeast of France, so I can’t wait to tag along with them on their various outings.

La Fare-les-Oliviers

“The family lived in Australia for over two years in Queensland and they have maintained Australian friendships so I won’t be entirely foreign to them!” Astrid said.

Astrid hopes to build future studies and work around her love of the French language. When she graduates, she hopes to undertake a Bachelor of Arts majoring in French, International Relations and Politics. Ultimately, she dreams of working for UNICEF, working on projects that develop stability in fractious regions as well as education programmes. She also has her sights set on a Master’s degree in International Humanitarian Action through NOHA (Network on Humanitarian Action, International Association of Universities).

She also has not ruled out the idea of teaching in some capacity.

“As part of my Prefect duties, I go to the Junior School every Wednesday for two hours.

“I work with a Year 2 class, and I find it so rewarding. The time with the Junior School students has definitely provided inspiration to teach in some capacity in the future,” Astrid said.

Having attended three different Primary Schools (Inglewood, Eaglehawk and Spring Gully) before commencing at Girton in Year 7, Astrid is no stranger to change, and as School Vice-Captain she has the maturity and poise to go far, with a year in France just the beginning.

Lycée Viala Lacoste; P – 12 school